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Thursday, November 30, 2017

'Doc Hollywood' Blu-ray: 'Northern Exposure' Meets 'Green Acres'

Warner Archive continues finding leitmotifs regarding releases in bringing out "Doc Hollywood" on Blu-ray on November 28, 2017. This follows the Archive November 7, 2017 Blu-ray release of the (reviewed) "Summer of '42." The commonality is that "Summer" is based on the real-life memoir of lead character Hermie Raucher, and "Hollywood" producer/writer Dr. Neil B. Shulman bases that comedy on his novel "What? Dead Again?"

The following YouTube clip of the "Hollywood" theatrical trailer offers a good synopsis of the plot and includes wonderfully misleading spoilers.

Teen idol Michael J. Fox stars as titular hot-shot young surgeon Ben Stone, whose life plan includes rewarding himself for enduring medical school and two years in the chaotic E.R. of a Washington, D.C. hospital with a $500,000/year job as a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. The Stone cold logic of that selling out is that providing the rich and famous expensive unnecessary procedures allows operating on other folks who really need it.

Some of the strongest symbolism in "Hollywood" comes early on when the excessive impatience of Stone to start his new life causes him to miss a literal and figurative on-ramp. This rush next soon plays a role in Stone being involved in an accident in the small rural community of Grady, South Carolina.

Akin to Dr. Joel Fleischman of the '90s CBS dramedy "Northern Exposure," Stone soon finds himself Shanghaied into "temporarily" filling the need of the town for a medical practitioner. Also like Fleischman, Stone learns that the job comes with use of a rustic cabin in the woods and transportation in the form of a battered pick-up.

Character actors of the era play most of the stereotypical local yokels who comprise the population of Grady. David Ogden Stiers of "M*A*S*H" is down-home mayor Nick Nicholson, who is leading the effort to make things work out so that Stone stays a while longer. Frances Sternhagen plays crusty on the outside but warm-hearted cafe owner Lillian; we also get Sternhagen co-star and Fox fellow "Must-See" star Woody Harrelson as unsophisticated insurance salesman Hank, who becomes a romantic rival of Fox. Barnard Hughes (who plays the titular "Doc" in a mid-70s sitcom) rounds out this group as the grumpy old town doctor.

The '80s vibe continues with the rock-ballad theme that plays over the opening credits as Fox sets out on his journey.

Julie Warner plays brash ambulance driver Lou, who is the love interest (and possible soulmate) of Stone.

Things begin predictably with Stone resenting his involuntary servitude and feeling frustrated regarding jeopardizing his dream job. However, he does his duty with minimal complaint.

The first day on the job has an especially strong "Northern" vibe as Stone meets his quirky patients. These include a farmer whose home remedy includes chimney soot and an illiterate pregnant woman who consults Stone for the sole purpose of having him read her a letter that she received.

It is equally predictable that relations between Stone and the town thaw and that his relationship with Lou heats up to an even greater degree. This medical practitioner adopting a pig both is a big step in this direction and enhances the "Acres" vibe of the film.

The twists near the end to keep things interesting as uncertainty exists regarding the outcomes regarding the overlapping triangles consisting of Stone, Lou, the town, and Hank. Of course, "Hollywood" being pure Hollywood ensures that things work out in the end.

This Tinsel Town aspect of "Hollywood" also helps explain the secret of its success and other Fox comedies; This likable actor does well when he plays to type, and these movies are warm and fuzzy escapes from the harsh reality of the real world.

Anyone with questions or comment regarding "Hollywood" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twittere via @tvdvdguy.

'Summer of '42' BD: Real-Life Nantucket Beach Memoirs

The Warner Archive November 7, 2017 Blu-ray release of the Oscar-winning 1971 drama "Summer of '42" is bittersweet in that it so nicely remasters this classic that it makes one long for an Archive Blu-ray release of the 1973 sequel "The Class of '44." Much of the effectiveness of this tale is that it is based on the largely accurate published memoir of screeenwriter Herman "Hermie" Raucher.

The bigger picture (no pun intended) of the momentous titular summer in the life of life of Raucher is that it is part of a '70s trifecta of similar coming-of-age period pieces.

"Summer" is highly comparable to fellow '71 film "The Last Picture Show" that depicts the trauma and drama of a close-knit group of teen boys living in a dying Texas town in 1951. An initially well-done small-screen adaptation of this concept is the '70s sitcom "Happy Days" about three teen boys living in the mid-50s.

