Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

'Angie' Complete Series DVD: Long Awaited Release of Garry Marshall '70s Blue Collar Weds Blue Blood Sitcom

The September 1, 2017 CBS Home Entertainment (through a license with Toronto-based Visual Entertainment) DVD release of the complete series of the Garry Marshall '70s sitcom "Angie" meets every requirement for such releases. It provides a chance to see a rarely syndicated loved show from the past.

The "Angie" release roughly coinciding with the DVD release of the complete series set of the '70s quirky procedural "The Magician," which stars Bill Bixby of "My Favorite Martian" and "The Incredible Hulk" as the the titular illusionist/amateur sleuth, provides another reason to be grateful to CBS and Visual. A review of that one will appear soon.

The unlikely romance/"Love Story" (sans tragic death) concept of the 1979-80 two-season "Angie" is that "disgustingly" rich blue-blood pediatrician Brad Benson and blue-collar waitress Angie Falco fall in love and wed within three episodes. The pedigree of this film also includes the '70s Meredith Baxter Birney/David Birney sitcom "Bridget Loves Bernie," which centers around the daughter in a devout Irish Catholic family marrying a Jewish man.

This merging of two "different worlds" drives much of the inaugural "Angie" season. Sharing a Philadelphia setting with the film "The Sixth Sense" adds a fun "I see rich people" aspect to the series.

The trifecta regarding the cute appeal of "Angie" is the likable leads Donna Pescow of "Saturday Night Fever" and Robert Hays of "Airplane," the breakout "Fonzie" character in the form of stereotypical lower middle-class Italian mother Theresa Falco (Doris Roberts of "Remington Steele" and "Everybody Loves Raymond,") and a catchy theme song (courtesy of Maureen McGovern) that explains the premise of the series.

The following YouTube video of the S1 opening credits highlights the three elements described above. Briefly drifting into Blogland, the Nelson household often recreates the "take the money already" scene from the credits.

"Angie" gets a blessed start in a few senses. It premieres in the ABC Thursday night 8:30 slot after (Unreal TV reviewed) fellow Marshall/executive producer Dale McRaven series "Mork and Mindy" and has a strong opening story arc regarding the rapid courtship, engagement, wedding, and adjustment period of the central couple. The remaining S1 "clash of worlds" episodes remain strong.

One of the best S1 outings has Theresa and younger daughter Marie (Debralee Scott of "Mary Hartman. Mary Hartman") move themselves and their distressed furniture into the large and elegant town house of Brad and Angie. This creating an opportunity to thoroughly embarrass Joyce (Sharon Spelman), the ubersnobby socialite sister of Brad greatly contributes to the hilarity.

Some S1 (and S2) episodes support the theory of Roseanne Barr that there are 10 basic sitcom plots. Early outings have Marie falling in love with Brad and being comically inept (of course including a wacky alternate filing system) in her attempt to work as his receptionist.

Playing time slot roulette with "Angie" in S2 prompts otherwise not strongly needed (repeated) retooling of the series. Moving the series to Monday night against "Little House on the Prairie" on NBC and an always strong CBS comedy lineup presents a tough challenge for any show.

"Angie" further has a particularly tough "Rhoda" challenge in that conflict in a marriage generally is more amusing than a happy relationship. In the case of "Angie," the concept of a mixed marriage does not work as well if that union is history. Additionally, the in-laws cannot have too much ill will without it badly affecting their relationship with their blood relative. Joyce even loosens up to the extent of wearing casual clothes and discussing sex with the Falco women.

The initial changes include replacing best friend/fellow waitress Didi with the trio of high school friends "the Marys." Of course, the first outing with that group centers around these girls from the 'hood getting upset with Angie for what they consider snobbish behavior. Further, tween niece Hillary (Tammy Lauren) follows Chuck Cunningham of Marshall classic "Happy Days" into unexplained sitcom oblivion.

S2 also sees the arrival of Benson family butler Phipps and previously oft-mentioned by never seen coffee shop cook Hector.

Other changes include the Bensons moving into a more modest home that is "theirs" and Angie going from the coffee shop to a beauty parlor.

The best S2 outings continue the "Angie" tradition of combining the underlying economic backgrounds of the leads with '70slicious sitcom plots. One episode has the Falcos and the Bensons competing on "Family Feud." The "Angie" writers additionally recycle the unwanted house guest plot by having crude Uncle Cheech (special guest star Danny DeVito) show up unannounced and overstay his welcome at Chez Benson. Further, Theresa quickly develops a gambling addiction and just as rapidly kicks it. Brad telling his mother-in-law that she has an "infection" is pure sitcom schmaltz gold.

The one bonus in the set is the "lost" unaired series finale titled "Angie and the Doctor."

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

'A Very Sordid Wedding' BD: White Trash Nuptials

Gravitas Ventures awesomely gets in the spirit of revving franchises with the October 17, 2017 separate Blu-ray and DVD releases of the 2017 Del Shores comedy "A Very Sordid Wedding." This film picks up the Tales of the Town about rural Winters, Texas that the 2008 cable series "Sordid Lives: The Series" picks up from the 2000 film "Sordid Lives."

Writer-director-auteur Del Shores proves the wisdom of writing about which you know in sharing not-very-fictionalized characters from his past with us.

Shores does his usual outstanding job showing that he is the Woody Allen to Jeff Foxworthy's Tyler Perry regarding redneck humor. Shores deserves special credit for having much of "Wedding" address the death of Golden Girl Rue McClanahan, who plays Peggy Sue Ingram in "Series." This shows that Shores is a genuine southern gentleman.

The following YouTube clip of the official "Wedding" trailer includes numerous short clips that highlight the talents of Shores and his cast.

The terrific ensemble includes aging Tammy Wynette obsessed/conversion therapy "failure" drag queen Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (Leslie Jordan). He has gone from having the ghost of Wynette visit him to being haunted by images of conversion therapy practitioner Dr. Eve haunt him.

The adventures of Brother Boy revolve around his desire to perform his personal holy trinity in a drag show. This effort leads to a hilarious relationship with (most likely based on actual events) serial killer Billy Joe Dobson.

The always hilarious heavy-smoking Sissy Hickey is focusing on keeping up with the changing politically correct terms of American society. She laments "mulatto" going out of favor but learns that "African-American" is still acceptable despite some black people not liking that term.

Meanwhile, divorced Noletta Nethercott (Caroline Rhea) gets another round of revenge against adulterous ex-husband G.W. after having burned his two artificial legs in a previous "Sordid" adventure. Her current antics earn her the title of best-ever hospital visitor.

For her part, Latrelle Ingram Williamson (Bonnie Bedelia) is thrilled that son Ty (Kirk Geiger) and his black husband are giving her a grandchild via a procedure that fascinates Sissy. These boys are keeping busy promoting marriage equality but getting married in every state; Texas remains the Lone Star holdout regarding this effort.

All of this occurs in the context of a church group actively promoting inequality; the price of this campaign includes endless bad hair days. The benefit to the audience is a new taste of the southern-fried sitcom "Designing Woman" in the form of a handful of trademark Julia Sugarbaker rants against stupidity and/or intolerance.

Shores brings everything full circle with multiple celebrations that include a special celebrity cameo. The manner in which this occurs is fully in the slobs v. the snobs spirit of classic comedies such as "Caddyshack" and "Revenge of the Nerds."

The plethora of sordid DVD and Blu-ray extras include a "making-of" feature, cast interviews, and both outtakes and deleted scenes.

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

'Superman' Extended Cut BD: You Will Believe A Blu-ray Can Fly

The Warner Archive October 3, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1978 epic "Superman the Movie: Extended Cut" follows the Archive tradition of treating fanboys right. This release comes on the heels of the Archive "one-to-watch" and a second to "one-to-keep-in-mint-condition" worthy (Unreal TV reviewed) Blu-ray release of "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm."

The good folks at Archive also include the "Superman" special edition that the back cover describes as the "definitive vision" of the film of director Richard Donner. The following review is of the extended cut.

It should be undisputed that "Superman" (and its sequels) is the Genesis of the big-budget superhero franchises that are going strong nearly 40 years later. The extended cut is an augmented-for-TV version that adds 40 minutes to this film that includes an origin story, a coming-of-age-tale, AND a heroic effort to save the world.