Using "Happy Days" as a model, Hermie is the Richie in that he is an overall good everyteen who keeps his id under control.  Best friend Oscy is the Potsie in that he is more prone to immature antics and goads Hermie into walks on the wild side. Younger and nerdy Benjie is the Ralph Malph absent the corny humor; he largely is along for the ride and often misses out on the "big boy" activity.

Another common element of these productions is that parents largely are absent; this is highly true in "Summer," somewhat less so in "Last," and even less so in "Days." However, all three groups of lads still largely are left to learn life lessons on their own.

Three interesting production notes about "Summer" are that director Robert Mulligan ("To Kill A Mockingbird") provides the adult Herrmie narration at the beginning and the end of the film; the comment in the opening speech that Nantucket where the action occurs is more built up in the present relates to the island becoming so developed in the 30 years between the '42 and the filming that location shooting is not an option. The third note is that Maureen Stapleton has her own uncredited voiceover role as the mother of Hermie.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Summer" features the aforementioned narration and nicely conveys the nostalgic element of the film.

An early scene in which Hermie longing looks at the 22 year-old object of his affection Dorothy (Jennifer O'Neill) quickly establishes the reason for casting Hermie portrayor Gary Grimes; he is very expressive and sweet looking then and throughout.

Grimes also puts his adorkability to particularly good use in separate scenes in which Dorothy touching his calf almost causes him to have a cow (and a highly embarrassing orgasm) and in which he tries to buy a condom. Those of us in the know eagerly wait for the pharmacist to ask Hermie for specifics regarding that purchase.

The charm of the film is divided between Hermie trying to develop a relationship with Dorothy and discussing his changing body with Oscy; the boys getting their hands on an explicit "book of love" that includes a step-by-step guide to sex provides great fodder for much of that hilarity.

All of this culminates in a climatic (no pun intended) night for Hermie and Dorothy. He arrives at her home for a visit that he is selling as a casual drop by but that he hopes brings him closer to getting on base with the older woman; the reality is that Dorothy is in a vulnerable state that greatly complicates things.

The ensuing 15 minutes are one of the most tender and dramatic of any film; mutual affection exists between the couple and Dorothy literally needs a shoulder on which to cry and craves intimacy; the question is whether this can lead to more and whether Hermie allowing such an opportunity to occur is right.

A partial spoiler is that Dorothy expresses herself in writing Hermie the morning after, and Raucher uses the exact text of that letter in the film.

"Summer," "Last," and "Days" work because they are tender but not saccharine tales of boys becoming men to which former boys and the girls and women in their lives during their teens can relate. Those of us of the male persuasion have all made clumsy adolescent attempts to seduce either older or otherwise desirable women, and the ones who are worthy of that admiration have kept their mouths shut about seeing through our amateurish ploys or careless lies.

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

'Susan Slept Here' BD: Powell and Reynolds Do Christmas-themed Hudson-Day Romcom

Although the Warner Archive Blu-ray of the Oscar-nominated 1954 Dick Powell-Debbie Reynolds romcom "Susan Slept Here" dates back to April 2016, the Christmas theme of the film makes it apt review fodder in December 2017. The most special aspects of this present are that it provides a nice reminder of Reynolds roughly one year after her death and also reminds us that they sadly don't make 'em like they used to. The film further is notable for its uniquely statuesque narrator.

"Susan" further is a wonderfully refreshing alternative to the sickly sweet kids' films, crude comedies, and low-budget horror films that comprise current holiday fare.

"Sussn" is special as well because it has a strong live-stage vibe that largely is due to most of the events occurring in the apartment of commercially successful but artistically frustrated Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Christopher (Powell) in the short period between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Having a small ensemble cast playing stock characters further enhances this sense of watching a play. The copious amusing one-liners are icing on this cake.

The action begins when a vice cop who consulted on a Christopher film decides to kill two partridges with one lump of coal by showing up unannounced at the aforementioned apartment with 17 year-old delinquent Susan Landis (Reynolds) in tow. The logic of this public servant is that Landis spending Christmas with 35 year-old Christopher (Christ the Savior?) allows her to avoid spending the holiday behind bars and provides Christopher with material for his stalled screenplay about juvenile delinquents.