"Superman" opens with an almost certainly added cold opening about central newspaper The Daily Planet and then goes into the classic opening credits with the equally timeless John Williams score; it is interesting to note that both Donner and Williams learn their craft working on "unreal" classic '60s television series.

The credits lead into the scene on Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent home world/future space debris Krypton in which General Zod and two other lawbreakers get trapped in a mirror and hurled into space; one can only hope that Archive gives the further adventures of this trio the same treatment that "Superman" receives in this release.

The clarity and depth of the opening credits and the theater-quality sound of the Williams score provide the first sense that this Blu-ray looks spectacular on a 4K Ultra HD set; the literally glowing white uniforms of Kal-El dad/Kryptonian leader Jor-el (Marlon Brando) almost being blinding confirms that Archive knows its stuff.

Taking out the trash allows the leaders of Krypton to focus on the rejected assertion of malcontent Jor-El that Krypton literally is coming apart at the seams. This leads to that scampy scientist keeping his word that HE will not leave Krypton but putting infant Kal-El in a small space ship for a three-year journey to the primitive planet Earth. Like any good dad, Jor-El provides his son plenty of educational material for this extended journey.

This brother from another planet is very fortunate to crash land in a Kansas corn field just as childless couple Martha and Jonathan Kent (Glenn Ford) drive by. Soon learning that this lad is the boy with something extra does not deter this American Gothic couple from bringing him home and raising him.

This leads to the teen years of Clark, who becomes a rebel with fulfilling his destiny as a cause. A scene in which he outruns a train is doubly awesome because it illustrates his power of being "faster than a speeding locomotive" and because Donner shooting one segment in which the train is headed for the camera is an homage to the birth of cinema in which a similar angle causes early audiences to scramble out of fear of the train crashing through the screen into the theater.

The real fun begins when our hero (Christopher Reeve) begins working at the Planet with hardened career gal Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). An early scene in which Kent must play the coward and cover up grabbing a bullet during a mugging highlights the comic abilities of Reeve.

Reeve further shows great humor in an early montage in which Superman handily apprehends petty criminals; it additionally is nice that Donner allows the action to speak for itself, rather than bury it under a '70s rock anthem. This is akin to purists who do not add laugh tracks to sitcoms.

This portion of the film also establishes villain Lex Luthor (an awesomely cartoonish Academy Award winner Gene Hackman) as a gleefully sadistic foe. The threat that Superman poses regarding a scheme of Luthor to literally alter the American landscape prompts the latter to lure the former into his lair.

This encounter triggers the events that lead to the legendary climatic scenes that even casual fanboys know by heart. A praiseworthy aspect of all this is that it is more clever and thrilling than the standard battle royale between hero and henchmen of a villain leading to the final showdown between the two protagonists.

The cleverness in  "Superman" extends even further to includes foreshadowing that goes beyond Jor-El repeatedly warning Kel-Al to not interfere with human history. Suffice it to say that Superman prevents Luthor from anteing in.

Every aspect of "Superman" discussed above reflects the underlying awesome feature of it; the film stays true to the spirit of the Superman comics and serials that inspire it. Reeve and the behind-the-scenes folks show that telling a good superhero yarn does not require that the sex and the violence exceed family-friendly levels.

The bigger picture (pun intended) is that the three-hour extended cut flies by and leaves you wanting more.

The super-sized collection of bonus features include audio commentary by Donner, several documentaries of the film history of Superman, screen tests, and deleted scenes.

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

'Within' DVD: Smells Like Teen Paranormal Activity

The following thoughts regarding the Warner Archive October 3, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 horror film "Within" continues a series of reviews on recent Archive Halloween-themed Blu-rays and DVDs. These include the John Landis horror-comedy "Innocent Blood," the '60stastic scifi film "The Green Slime," and the Manson family docudrama "Wolves at the Door."

The following YouTube clip of the "Within" trailer" highlights the creepy occurrences and building terror that make the film apt for All Hallow's Eve.

Writing about this film with plenty of creepy suspense is tough because the aspect that makes it the most frightening also is the biggest surprise that should not be spoiled in any manner. Much of this fear relates to the fact that it could happen to anyone.

"Within" centers around remarried widower John Alexander (Michael Vartan of "Alias" and "Bates Motel"), his second wife Melanie (Nadine Velazquez of "My Name is Earl" and "Major Crimes"), and his teenage daughter Hannah. The family moving into a murder house to facilitate John taking a new job after prolonged unemployment provides the "fresh start" element that is common in films of this nature.

John being incredibly irate/concerned about Hannah holding a party at their old house and being arrested for underage drinking is reminiscent of the "very special episode" of "Saved by the Bell" in which Jessie becoming addicted to caffeine pills causes great angst.

The unhappy Hananh quickly becomes the focus of the weird goings-on in the new abode. These include the pulling covers off her as she sleeps, shadowy figures, disembodied whispers, a closet door slowly opening, etc.

The circumstances of the aforementioned killing contribute an additional creep factor. Online research reveals that the prior occupants were a father, his wife, and their teen daughter until an apparent suicide and double murder resulted in the house going on the market. Of course, closer inspection of a photo of the then happy clan in front of their house reveals a menacing presence staring at them from a second-floor window.

Discovering the nature of the threat roughly halfway through "Within" does little to reduce the suspense; the malevolent presence still is malevolent and present. The fact that a sense of security regarding going back in the living room is false also does not reduce the impact of the film.

The biggest fright comes just before the closing credits; this scare reinforces the aforementioned observation that "Within" is unsettling because the events of the film could happen to you.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

'Wolves at the Door' DVD: Charles Manson in Charge

The Warner Archive celebration of Halloween 2017 continues with the October 3, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 thriller "Wolves at the Door." This joins the ranks of (previously reviewed) recent Archive horror releases such as "The Green Slime," "The Hidden," and "Innocent Blood." "Within" is scheduled for tomorrow.

"Wolves" is the most creepy of this lot both because it is true and involves human (rather than alien or other supernatural) monsters.

The following YouTube clip of an early "Wolves" scene perfectly illustrates the tone of the film.

This docudrama about the Manson family begins with that cult terrorizing a couple at 3:00 a.m on a day in August 1969 apparently simply for the fun of it. The LAPD shrugs this incident off as mischief either by hippies or kids on drugs.

Moving the action forward to pregnant actress Sharon Tate (a.k.a. Mrs. Roman Polanski) throwing a going-away party for good friend/coffee heiress Abigail Folger at a restaurant on the evening before Folger is scheduled to return to the east coast provides foreshadowing for folks familiar with the Manson history.  Celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring is the escort of Tate, and Folger boyfriend Wojciech Frykowski is spending his last evening with his girlfriend.

The quartet returning to the Polanski-Tate estate to keep the party going is reminiscent of the OJ case (complete with the a sketchy character occupying the guest house). The revelers initially remain blissfully ignorant as the audience sees the Manson clan arrive and initially direct their efforts at a guest of the aforementioned caretaker.

Director John R. Leonetti does a good job building the suspense as Charles and those of whom he is in charge set the stage for the subsequent blood bath. We see the shadowy figures on the lawn and in the house, the cutting off of escape routes, and the fear-inducing bumps in the night and other purposeful means of terrorizing the future murder victims.

This being "based on actual events" contributes to the terror; the fact that all of us are still vulnerable to a nut job with or without equally psychotic followers determining that we are worthy of their attention amps up the fear factor.

One particularly creepy scene clearly inspires the most effective element of the 1999 horror film "The Sixth Sense." Abigail sees a shadowy figure of one of Charlie's angels wave at her in a hallway and then walk in the bedroom suite of Sharon. The chills continue with that woman being nowhere to be seen on Abigail following her in the room.

Like both the real-life basis for the docudrama and most purely fictional horror films, the terror effectively builds to the inevitable blood bath that may have inspired the fictional versions of that carnage.

The strong creepy vibe and terrorized "innocents" throughout provide all viewers good entertainment; getting to know more about Tate (and the rest) who get slaughtered is a bonus to folks who know of the "docu" elements of this drama.

"Wolves" ending with a recap of the actual events (complete with footage of Manson and his family) awesomely reminds us that the movie is scary because it is true.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

'Green Slime' BD: That '60s Scifi Inspiration

The Warner Archive October 10, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1968 scifi horror flick "Green Slime" awesomely fits in with recent Archive releases. This B-movie that is filmed with a mostly American cast in Japan and released by MGM reflects the information in the (Unreal TV reviewed) Archive released documentary "When the Lion Roars" that the history of MGM includes moving from producing its own epics to providing a conduit for the movies of other studios.

"Slime" additionally fits right in with the horror-themed Blu-rays and DVDs that Archive is releasing ahead of Halloween. These include the Blu-rays of the (reviewed) John Landis horror-comedy "Innocent Blood" and the (also reviewed) '70slicisious scifi thriller "The Hidden." There is also a review of he DVD releases of the Manson family docudrama "Wolves at the Door;" the family home plagued by malevolence "Within" film rounds out the reviews for this week.

The following YouTube clip of the psychedelic version of a Bond theme in "Slime" provides a taste of the '60s-style fun of the film.

The broad view is that "Slime" is a textbook kiddie matinee film that pays homage to the serials of the '50s and provides apparent inspiration for modern scifi epics. The hobby shop models and inadvertently hilarious scenes of astronauts flying through space provide a sense of our parents (or grandparents) spending their weekend afternoons tormenting teenage ushers. It is worth noting that the bright colors and good quality cinematography look terrific in Blu-ray.

The Earth-bound space command sending a team to destroy an asteroid on a collision course obviously is in the lineage of "Armageddon." The desire to spare and study the creatures who menace the space station around which the action centers has strong elements of both the "Alien" franchise and the recent Jake Gyllenhaal/Ryan Reynolds film "Life."

A less direct element of "Star Trek" enters regarding the needs of the many outweighing those of the few. A related aspect of this is whether leaving a man behind ever is acceptable.

The filmmakers also throw in something for the ladies in the form of a love triangle between the three leads.

The more societal aspect of all this is the Cold War paranoia that exists in a modified version today regarding the threat that hostile "aliens" pose. The need to prevent them from invading America is paramount under this mindset.

All of this insightful commentary begins with a space station orbiting Earth alerting the folks down here that a huge chunk of space rocket poses an imminent threat to that planet. That prompts the powers-that-be to call retired studly astronaut Commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton of the '50s Western series "Wagon Train") back into service to lead a daring mission to blast that asteroid before it triggers a new Ice Age.

Conflict comes in the form of Rankin having adversarial personal and professional histories with current station commander Vince Elliott. The aforementioned conflict between risking (or sacrificing) the lives of many to bring one man back alive is behind Rankin no longer being in command; the spoils of war that Elliott receives in the wake of that include an engagement to sexy station doctor/former Rankin main squeeze Lisa Benson.

Rankin saving Earth is only the beginning of the story; history repeating itself while he and Elliott are on their mission amps up the tension between the two. The titular substance hitching a ride to the station and benefiting from another "size" contest between Rankin and Elliott sets the main action in motion.

The "Life" element enters the film in the form of a station scientist preventing eliminating the threat at an early stage; his analysis is that the benefits from studying this ALF outweighs what seems to be the negligible risk of the party going out of bounds.

Of course, things do get out of hand as this rapidly reproducing entity grows into an army of creatures that seem to be the love children of the Daleks and Sigmund the sea monster of the '70s Saturday morning show that bears his name. One spoiler is that "Slimer" and Jack and Vince are not friends.

Much of the rest of the film involves the crew in a zombie-style battle against their slowly advancing foes. Getting to know more about their enemy helps some.

Of course, Jack and Vince must team up and once again face the underlying conflict regarding their relationship. This interaction further shows that old habits die hard.

The end result of all this is that "Slime" is pure space camp that shows that the classics endure.

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

'Assholes' DVD: It's Always Sunny in New York

[EDITOR'S NOTE The copious potty language in the following PG-13 review of this R-rated film is included to be true to the nature of the movie.]

Although well-known for edgy (often gay-themed) fare, Breaking Glass Pictures leap frogs over the boundary of good taste regarding the October 24 2017 DVD release of the 2017 gross-out comedy "Assholes."

Writer/director/star Peter Vack clearly shows his knowledge of the classic films of the highly perverse John Waters. The pure shamelessness of the titular odious couple further evokes thoughts of the FXX sitcom "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" about friends who do not even pretend to care about anyone other than themselves. Vack digs even deeper in adding a disgusting Kafkaesque element into the film.

The following YouTube clip of the Breaking trailer for "Assholes" provides an excellent sense of the progression of the film.

The extreme elements of "Assholes" will result in you either loving or hating it. Folks who worship Waters and delight in self-indulgent fare that makes Adam Sandler and James Franco and their respective entourages look like Tom Hanks will have a new favorite. Folks whose tastes run to subdued storytelling likely will want to pass on this one.

Vack plays typical New Yorker Adam Shapiro, whose antics include waving his naughty bits in the face of  Seth Rogenesque urbanite buddy Aaron Mark. Meanwhile, Adam sister Adah (real life Vanck sister and daughter of star/producer Ron Brown Betsey Brown) is pouring her heart out to the therapist whom she and playwright Aaron share.

A general sense of why the fuck not leads to Adah and Aaron engaging in that actual activity. The resulting graphically depicted STDs are an early indication that Vack gleefully crosses the aforementioned boundaries.

Adaron soon discovering the joys of poppers propel much of the action of the film as they go on on a drug-fueled orgy that includes copious anal-focused sex play and rampaging through Times Square. This binge additionally inadvertently summons a butt-related demon who literally would bite the head off Mr. Hanky and spit it in the face of whatever unlucky soul happens to be within range.

All of this escalates to a point of stalking new psychology student Adam, who is attending a hilarious therapy group for therapists. Suffice it to say that things do not end well for him.

The comeuppance for our deviants comes in the form of their outward appearances disgustingly reflecting their inner selves. The additional spoiler is that this development leaves little doubt that they are talking out of their asses.

In true therapy style, Vack provides closure that shows both that he is a true independent filmmaker and knows that "Assholes" never will grace the screen of a multiplex. The moral that he provides is that one either can shit or get off the pot.

Breaking shows its love for "Assholes" in providing even more DVD extras than is typical for this best friend of independent filmmakers. These begin with a filmed commentary with Vack, Brown, and Mark portrayor Jack Dunphy. We also get a festival Q & A and two short films.

The Vack film "Send" portrays young in the cyber age. The film "Child Psychology" by Ron Brown is a very cute tale that begins with four tweens going to a psychiatrist and returning 15 years later; Vack and Betsey Brown play two of the kids as adults.

A personal favorite among the kids is a hilariously arrogant prep school student who spends his youthful sessions bragging about his accomplishments and displaying his intelligence and his adult visits discussing relationship issues.

A certainty is that Breaking will release a feature-length version of "Psychology" if Ron ever films one.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding anything discussed above is encouraged to email me. You alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Lost Christmas' DVD:: Jonathon Winters, Barbara Eden, and Garry Moore Oh My!

Time Life awesomely does it again regarding the October 24, 2017 DVD release "The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Lost Christmas." This collection of three episodes of that long-running '70s variety series comes on the heels of the four-disc Time Life (Unreal TV reviewed) "Best of " Burnett 50th Anniversary edition release. "Christmas" includes three holiday-themed episodes that have not been seen in more than 40 years.

The "Christmas" set opens with an S1 episode that reminds current fans of the greatness of "Burnett" and introduces newbies to most elements that warrant that praise. The specialness of this one begins with the guests being comedian Jonathan Winters and actress/singer Barbara Eden. Winters represents the A-List caliber of Burnett guests and the equally elite Eden illustrates Burnett especially loving stars who both can do comedy and perform musical numbers.

Eden shining in a scene in which she channels "Jeannie" to entrance "Burnett" announcer Lyle Waggoner shows her comedic side; a later song-and-dance number demonstrates the desire of Eden (and her mother) to be a musical-comedy star that she discusses in a (sadly lost) vintage interview with your not-so-humble reviewer.

Improv. master Winters steals the show as a boozing Santa in a faux interview in a segment in a "V.I.P." sketch that features Harvey Korman as an interviewer. The humor from a clearly missed cue is pure Burnett. Winters performing a political monologue about dolls is pure hilarity.

Winters and Korman later team up again in a mockumentary about prisons. Winters as an unconventional warden is a laugh-a-minute; a surprise guest later in the sketch is a special bonus.

Speaking of special guests, a big-name appearing in character surprising Burnett and the audience is a prime example of such versions of Easter eggs in the series; a similar cameo in the third episode in the set is another stocking stuffer.