Reynolds literally arriving on the scene kicking and screaming while dressed in hillbilly chic evokes nice thoughts of her portrayal of Molly Brown.

Watching Christopher and angsty young P.A./best buddy Virgil (Alvy Moore of "Green Acres") squirm regarding the "17 will get you 20" risk regarding associating with an underage girl is a highlight. However, Christopher forming a plan that prevents both him and Susan becoming a Christmas Day guest of the governor prompts him to let her stay. This does not stop Virgil from fleeing in terror.

The aforementioned plan going awry leads to the titular situation in which Landis sleeps in the bed of Christopher; things become even more friendly when the pair enter a marriage that is much more convenient for Landis than Christopher.

Legendary gossip columnist Louella Parsons scooping competitor Hedda Hopper with news of the Christmas Day wedding causes Christopher fiancee Isabella (Anne Francis) to go from steaming mad over the telephone to boiling over and coming to confront Landis, who is not about to relinquish her title of Mrs. Christopher without a world-class bout. Meanwhile, the new husband is in self-imposed seclusion at an undisclosed location.

The next development of an apparent immaculate concept leads to further hilarity. Christopher comes home steaming mad and punches out the Virgil Mary before learning the truth about a wacky misunderstanding. However, this does not weaken the resolve of the playwright to annual his marriage.

The final homage to live productions comes in the final scene as Landis frantically tries to show her ability to be a good wife. The best hilarity regarding this is a rapid-pace exchange in which Landis counters every argument of Christopher regarding why this pair should not be legally wed. The highlight of this is seeing Reynolds being adorably dogged.

The true grand finale follows in that this witty "shouldabeen a holiday classic" tale is that it is the last silver screen performance by Powell before beginning his successful television career. Seeing this film literally end on a high note is a great way to mark this transition.

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

Moon Over Maine: An Inn for All Seasons

The great success regarding a September 2016 visit to the Moon Over Maine B and B in Ogunquit required following the example of many guests by returning a year later.

Going in mid-October this time provided the dual advantages of the not-bad number of tourists from the year before even being lower and everything in town being open despite being past the truly end-of-summer milestone of Columbus Day Weekend.

The adventure began with a stop in nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The claims to fame of this community include the John Paul Jones House and the historic recreation village of Strawberry Banke. The streets and the stores were active but free of large crowds.

The Kittery, Maine outlets on the New Hampshire/Maine border were the next stop. The "hits" this time in the hit-or-miss world of outlet shopping included $20 first-quality Saucony running shoes and a "samples" sale at the Brooks Brothers outlet. Getting a one-of-a-kind button-down shirt and an equally unique tie for good prices were highlights.

Traffic being light to moderate on the road to Ogunquit kept the trip moving along well. Arriving at the inn and parking in a favorite spot truly felt like coming home.

Innkeeper/photographer/realtor/community leader Rick Barber and inn dogs Ty and Hope being at their greeting spots in the front hall provided an additional warm sense of welcome.

Staying in "Mars" this time expanded the exploration of the Mooniverse that began with "Jupiter" and moved onto "Venus" last year. Mars aptly is painted red; the amenities in this room with a queen bed include a private balcony that also serves as a private entrance. Although your not-so-humble reviewer is a man, he has a slight preference for being from Venus over Mars despite Mars having a little more of a view.

No trip to the Moon is complete without having the scrumptious handmade scones for breakfast. Rick also provides bagels, yogurt, cereal, and other treats.

Spending roughly 24 hours in Ogunquit in mid-October shows that the inn and the community both are entities for all seasons. Although some inns close for a few months, most restaurants and stores seem to be open year-round.

Further, the Ogunquit Playhouse also operates far beyond the summer stock season. Another change is that the emphasis of the productions that used to center around '70s sitcom stars such as Sally Struthers and Eddie "Big Ragu" Mekka now entices current and future Broadway stars to strut their stuff in Maine. (The playhouse was presenting a band-new musical version of "From Here to Eternity" during this recent visit.)

A discussion about cooler weather activities prompted Barber to share news of the December 8-10, 2017 Christmas by the Sea celebration in Ogunquit; he noted that he is booked solid that weekend.

The bottom line regarding all this is that no one should have any reservations about staying at Moon. Your visit will be wonderful, and the area will offer plenty of choices to keep you busy and happy whenever you come.