The guests in the aforementioned third episode and the second one in the set include comedian Garry Moore, who is the former boss of Burnett on his own variety show. The pair fully relive old times in the sketch "The Trial of Mrs. Peter Piper" that is a Neil Simon piece that premiered on the "Moore" show.

Burnett both having the Bob Mitchell Singing Boys perform and interacting with two of the lads (who show that boys will be boys) demonstrates both her interest in highlighting lesser-known talent and giving the audience a chance to know them.

All of this amounts to more than two hours of a show that was "appointment TV" for most of the '70s and that aces the test of time.

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

'Waiting for Guffman' BD: Mockumentary About Small-Town Community Theater is a Best in Show on Guest List

The Warner Archive September 26, 2017 Blu-ray release of the Christopher Guest mockumentary "Waiting for Guffman" proves that there are exceptions to the rule that a comedy film cannot run longer than 90 minutes.

The 34-minutes of deleted scenes on the BD should make anyone familiar with the film to feel robbed regarding being deprived of those laughs. We can only hope for an art-house revival that reinserts those editing-room floor gems. Writer/director/auteur Christopher Guest particularly shines in a scenes in which his character Corky St. Clair discusses a favorite childhood story about a boy named Corky and a sperm whale. This monologue outConways Tim Conway.

The work of Guest and the improv. geniuses that he casts in "Guffman" and many of his other classic mockumentaries (including "This is Spinal Tap," "Best in Show," and the 2016 film "Mascots") provides enough fodder for several posts. One important aspect of this is that the earlier films predate the U.K. and the U.S. versions of "The Office" and other sitcoms that earn praise for the alleged innovation of producing TV comedies in the mockumentary style.

It also is worth noting that regular Guest star Fred Willard has a recurring role on the current TV mockumentary "Modern Family."

"Guffman" centers around the simple (in both senses of the word) and naive folks in the small-town of Blaine, Missouri. The overall concept of the film, the unique history of Blaine, the personalities of the citizens, and the bizarre murals that celebrate that odd past strongly indicate that this film is the father of the NBC "Must See" mockumentary "Parks and Recreation."

The preparations for celebrating the anniversary including presenting the play summarizing the history of the town around which "Guffman" centers. The very undistinguished New York theater background of St. Clair warrants him both local celebrity status and the "honor" of directing this extrazaganza.

Willard steals both the film and the show within the show as travel agent who only briefly left Blaine once in his life/community theater luminary  Ron Albertson; fellow Guest collaborator Catherine O'Hara plays spouse/fellow travel agent/community theater co-royalty Sheila Albertson. Glimpses of this pair in past St. Clair productions (which include a stage adaptation of the film "Backdraft")  are some of many highlights in "Guffman."

Guest regular and O'Hara "SCTV" and "Schitt's Creek" co-star Eugene Levy shines equally well as dentist/community theater newcomer Dr. Allan Pearl. One can only hope for the sake of Pearl that he never finds himself trapped in a paper bag.

Other characters in both senses of the word include Guest star Parker Posey as a 20-something who seems destined to work at a Dairy Queen the rest of her life, future "Middleman" Matt Kesslar as hunky Johnny Savage (who is hilariously oblivious to St. Clair perving on him), David Cross as "UFO expert," Larry Miller as the mayor, Bob Balaban as a high school music teacher, etc.

The film title refers to St. Clair receiving a positive response from a New York theater production company regarding an inquiry about sending someone to check out the show for a possible Manhattan staging. Producer Mort Guffman is the individual whom St. Clair and the cast anticipate attending their opening night performance.

Much of the film relates to the chaos associated with staging such a production; these calamities include a cast member dropping out at the last minute forcing St. Clair to assume roles for which he is hilariously miscast. Further, a conflict regarding the integrity of the production causes another walk-out.

This all leads to the hilariously awful play itself complete with sets that make actual high school musicals look like "Les Miserables." Only adding deleted scenes that center around a historic flood in Blaine would have made this portion of the film any more entertaining.

All of this ends in true Guest style in an epilogue that shows the lives of the characters a year after their literal night in the spotlight. A highlight of this is showing the extent to which the acting bug bites one of these nowhere ready for primtime players.

Suffering through a community production of "South Pacific" that required skipping the second act is a personal reference point for "Guffman." On a related note, the skill of Guest and his cast regarding acting so bad that it is hilarious takes real talent.

Other special features include audio commentary by Guest and Levy and the theatrical trailer.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

'Watch Around the Clock: Color' 24 Glorious Hours (Including Vintage Ads) in TV Land

Mill Creek Entertainment awesomely honors its roots as a distributor of classic "TV Land" fare DVDs with the September 26, 2017 separate releases of the black-and-white and color versions of "Watch Around the Clock." Each release that presents time-slot appropriate shows and films (complete with commercials) for a simulated broadcast day on what can be considered the independent television station WMCE is a vicarious dream come true for those of us to want to program a local station.

The color set (pun intended) is the topic du jour. An upcoming release addresses the black-and-white release.

As the TV listings style grid (complete with episode synopses) states, the color broadcast day starts at 6:00 a.m. with the six-hour block of cartoons known as "Kid's Clubhouse." This starts with a whooping hour of "Popeye" cartoons beginning with the classic "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor" and includes "A Haul in One" that has him operating a moving company with nemesis Bluto,

We then move onto "Casper," which largely revolves around that friendly ghost trying to make chums but ending up scaring everyone; his adventures include getting involved in a war on the moon, becoming a surrogate father to a duckling, and going to Africa.

The cartoon fun continues with "Gumby," the lesser-known (but hilarious) "Fraidy Cat" about a feline who is on his last life, and other rarities such as "Space Angel" and "Mr. Piper."

The six-hour "Daytime Variety" block of kid-friendly films begins the Max Fleischer animated version of "Gulliver's Travels." We then get "The Borrowers" about wee folk living the house of us "big people."

The special treat of the 1978 reunion film "Rescue From Gilligan's Island" tells the tale of seven no-longer stranded castaways making their way off the titular landmass only to have tremendous difficulties adjusting to being back in "civilization."

This block wraps up with the Aaron Spelling comic Western film "The Over the Hill Gang." This one has Walter Brennan and Edgar Buchanan as a team of retired Texas Rangers trying to oust a corrupt mayor and his gang. A cute cameo by Harlen Carrraher of the sitcom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" is a highlight.

The six-hours of "Prime-Time Favorites" begins with the classic Western series "The Lone Ranger" and eases into the 1973-74 comic Western "Dusty's Trail" with Bob Denver of "Gilligan" and Forrest Tucker of the Western sitcom "F Troop."

A full hour of "The Lucy Show" aptly begins at 9:00 p.m. This double-feature is from the era of Lucy living in Los Angeles and working with Mr. Mooney at the bank. The first outing has Lucy causing chaos at the filming of a John Wayne movie; she then tries to convince (real-life close friend) Jack Benny to deposit his hoarded vast treasure at the bank.

We then get the classic Western "Bonanza" and finish primetime with '70s detective drama "Mannix."

The already-starred in primetime players in the "Midnight Movie Marathon" are the three classic films "The Last Time I Saw Paris," The Snows of Kilimanjaro," and "The Proud Rebel."

The aforementioned retro commercials greatly enhance this set. Personal favorites include kid-oriented ones for vintage cereals and toys. It also is amusing to see ads for cigarettes and outdated PSAa that include an '80s-era Clint Eastwood relating the evils of crack.

Wait, there's more! The bonus disc of "Holiday TV Classics V2 has 12 Christmas episodes from all-time favorites series and rarities that include "Petticoat Junction," "Ozzie and Harriet," and "The Colgate Comedy Hour" with Abbott and Costello.

The challenge for die-hards is to start watching this set at 6:00 a.m. and keep going until 6:00 a.m. the next day. The rest of us merely can enjoy several large blocks of carefully selected video treats.

Anyone with questions or comment regarding "Clock: Color" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

'Red Christmas' BD/DVD/VOD: Horrific Aborted Plan for Family Celebration

Artsploitation Films offers a genuine nightmare before Christmas regarding the October 17, 2017 DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD releases of the future cult-classic 2016 Australian horror film "Red Christmas" that stars family-friendly scream queen Dee Wallace of "E.T." fame. The simple premise of this movie is that widow Diane (Wallace) gathers her adult children for one last Christmas celebration at her Outback estate before selling it. All of us with real or reel experience regarding these reunions know that they involve plenty of horror even without one of the present psychos being armed.