Anyone with any questions about "Moon" or the area is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

'Palace of Fun' DVD: Bi-Sexual Tale of Mr. Ripley's Cruel Intentions

The TLA Releasing October 31, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 drama "Palace of Fun" is a wonderful no-reason-to-feel-guilty pleasure that terrifically channels the more guilty 1999 pleasures "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Cruel Intentions." Writer/director Eadward Stocks also throws in an element of "Fatal Attraction."

The following YouTube clip of the unusual trailer for "Palace" highlights the "Intentions" and the "Ripley" elements of the film.

"Palace" opens with rich recent university graduate Lily meeting adorable Finn at a Brighton night club. This encounter prompts her to bring him to the seaside Brighton, England home that she and brother Jamie are sharing while their parents are spending the summer in Italy.

The first hints of "Ripley" and of the gay theme that is prevalent in Releasing DVDs are a largely naked Finn trying on a shirt of Jamie without permission and the scrutable look that Jamie gives this stranger on catching him in the act.

Jamie already is unhappy about this interloper disrupting extended alone time with Lily; soon discovering a dark secret about Finn sets the stage for a diabolical plan that may or may not be accurately revealed at the end of the film; either way, Finn quickly learns that the price for continuing to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous requires doing the bidding of Jamie.

The plot thickens as the presence of Finn causes tensions to increase between the siblings, and Finn clearly shows his own true nature regarding his nefarious scheme.

The arguably best scene has Jamie initiate a drunken boys' night in in which he has Finn dress up and play act; things take an even darker turn as one of the boys has a serious drunken accident.

Little is left to the imagination as we see the boys once again bond near the end of the film; Lily subsequently is told all (some of which may not be true). This leads to at least one more surprise.

"Palace" succeeds on many levels that begin with "Intentions" and other reel and real-life stories making it believable that poor little rich boys and girls whose parents are not strong presences in their lives turn to each other for emotional support and other connections. It is equally believable that people with varying degrees of impure motives would latch onto a vulnerable rich girl for varying profit motives.

On top of this, each cast member plays his or her part well. Jamie portrayor George Stocks looks like he is fresh out of a Ralph Lauren catalog even before we see him at the helm of the family sailing yacht. Phoebe Naughton (Lily) looks as if she would be right at home at a summer afternoon garden party, and Andrew Mullen's Finn looks like a handsome opportunist whose talents include becoming an object of affection.

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Red Lion Inn: Best of Old and New World in Berkshires of Massachusetts

A night in a King Superior Room pictured below in the newly renovated Maple Glen House at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts was the perfect end to a perfect visit to the area to tour the (reviewed) Tony Di Terlizzi exhibit at the nearby Norman Rockwell Museum. Although the inn itself and the immediate and surrounding areas offer scads of restaurant and live entertainment options, a mellow night enjoying the large but cozy room was the preferred option.

This homey feeling and the communal kitchen and large common room in Maple Glen also make that option ideal for corporate retreats and family gatherings such as weddings. The happy tales from folks who make that wise choice verifies that it provides the desired experience.

The big picture (no pun intended) regarding this trip is that it reflects the new Unreal TV policy of favoring luxurious trips within a three-hour drive from home rather than spend much more money and enduring the torture (and large expense) of air travel in the 2010s on a trip further away. The same hypothetical $1,500 for a three-night vacation across the country can get you a higher-end adventure closer to home without having a TSA agent grope for concealed weapon in a place that does not indicate that you are happy to see him or her.

A related note is that not even a high-end suite in a large luxury hotel offers the same experience as a more individually designed room in an inn or other historic property. The folks who work at the latter seem more in it for the art of the game than for the commerce.

This adventure started with a leisurely drive through the Berkshire Mountains to Stockbridge; the room being ready provided a good chance to be wowed by it and unpack ahead of meeting Rockwell curator/righteous dude Jesse Kowalski at the 18th century tavern in the main inn for a pre-tour lunch of indescribably delicious goat cheese and pesto pizza blanketed with pepperoni; getting puffy crust was a bonus. (Past experience allows equally recommending the tavern sandwiches.)

This Wednesday with Jesse continued with that tour guide pointing out the two houses in which Rockwell lived at separate times, the former site of the Rockwell studio (which is now on the museum grounds), and other points of interest in the roughly one-mile trip to the museum.