The following YouTube clip of a theatrical trailer for "Red" highlights the bright lights and dark humor of this film.

Flashbacks establish that monster Cletus is an actual garbage pail kid in that he is rescued from a trash can following an abortion procedure that roughly concurs with pro-lifers attacking the clinic.  We later meet the Elephant Man like Cletus as a cloaked, physically deformed adult with a creepy lisp. His early efforts to find birth mother Diane resulting in his being peed on surely contributes to his being p.o.ed when he arrives at Chez Diane bearing guilt.

The Christmas spirit compels Diane to invite this urine-soaked freak into house until the party goes out of bounds.

The ensuing mayhem looks great in Blu-ray as Cletus has Christmas stalkings for all against the backdrop of the gorgeous house and colorful holiday decorations. As publicity for the film points out, the entertainment value in these films relates to the creative ways in which the carnage occurs. Highlights include a scene that warrants referring to one sibling as a half sister and another that justifies commenting about a hare out of place. The latter also serves as a nice homage to E.T.

Things take a particularly nasty turn when Diane son Jerry, who has Down's Syndrome, develops sympathy for the devil. This creates suspense regarding the extent to which this offspring will switch teams.

The final showdown does have surprises and leaves the door open for a sequel.

The copious Blu-ray bonus features include writer/director Craig Anderson interviewing Wallace, bloopers, and a deleted scene.

Anyone with questions regarding "Red" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvvdguy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

'Skeleton Crew' Live Stage: Trinity Rep. of Providence Presents Tale of Detroit Dystopia

The Trinity Repertory Theater, which is the official theater of Rhode Island, chooses wisely in selecting the two plays for the "Fall Rep: The American Dream, Then and Now" series that is kicking off the 2017-18 season of that primary source for cultural in the Ocean State capital city. This series runs through November 26, 2017.

Virtually everyone with any high school experience knows the Arthur Miller classic "Death of a Salesman." The rep. is presenting this (soon-to-be-reviewed) drama in tandem with the modern play "Skeleton Crew" by Detroit playwright Dominque Morisseau.

"Crew" is somewhat reminiscent of the much lighter 2004-05 Britcom "The Smoking Room," which is set in the break room of a British company and consists of working stiffs and their manager discussing their amusing trials and tribulations while sniping with each other. Our crew is from 2008 and congregates in the lunch room of the last independent auto stamping plant in Detroit.

50-something smoker Faye is the center of the crew; she is a 29-year veteran of the line and a solid UAW supporter. She also is the mother hen to the 20-something "kids" who make up the rest of the characters.

The highly sympathetic Shanita is a 25 year-old pregnant single woman with a quiet nature and an exceptional work ethic that includes working extensive overtime without complaint despite being at least in the second trimester of her pregnancy.

Shanita gets one of the best monologs in a scene in which she is discussing a job opportunity with Faye; the relatively new hire expresses the pride that she feels in contributing to manufacturing a car.

Shanita is an odd mix of sister/potential love interest to angry young man Dez, who is biding his time in the plant until he has enough money to open a car repair shop. He sadly fits the stereotype of a blue-collar black man in that he is no stranger to crime and violence.

One of the memorable moments in which Dez literally and figuratively takes center stage is an exchange with Faye about the value of the union. Dez expresses resentment regarding literally paying union dues arguing that that organization does not provide him any significant benefit.

An irate Faye responds in a manner that clearly uses the union as an analogy for the civil rights movement that that young punk has no idea about the "dues" that his elders paid to provide him the working conditions that he enjoys. She adds that that youngster is oblivious regarding the hardships associated with a highly contentious strike.

This trio reports to foreman Reggie, who literally owes his job to Faye. This clean-cut high school dropout is high enough on the corporate ladder to provide his family a home in a safe neighborhood. The concern of this boss for his workers comes through in an early scene in which he brings a space heater from home to help warm the break room; his telling the workers that the electrical system cannot handle using both the heater and the microwave has equal symbolic value.

The central conflict of "Crew" relates to Reggie confiding in Faye that the plant is due to close. Faye ultimately decides that her loyalty to surrogate son Reggie is stronger than her obligation to the union in agreeing to respect his confidence.

This exchange also illustrates the conflicting loyalty of any good plant foreman; this man or woman typically works his or her way up with the people whom he or she now manages yet both owes the executive leadership loyalty and wants to continue the salary and the other benefits associated with a supervisory position.

The scene to which virtually every adult audience strongly relates has Faye (who does not yet have word of the closing) and Shanita discuss their invulnerability to a layoff. Faye notes that she has seniority and can perform many assembly line jobs; Shanita points out that she is one of the hardest working employees.

The fact alone that many people share the same reasonable confidence as Faye and Shanita only to find themselves out of a job should make the exchange one of the ones with the greatest impact in "Crew." The real-life experience that former top advertising Michael Gates Gill documents in his 2007 book "How Starbucks Saved My Life" shows that no one is safe.

Well-connected Yale graduate Gill is a 25-year veteran of an ad agency whose long hours, constant travel, and even hopping on a plane at the last minute one Christmas provide confidence of continued employment until he is fired apparently merely simply because he is in his early 50s. We meet Gill a decade after that trauma as a virtually unemployed man with no health insurance and a serious medical condition. The title of his book provides a strong clue regarding the nature of his second career.

On a larger level, the warnings of economists that virtually every American must reduce his or her lifestyle by 50 percent dates back roughly 10 years. It is becoming very true for many of us today.

These upbeat notes are ending on inviting anyone with questions or comments regarding "Crew" either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, October 16, 2017

'B&B' DVD: Not Another Gay British Hitchcockian Thriller

The Breaking Glass Pictures October 17, 2017 DVD release of the 2017 gay-themed thriller "B&B" provides thrills and copious candy corn for thought ahead of the gay Christmas known as Halloween. It also is notable for being a film that truly warrants the subtitle "Ginger Snaps."

The accolades this time include a special mention Award of Excellence at the amusingly titled 2017 Accolade Competition. Other honors including a Best Actor and a Best Director win at the 2017 Horrible Imaginings Film Festival.

The following You Tube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN trailer for "B&B" does a good job summarizing the plot; it also provides a good look at the related suspense.

The central story/catalyst in "B&B" is that recently wed couple Marc and Fred return to the scene of the crime a year after seeking lodging at the titular inn. Homophobic innkeeper Josh (Paul "The Doctor" McGann) refusing to give the then-unmarried couple a room with a double bed leads to a lawsuit that leads to a legal victory for the boys.

The underlying dispute seems to be a factor in the decision of Marc to make an honest man out of Fred; it definitely motivates that couple to return to the inn and to taunt Josh. Although the sentiment is putrid, one must give Josh his due for asserting his beliefs by placing only twin beds in every guestroom.

These early scenes provide strong indications that Marc is the top in the relationship; Fred being sympathetic regarding (allegedly pure) red-headed 16 year-old gay son Paul of Josh provides further proof of the nature of the Marc-Fred dynamic. This good heart apparently is an additional factor regarding the seeming sexual interest of Paul in Marc.

The arrival of large menacing Russian Alexie provides the newlyweds further fodder for debate. Cynical Marc is convinced that this newcomer is a neo-Nazi gay-basher, and Fred is equally sure that Alexie is focusing on taking any remaining innocence that Paul possesses. The discoveries that these amateur sleuths make on investigating their fellow guest remove any doubt that he is not there for the scenery.

The tone of "B&B" fully shifts from gay drama to Hitchcockian thriller on Marc and Fred seeing Paul and Alexie head to the local gay cruising area; this ultimately leads to Fred pursuing them to protect Paul.

The ensuing confrontation leads to a death that leads to twists galore that sadly reflect on society and slightly less so on the extent to which a father will go for the love of a child. The scarier part is the realistic risk that any of us face regarding running afoul of the legal system even if we are have not committed a crime.

Writer/director Joe Ahearne particularly shines as things fully spiral out-of-control as the surprise villain shows his true colors in a manner that makes anyone who challenges him at chess a fool. The bottom line is that our central couple pay a high price for the satisfaction of rubbing their legal victory in the face of Josh.