Kowalski dropping me off at the inn at 4:30 allowed time to explore Stockbridge shops that include typical Western Mass./Vermont businesses. These mainstays were a coffee shop/used bookstore, pottery shops, a Yankee Candle store, and an authentic general store. This experience included romping with a lovable yellow lab outside a store while the older local man who owned her ignored us and continued gossiping with his friend.

A Kowalski recommendation (and personal favorite) was the eclectic Seven Arts store, which sold vintage and new collectibles. The extensive used record and CD offerings and wide selection of previously worn clothing was the tip of the iceberg; the "over our heads" offerings included a great selection of offbeat cards and small treasures. The real find was a small collection of used DVDs that entered the store inventory alongside a purchase of a larger record collection.

These wanderings made bringing a tasty authentic diner-style hamburger from the nearby Elm Street Market to eat in the aforementioned country chic Maple Glen common room while watching local news coverage of The Suitcase Murder trial (no joke) a nice start to the wind-down portion of this busy day.

I then returned to the room, where the turn down service included the gift of a published booklet of messages from prior guests and two pieces of a fancy version of Peppermint Patties that evoked suppressed thoughts of calling the front desk to ask "Please, Sir. May I have some more?" The incredible hospitality of The Red Lion removes any doubt that such a request would have been met with a gift of a bag of the treats.

Another special touch was the two small shelves with the take-a-tcotchkie-leave-a-tchotchkie collection. The resisted temptation regarding this was packing away a small figure of The Hamburglar of McDonald's fame despite not having anything with which to replace it.

Next utilizing the huge tub (including the awesome bath salts from the well-stocked amenities basket) proved that resistance to relaxation was futile. Related thoughts of not getting bored and of testing of the water-proof claims of the iPhone 8 vanished on finding bliss soaking in my own filth.

The radiant heat from the bathroom floor was especially enjoyable on getting out of the tub, which easily is big enough to share with a special someone.

Heartier souls had the option of braving the 40ish outside temperature to swim in the year-round outdoor pool and relax in the nearby hot tub; folks who wanted to maintain their fitness routine had an exercise room available.

The bath led to putting the provided spa-quality robe over penguin-themed lounge wear and watching Netflix fare on the Lion account; Hulu and other streaming services were additional options.

This ended with a perfect night's sleep under the soft fresh-smelling sheets and perfect weight duvet. Waking up refreshed for the first time in months was wonderful.

The pre-departure activity the next morning involved a rare chance for ghost hunting; numerous reports of a particular haunted room in the main inn prompted a granted request to check out those accommodations. Sadly, not even a mouse stirred in this well-decorated room with a balcony (and a view.)

One can only surmise that Revolutionary-era phantom "Mudsy" succumbed to the relaxing vibe of the room and found everlasting peace. The lesson here was to not believe everything that you read (even numerous times) on the Internet.

The entire 24 hours of sheer joy in Stockbridge passed every test for a good trip; the good mood that it created lasted several days, memories of it still bring a smile to the face of your not-so-humble reviewer, and thoughts of being at The Red Lion some day (hopefully not far away in time) help pass the time away.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding The Red Lion or any other aspect of this trip is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, November 27, 2017

'Operation Petticoat' BD: Blake Edwards Film Has Cary Grant Command Wackiest Submarine in Navy

The heirloom-quality Olive Signature division of Olive Films awesomely lives up to the Olive motto "Cinema Lives Here" regarding releasing two wonderfully remastered Cary Grant classics on Blu-ray in time for the holidays. These versions of the WWII-themed comedies "Operation Petticoat" (1959) and "Father Goose" (1964) hit virtual store shelves on November 28, 2017.

Your not-so-humble reviewer is thrilled to have "Petticoat" and is using this review as a letter to Santa regarding a wish for "Goose" stuffed in his Christmas stocking.

Although "Petticoat" is one of several comedies of the era that mine humor from military bureaucracy and zany characters serving together, it is most notable for making perfect use of the comedic talents of Grant; he is at his best playing a straight man forced to contend with wacky circumstances that take him outside his comfort zone.

Further, Grant has a great gag man in Tony Curtis as an undisciplined member of his crew. The "True Hollywood Story" regarding this pairing is that it illustrates the transition from Hollywood Royalty such as Grant to the young lions such as Curtis; a particular scene in which Grant epically gets the better of Curtis demonstrates that the old-style royals still have plenty of life in them later in the their careers.