The epilogue provides (not necessarily) full-circle closure; the cynicism that Ahearne expresses regarding public perception is distressing because it is true.

The special features include highly entertaining cast-and-crew interviews that validate the excellent choices all around and that make viewers wish that they were on set for the filming.

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

'Vice Versa' Blu-ray: Judge Reinhold-Fred Savage 'Freaky Friday'-'Big' Mash-up

The Mill Creek Entertainment October 17, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1988 famcom film "Vice Versa" is apt for Halloween in that it illustrates the "Teach Your Children" well lesson that neither parents nor their offspring understand the Hell that is the daily experience of the other. This "Freaky Friday" tale also awesomely channels fellow 1988 film comedy "Big" more than the similarly themed 1987 "Like Father Like Son" with Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron or "18! Again" with George Burns.

A moderate John Hughes vibe enters "Vice" via Marshall Seymour (Judge Reinhold) being both an Executive Vice-President for a large upscale Chicago department store and the divorced father of Chicago-suburb dwelling tween Charlie (Fred Savage). "Vice" director Brian Gilbert further channels Hughes in casting Swoosie Kurtz (recently of "Mike and Molly") as cartoonish villain Tina.

An unhappy Charlie comes to spend time with his dad in the wake of a mix-up placing an enchanted ornamental Tibetan skull in the possession of an especially stressed-out Marshall; antiquities smuggler Tina is the intended recipient of that item, and she comes after it with the standard oafish henchman in tow.

True hilarity begins to ensue when Marshall and Charlie each are holding the skull when they assert that the other has a much easier life than him. This leads to a transformation in which a hulked out Marshall now has the mind of Charlie in him and Charlie is a meat suit for his dad.

The first taste of "Big" comes when Charlie delights in discovering that his adult male body comes complete with fully formed naughty bits. His subsequent adventures in the cut-throat world of big business including rocking out in the music department of the aforementioned retail emporium, experiencing physical aspects (similar to determining who gets on top) of adult romantic relationships, and generally bringing the wisdom of a child into a corporate bedroom are straight out of "Big." 

For his part, returning to the 7th grade reminds Marshall of bullies and other unpleasantness associated with the wonder years.

Following the very successful formula of these films, Marshall and Charlie are facing impending deadlines that include an important presentation for Marshall and the date for Charlie to return to the home of the ex-wife (Jane Kaczmarek of "Malcolm in the Middle") of Marshall. Tina losing patience regarding recovering the skull does not help things. 

Stating that the boys obtain a better understanding of each other and end up in their own bodies is not a spoiler; the manner in which that occurs provides a happy ending for audience and characters alike.

Two scenes deserve special notice. Savage (who does well portraying a young boy in the role of an exasperated and bossy executive) sipping a martini while Marshall is inside him is amusing but likely would not fly in 2017. Our leads completely stripping and sitting naked in front of each other to avoid a wardrobe malfunction regarding an attempted switch back is creepy even by 1988 standards and accounting for the characters being father-and-son and Charlie already seeing what his dad is packing. Even putting blankets around themselves would have been a much better choice.

The bigger picture regarding all this is that "Vice" is special nostalgic fun for Gen Xers and provides Millennials a perfect example of the themes and styles of goofy '80s comedies.

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

'The Leftovers' S1 BD: October 14 Post on HBO Series About Alternative Rapture

October 14, 2011 being when 2-percent of the population vanishes in the literal blink of an eye in the HBO series "The Leftovers" makes the sixth anniversary of that event an apt date for this review of the Warner Prime Blu-ray release of S1 of that series. A review of the Prime S2 BD release is the next in this series leading to a post on the Warner Archive October 10, 2017 S3 BD release.

This show about those of us who are left behind is from Damon Lindelof of "Lost" fame and author Tom Perrotta (who is the Nick Hornby of American literature) based on the Perrotta novel of the same name. Folks who are familiar with the wonderfully cynically comic Perrotta novels that include "Election, "Joe College," and "The Abstinence Teacher" are in for an equally entertaining but darker ride this time.

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for S1 expertly summarizes the lore of "Leftovers" and illustrates the film-quality cinematography that looks great in BD.

The pilot opening roughly five minutes before the aforementioned dramatic rapid rapture and shifting three years ahead in the wake of that event is an early indication that this is a Lindelof joint. We meet Mapleton, New York police chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) come across a man killing a dog only to quickly leave the scene.

We then learn that mayor Lucy Warburton and civic leaders are planning a ceremony to mark the third anniversary of the culling. This also establishes that Kevin and Warbuton are at odds. The primary lore contribution of a planning sessions is that we learn of the strong and silent "GR" (later revealed to stand for "Guilty Remnant'), which is expected to be a disruptive influence.

A touch of "American Beauty" enters the picture in the form of delinquent teen daughter Jill having ubiquitous friend Aimee doing her best to equally taunt and tempt Kevin. We further learn that these girls and the bad boys with whom they hang are highly symbolic feral beings whose activities largely center around drinking and doing drugs in the woods. Their reckless acts include perverse sacrilege and a dangerous way of honoring the presumably ascended member of their group.

Meanwhile, son Tom Garvey spends much of the season on the run with a fellow cult member who allegedly is very important to the founder of that organization. This role of protector requires that Tom prove his faith in an extreme manner.

Kevin's wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) is now a GR member and at odds with her spouse and her daughter. A particularly dramatic scene between Jill and her mother leave absolutely no doubt regarding the feelings of the former about the latter.

The other primary family in the "Leftovers" 'verse is minister with a mission Matt Jamison (Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston) and his sister Nora Durst; Nora, who works for the government agency that conducts interviews that seek common characteristics of the ascended) is one of the more fascinating characters in this group of interesting individuals. An episode that centers around Nora attending a professional conference is one of the best in the season.

The outstanding penultimate S1 episode (which has Lindelof written all over it) shows how Nora lost her husband and her two children in the purge. This episode-long flashback begins in the period leading up to the mass disappearance and continues through to the "leftovers" reacting to seeing their loved ones and others whom we meet in this outing vanish.

Another striking aspect of this is seeing Jill the delinquent as a happy geeky tween science nerd and dark sullen Tom freshly scrubbed and always broadly smiling and joking as he bounces around like a puppy on coke.

Again in true Lindelof style, S1 builds to a dramatic climax. A GR stunt pushes the already strained tolerance of the gen. pop. beyond any reasonable limit but does lead to both a family reunion and a clear dividing of lines for that clan. A cliffhanger that is unrelated to that interaction ensures big changes for S2.

The messages in this medium include the universal frustrating search for answers to the big questions and what occurs when fanatics with clashing beliefs must closely co-exist.

The copious BD special features include a "making of" film and a separate extra consisting of Lindelof and Perrootta discussing S1.

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

'Moka' DVD" Emmanuelle Devos as Mother Seeking Justice for Dead Son

The Film Movement October 17, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 French drama "Moka" provides further proof that the criteria of this New York based company for adding foreign films to its catalog includes that they can be made in America word-for-word and shot-for-shot. The only required variation regarding this one is that the United States and Canada be substituted for Switzerland and France.

"Moka" is particularly notable for introducing the Movement fan base to spectacular French actress Emmanuelle Devos; this is the fourth Devos film to make its way to the virtual pages of Unreal TV, and her performance is flawless in each.

The following YouTube clip of a festival trailer for "Moka" achieves the desired balance between providing an accurate sense of the film and containing minimal spoilers.

This New York Times Critic's Pick begins with grieving mother Diane Kramer (Devos) checking herself out of a psychiatric hospital and showing up unannounced at the home of her ex-husband. In pure drama/thriller style, we learn the full story of this couple and their teen son Luc in small reveals throughout the film.

Diane receiving a report from her private detective that he has narrowed down the probable car that fled a hit-and-run accident to four candidates sends Diane from her Swiss home to France in search of those vehicles.

Diane soon finding what she believes to be the car involved in the accident leads to the psychological portion of this thriller. The vehicle belongs to Michel, who is selling it. Michel is partnered with hair salon owner Marlene, whom Michel states no longer likes the car.

Diane becomes involved with Michel by negotiating for the purchase of the car. She becomes part of the life of Marlene by initially becoming a salon client and then assertively pursuing a friendship. Marlene reasonably does not understand why a client is making a strong effort to know her.