The Grant-Curtis dynamic additionally enhances the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" vibe of "Petticoat." Neither the Captain Picard and the Lt. Commander Riker characters nor their portrayors are as far apart as their "Petticoat" counterparts, but we still get Picard uncomfortable about having children on his ship; we further regularly get Riker advocating bolder action than his commanding officer.

The "Petticoat"/"Trek" commonality continues with the U.S.S. Enterprise on which Picard and his crew serve facing many of the same situations as the submarine in "Petticoat" and employing comparable tactics in response.

"Petticoat" is one of many Blake Edwards classics and also inspires an amusing 1977-79 sitcom starring prior Gomez Addams John Astin and future Ernest Jim Varney. (A faint memory is that the series is an ABC Friday night comedy.) The concept of the film and the series is that a straight-laced naval officer finds himself commanding a pink submarine with army nurses as passengers.

The real action in the film opens in the early days of WWII. Lt. Commander Matt Sherman (Grant) is set to take the brand-new submarine The Sea Tiger into open waters from a South Pacific naval base when a Japanese attack heavily damages the vessel. Eagerness on the part of Sherman to contribute to the war effort prompts a deal whereby the authorization to let him take off for open waters is conditioned on completing necessary repairs under virtually impossible conditions.

The desperate measures in response to the desperate times include the powers-that-be assigning social-climbing con man/scavenger Lt. Nick Holden (Curtis) as the executive officer on the submarine. Showing up in a gleaming white uniform followed by an essentially valet lugging a suitcase and golf clubs does not get Holden off to a good start either with his commanding officer or the rest of the crew.

An early scene between Sherman, Holden, and crew member Ernest Hunkle ("McHale's Navy and "The Love Boat" veteran Gavin MacLoed) is one of the most hilarious in the film; it also perfectly illustrates the absurdity of military bureaucracy. This exchange revolves around the navy denying a requisition for toilet paper based on asserting that is in an unknown product despite a (unused) sample being attached to the necessary form.

This exchange also sets the stage for Holden to use his scavenging skills for good rather than evil. This leads to another hilarious scene in which Holden attempts to outwit an MP who catches him in a variation of red handed.

Because "Petticoat" otherwise would be a short, stating that the submarine manages to limp out to sea en route to a base where it can receive adequate service is not much of a spoiler.

Sherman giving Holden an almost literal wake-up call regarding life on a submarine leads to even more hilarity; this also is the beginning of the evolution of Holden adjusting his attitude from essentially considering himself an honored guest to being a fully contributing member of a crew.

The evolution of The Sea Tiger from a traditional vessel to the wackiest submarine in the navy begins during a stop for emergency repairs. The scavenging of Holden nets a small group of army nurses who are stranded on the not-so-deserted isle. An obvious mix of motivations prompts Holden to invite these women to join the sausage party in a metal casing.

The next portion of the film largely revolves around Sherman and his crew adjusting to the new normal regarding having women who essentially only have the clothes on their backs in their midst. Holden stays true to form regarding finding creative solutions to these problems and in taking full advantage of the situation.

The arguably best-known bit of hilarity ensues when accident-prone nurse Lt. Crandall causes the Tiger literally to miss its mark; this triggers the events that lead to that vessel going from battleship gray to Pepto Bismol pink. That in turns leads to Sherman and his crew facing their most serious peril; the ingenuity in response to that includes a variation of raising a white flag.

Edwards does his usually good job wrapping up all the action and provides an epilogue that keeps the audience laughing to the end; this is among the copious evidence that he is a young lion who fully understands the circle of life.

Olive does "Petticoat" (and Edwards) proud regarding the tons of high-quality Blu-ray extras. One feature has Edwards daughter Jennifer lovingly discuss the career of her father and "Victor/Victoria" star Lesley Ann Warren convey the thrill of Edwards putting her on his radar and the related joy of filming "Victor." Another short has TV Land legends MacLoed and Marion Ross discuss their glee comparable to that of Warren regarding their experiences with Edwards. (MacLoed particularly is the gracious man whom your not-so-humble reviewer personally knows him to be.)

Olive further provides newsreel footage of Grant attending the premiere of "Petticoat" at Radio City Music Hall; a segment on the submarine that portrays the Sea Tiger allows us to meet that star.