This relationship develops to the point that Diane inches close enough to being a stalker to concern Marlene. Diane befriending the daughter of Marlene is particularly creepy.

For his part, probable philanderer Michel interprets Diane assertively pushing him to sell her the car as her wanting a physically intimate relationship with him. This leads to a highly dramatic confrontation.

"Moka" particularly shines regarding how it handles the rapidly cascading reveals near the end of the film. Stating that Michel and Marlene discover that the other knows Diane and also sharing that having her cover partially blown prompts her confronting Marlene with her suspicions and receiving a somewhat surprising response is not much of a spoiler.

The general nature of the final reveal is predictable; the identity of the driver is more surprising and creepy. The outcome of this exposure also straddles the border between predictable and unexpected.

"Moka" holds true to the aforementioned spirit of handing out reveals as tasty morsels throughout the film and to rewarding the audience for waiting for those treats by leaving our full introduction to Luc to the end. We met him in a logical manner and see that he is such a sweet and shy guy with so much promise that we join Diane in grieving for him.

Like all good films, "Moka" adds depth to a compelling story. One scary truth is that the Cyber Age makes it very easy for anyone with a valid or erroneous gripe to track us down and drag our life into a circle of Hell.

A related note is the ease with which compelling but still circumstantial evidence can lead to a virtual (or actual) conviction. Most of us have minor experiences in which we have been on either side of a certain belief of guilt of wrongdoing despite knowing when we were the accused that we did not do it.

The always-apt Movement bonus short-film this time is  the 2007 French drama "Le Creneau." This one is by "Moka" director Frederic Mermoud and features Devos in what seems to be a standard role of an unhappily married woman.

Devos plays pediatrician Camille. This medical practitioner is coping with an unhappy latish in life marriage to businessman Henri when dreamy and charming former friend Mathias brings his adorable son to her office on the afternoon of Henri and Camille dining with the boss of Henri. All of the ensuing action occurs as Henri increasingly is his own worst enemy by amping up his neuroses and associated tormenting of Camille. This coming on the heels of a delightful visit with Mathias understandably prompts Camille to re-evaluate her choice of husband.

Couples all over the world can relate to the final scene in which a frantic Henri harangues Camille as she is trying to parallel park in a tight space on a narrow street. The audience truly feels the pain of both characters but are on Team Camille.

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

'Cinema Novo' DVD: Doc. on Brazilian Answer to French New Wave

The Icarus Films September 19, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 Brazilian documentary "Cinema Novo" is a typically "innovative and provocative" Icarus release about an innovative and provocative subject.

Writer/director Eryk Rocha pays homage to his father Glauber Rocha and the other founders of the Brazilian Cinema Novo movement of the '6os and '70s. These oft-experimental and equally frequently black-and-white films that are stark in style and theme are homages to the earlier French New Wave cinema. On a less artistic level, looking at many of the seeming 100s of clips in "Cinema" evokes thoughts of the '80s black-and-white Calvin Klein ads.

The aside for today is that the stated purpose of Novo to depict what otherwise is not shown on film dates back roughly 30 years earlier to Robert Flaherty of "Nanook of the North" and other founders of the documentary film genre responding to America only seeing the Hollywood version of life at their local nickelodeon. The (Unreal TV reviewed) Icarus DVD release "A Boatload of Wild Irishmen" discusses those roots.

The numerous Best Documentary wins for "Cinema" include that honor at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the 2017 Cinema Brazil Grand Prize awards, and the 2017 Sao Paulo Association of Art Critics Awards.

The realistic style (and oft-urban settings) of these films also often involve someone being chased. Icarus notes that this literally taking filmmaking to the streets is designed to break down the traditional barriers associated with that art. Icarus specifically states that this genre is designed to tell "the stories of people and regions not typically depicted on screen."

Rocha Sr. and his peers echo those sentiments in archival interviews in which they discuss both otherwise generally censored societal issues and the close collaboration that reflects the spirit of Novo. They further note that any censorship by these filmmakers is hypocritical.

The commerce aspect of this art mostly comes through in discussing the film distribution company that dominates regarding the releases of these productions. The directors very candidly admit that a relationship with that company is highly desired.

The latter vivid color Novo films reflect both the aforementioned desire to put butts in the seats and a more altruistic aim of dispelling the myths regarding Brazil being a lush Utopia. One especially grotesque scene has a not so fine or young apparent cannibal finding himself in a pool full of his apparent victims. But for the subject matter, the style of this scene looks like something out of the 1971 musical comedy "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

The nature of the topic and the well-produced presentation to discuss the 12-year evolution of a complex film movement makes reading the 16-page booklet that accompanies the DVD worthwhile. This essay by film scholars Randal Johnson and Robert Stam expands on the points in this review and provides detail regarding the shifting political climates in Brazil that influence the Novo films.

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

'People of Earth' S1 DVD: Conan O'Brien-Greg Daniels Sitcom is 'Dear John' Meets 'The X Files' Meets 'The Office'

Warner Archive continues its foray into cult series with the September 12, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 first season of the TBS Conan O'Brien-Greg Daniels (of "The Office" fame) sitcom "People of Earth."

The general theme of a support group for a community of people in Beacon, New York who either have had a close encounter of the third kind or desperately desire one is reminiscent of the 1988-92 Judd Hirsch NBC sitcom about similar therapy for people with intense relationship issues. The element of alien abductions contributes an "X Files" vibe.

The ineptitude and constant squabbling among the aliens whose crisis management skills are increasingly tested puts the "Office" work of Daniels to good use. Finally, the lack of a laugh track supports the theory of '80s  ABC "Dirty Harry" parody "Sledge Hammer!" creator Alan Spencer that audiences do not need to be told what is funny.

The primary disappointment regarding this O'Brien-produced series is that it does not star his sidekick Andy Richter as a dumpy loser. The second letdown is a complete lack of "probe Uranus" jokes.

The following YouTube clip of a TBS promo. for "Earth" can be considered an entertaining couch potato's guide to this 'verse.

"Earth" begins with respected journalist Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac of "The Daily Show"), who is the straight man "Jim" of this series,  attending meetings of the aforementioned Starcrossed group in the aforementioned small New York state community. His talking to frazzled group leader Gina (Ana Gasteyer of "SNL" and"Surburgatory") and the "experiencers" leads him to believe both that he is one of them and that the truth is out there.

In classic sitcom style, the first few episodes flesh out the premise of the series and introduce the characters. This begins with Ozzie interviewing each group member in his or her workplace and/or home.

Ozzie subsequently quits his prestigious Manhattan job at a media company run by dim-witted executive with a secret Jonathan Walsh, who is the Michael Scott of this office, to work for the local Beacon paper so that he can live there and join the group. An early episode has Ozzie base his decision on which member to choose for a sponsor on which of them is the least crazy.

The "Office" vibe continues with Jonathan having uptight Nancy, the "Angela" of the group, as his executive assistant.

The stand-out oddball is 30 year-old tollbooth operator Gerry, who is the Dwight of the group. He is an experiencer wannabe who keeps his 17 years of research in his booth and enters a hilariously unexpected "its complicated" relationship with a fellow group member.

The 10-episode season, which follows the British television model of providing better-quality fewer offerings each "series" than 20-or-so 21 minutes of trash, compellingly builds the lore of the program. Ozzie learns more about both his sense of a recent encounter and a related childhood incident, the group members experience their own self-realizations, and Father Doug (Oscar Nunez of "Office," who is the "Oscar" of "People") who operates the church where the group meets maintaining his faith does not prevent a mid-life crisis.

A particularly outstanding episode revolves around an open house session in which group members bring a family member or someone else close to them to come out of the closet regarding their encounter with a brother from another planet. Genuine hilarity ensues as these outsiders increasingly do not take the news well. One of the best lines has the brother of a group member demand that he choose either being an experiencer or being gay.

The season finale provides a few great cliffhangers; the group learns more about their universal importance and one of them begins a journey that may prove the adage about being careful about making wishes.

This good combination of elements leads to a good ensemble comedy for the 21st century. Many of us are alienated (no pun intended) and seek community from folks with like interests and/or experiences. We additionally are less close to those to whom we are close than the real and reel folks of the '70s. A post-coital conversation in which Gerry hesitates to accept a small favor from his new friend with benefits illustrates this well. The literal pillow talk ends with that person say "we just had sex; I can drive you across town."

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

'Innocent Blood' BD: A French Vampire in Pittsburgh

The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1992 horror-comedy "Innocent Blood" continues a recent Archive trend of mining topsoil in the form of including moderate doses of newer movies with the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Golden Age films. The primary claim to fame of "Blood" is that it is the follow-up of director John Landis to his 1981 cult-classic horror-comedy "An American Werewolf in London."

"Blood" additionally has an exceptional supporting cast. Insult comedian Don Rickles shines as a mob lawyer, and before-she-was-a-star Angela Bassett plays a tough U.S. Attorney. Other supporting cast members include Chazz Palminteri and Luis Guzman.

The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN theatrical trailer for "Blood" shows that the film earns being called both a horror and a comedy film.

"Blood" provocatively opens with a scene in which full Monty vampire Marie (French actress Anne Parillaud) is engaged in an inner-monologue on her needs for sex and food. Her response to newspaper headlines about mob activity establishes both her plan to satisfy her hunger and her policy of not ingesting the titular plasma.

This leads to Marie meeting a made man, making him her dinner, and blowing off his head with a shotgun to ensure that dead man tell no tales. This killing catches the attention of police detective Joe Genaro (Anthony LaPaglia), who both is deep undercover with the mob and already is a modern-day Prince Charming to modern-day princess-of-the-night Marie.

Mob boss Sallie (The Shark) Macelli (Robert Loggia) subsequently brings Marie home for a bite n boff. The conflicting agenda of Marie taking a turn for the worse triggers the primary action of the film. Macelli (who ruins several tony outfits in the film) becomes even more vicious than is common for him and goes on a rampage. The primary objective of this carnage is to create an actual underworld mob.

The pursuit of Macelli leads to a very odd form of buddy cop pairing in having Marie and Genaro team up to bring him down; this leads to wonderfully violent carnage and ultimately trying to bring down an on-fire Macelli once and for all.

"Blood" additionally answers the question of whether a regular Joe (no pun intended) cop from Pittsburgh can find true love and happiness with a French vampire.

Landis presents all this with an entertaining mix of high style and pulp camp. There is plenty of noir-style darkness and neon but additional large doses of cheesy effects and clearly fake blood. Loggia spending much of the film under a heavy layer of pancake make-up is a perfect example of the latter.

Archive provides a provocative trailer of "Blood" as an special feature.

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

'Brigadoon' BD: Scottish Loch Dance Tale of Truly Mistical Village

The Warner Archive September 26, 2017 Blu-ray release of the all-singing all-dancing 1954 CinemaScope Gene Kelly-Cyd Charisse musical extravaganza "Brigadoon" is so clear in picture and sound that it the next best thing to seeing the original live-stage Broadway production of this Lerner and Loewe classic (and also to being in love). Director Vincente Minnelli does the musical heritage of his wife and his daughter proud, and choreographer Kelly shows that he is a master of Loch Dance.

The best humor in this delightful romp relates to a hilarious similarity to the 1980 Kelly-Olivia Newton John musical fantasy "Xanadu." Both films have the Kelly character bond with a beautiful magical creature from a fantasy world. The hilarity relates to "Brigadoon" seamlessly fitting into the "Xanadu" theme song. An example is "Now we are here; in Brig-a-doon."

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Brigadoon" offers a tease regarding the grand spectacle that awaits.

"Brigadoon" opens in traditional musical-theater style with the residents of the titular small Scottish town awakening to a orchestral score and then taking to the streets in a manner very reminiscent of the Disney version of "Beauty and the Beast" to sing and dance about their daily lives.

Kelly and Van Johnson do their best Hope and Crosby impression in the form of their respective Manhattanite characters Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas being on the road in Scotland when a hunting trip into the woods becomes a quest to return to civilization.

These hungry men are are so starving that the prospect of breakfast takes precedence over their astonishment at seeing a village that is not on their map appear out of the mist.

These early scenes further show the turmoil at the Campbell home regarding this being the wedding day of Jean Campbell to Charlie Chisholm Dalyrmple. Younger daughter Fiona Campbell (Cyd Charisee) lamenting in word and song about never falling in love at the same time that essentially runaway groom Tommy is discussing his waning interest in the fiancee whom he left behind removes any doubt that this pair soon will be singing and dancing in a field of heather.

An amusing aspect of this is that thoughts about the stereotypical frugality of Scots coincides with Campbell father Andrew stating that he wants to show the wedding guests hospitality but does not want to provide more food and drink than that requires.

Tommy and Jeff meet Fiona at the outskirts of town and soon find themselves enjoying the hospitality of Charlie. The townsfolk wearing 18th century garb is an early (but dismissed) indication that the pair is not in New York anymore.

Finding concrete evidence that something odd is afoot brings the visitors to village elder Mr. Lundie, who fills them in on the lore of the village regarding which the audience already has some sense. One kicker is that anyone who is in the village when an impending grace period begins is stuck there for an extended stay. The other rule is that any villager who strays beyond the borders of Brigadoon ends the party for everyone else.

A nice aspect of this is that the core of the lore revolves around literally protecting the community from the evils of the outside world; a realistic aspect of this Utopian fantasy is that one must sacrifice a great deal so that many may live in Paradise.

An important aspect of this is that Tommy must make the tough choice of whether to make an enormous commitment to Fiona after only knowing her for a few hours or going back to New York at the cost of relinquishing any hope of ever seeing her again.

This being a post-war Broadway play, viewers can be assured of an 11th hour miracle that provides the folks who deserve a happy ending that desired outcome.

The special features include deleted scenes and several musical numbers.

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

Trafficked' Theatrical: Putting Human Faces on Worldwide Sex Slavery Trade

The Epic Pictures drama "Trafficked," which opens in New York on October 6 2017 and Los Angeles a week later ahead of a wider rollout, is a movie about the illegal sex trade by the guy who literally wrote the book on the subject. Harvard professor Siddharth Kara bases his screenplay on characters from his book "Sex Trafficking."

The accolades this time come from outside film festivals. Organizations that endorse the film include the United Nations and the CNN Freedom Project.

The statement by Kara for the "Trafficked" press materials discusses both his extensive 16-year first-hand investigation and his goal of creating "the first truly authentic, global portrayal of the unconscionable business of sex trafficking." He adds that "the characters represent composites of the numerous victims I have spoken with, reflecting the main ways sex trafficking occurs in the world."

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Trafficked" provides a good sense of the vision that Kara seeks to convey.

The opening scenes introduce us to the aforementioned composites, who represent the aforementioned variety. Sara is a typical blonde California girl who is abducted soon after being forced out of the foster care system based on turning 18. Her story largely begins with her ending up a ward of the state after her mother (Elizabeth Rohm of "Law & Order") is the victim of brutal domestic violence. Ashley Judd plays social worker Diane, who has the post-foster care future of Sara worked out.

Well-off Indian woman Mali also is 18; she is enjoying an evening out with a female classmate ahead of the pair traveling from India to study in the United States.

Amba is from Nigeria and is a more willing participant in this dirty business; she regularly repeats her cynical philosophy that spending a few minutes under a man is preferable to several hours in a hot field.

Each girl ends up in a Texas brothel that corrupt government official Christian (Patrick Duffy) owns and that Simon (Sean Patrick Flanery) operates with an iron fist. Ancillary activities include drug dealing and illegal trafficking in organs. One especially horrific scenes centers around the manner in which sex slaves who no longer are good for that purpose are harvested for spare parts.

A dispute with a supplier vividly illustrates the brutality of everyone involved in the business.

The false hope that every girl receives is being told that her involuntary servitude ends once she services 500 men. Sharing that creative accounting, a desire to maximize the return in the investment in the girls, and concern regarding reports to law enforcement officials prevents obtaining freedom even after reaching the stated milestone.

Anyone who has seen the exploitive depictions of the topic that Kara presents know that the girls get drugs forced on them, are subjected to humiliating line-up inspections by brothel clients, experience rape and unwanted pregnancies (that always end in abortions), and quickly realize that resistance is futile regarding all that.

Genuine hope comes in the form of Sara developing a proverbial daring escape plan; all three girls make a bid for freedom, but this not being a typical Hollywood movie creates the possibility of many variations of unhappy endings.

Seeing all this puts faces on the media reports regarding this activity; it further shows where it fits in the grander scheme of criminal activity. The literal final message puts the massive annual profits from this industry in perspective.

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