Olicve wraps this up with an equally entertaining and informative written essay by film critic Chris Fujiwara; a big takeaway from this analysis is that "Petticoat" is funny because much of it is true.

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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

'Inheritance' DVD Relatable Tale of Estranged Siblings Reuniting to Bury Father

The Breaking Glass Pictures November 7, 2017 DVD of the 2017 drama "Inheritance" provides a chance to watch a tale of estranged adult siblings with the standard Breaking edge in time for family holiday gatherings. The film having a strong live-stage vibe enhances the sense of reel life reflecting real life.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Inheritance" offers a glimpse of the beautiful scenery and the intense emotions that make this one special.

The entertaining darkness begins when woman-with-issues Mara (writer-director Jessica Kaye) learns while preparing to celebrate the 70th birthday of her father John at his home in Belize that he recently died. This first sends Mara and fairly new boyfriend/recovering alcoholic Aaron to the home of the native woman Grace, whose role of surrogate mother dates back to he jungle fever of John prompting him to move a young Mara and her little brother Ben to Belize decades before soon after the death of his wife.

After Grace convinces Mara to do right by John, Mara and Aaron go to stay in the childhood home of Mara. The first sign that Mara and Ben are far from Donny and Marie comes when Ben blatantly walks in on our happy couple the next morning as they are having sex.

The next indication of the strife between the siblings is learning that Mara never told Ben about the death of their father, and that Ben picks up this news from a third party. The sad part is that real-life precedence exists for this callousness of Mara.

The next intrusion follows as Ben crashes a swimming party of Mara and Aaron; little brother follows this up by actively trying to make Aaron uncomfortable.

The next 24 hours see Mara fell even more apart, family tensions increase, and deep dark secrets see the light of day; Kaye and writing-directing partner Laura E. Davis save the best for last in revealing every diseased root of the family tree.

This "Who's Afraid of  Virginia Woolf" drama is on top of the perverse entertainment value of the Seinfeldian situation regarding Aaron accompanying his girlfriend of a few months on a meet-the-parents vacation only to find himself facing the death of dad and the dredging up of twenty years of angst and resentment.

Breaking provides the encore in the form of its typically special bonus features; a behind-the-scenes reel shows the actors gleefully breaking character and learning the Creole terms for naughty bits; the deleted scenes include a very good sequence involving a hostile reception that one must wonder why it is not in this 75 minute film.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Inheritance" (or highly toxic relationships with siblings) is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

'Atheist America' DVD: Doc on Local Cable Show That Takes There Being No God As Gospel Truth

Film Movement, which has a well-earned reputation for distributing the best international films, literally and figuratively brings things home for the holidays with the November 14 DVD release of the 2015 documentary "Atheist America." This pure cinema verite production turns its camera on "The Atheist Experience," which is a long-running Austin local cable show in which the hosts debate the existence of God with callers who watch the series both on television and the Internet. The notable elements of this are that "Experience" is the only series of its type, and "America" achieves the documentary ideal of being equally educational and entertaining.

This release comes just in time to prompt discussions on the taboo subjects of politics and religion around the family holiday table. As "America" clearly shows, people who debate the existence of God have very strong and rigid views on the subject.

The two-fer regarding this aspect of "America" is that it is the second recent Movement documentary on a highly controversial subject. The reviewed "The Settlers" is a comprehensive documentary on Jewish people in the West Bank.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "America" accurately portrays the objective tone and the scope of this study on this touchy subject.

Filmmaker Rolf Bucheler primarily alternates between footage of the filming of "Experience" and scenes that show the extreme faith of Texans. Examples of the latter include a Tea Party meeting centered around religious freedom and an announcer at a NASCAR event praising the track owner for taking the heat for allowing an element of religion at the races.

Watching the "Experience" hosts argue with callers provides a strong sense that the purpose of the show is to make futile attempts to show Christians the fallacy in their logic regarding their faith; a scene in which we learn that the show converts some folks into believing that God does not exist illustrates that the discussions have impact.

One of the best scenes centers around one of the aforementioned converts who appears on "Experience." The depth comes in the form of the obvious analogy to being gay in that many atheists either remain in the closet or have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding family members who believe in God. This extends to the atheist policy of love the believer and hate the belief regarding relatives who still accept Jesus as their lord and savior.

The hilarity relates to an aspect of this woman being in the closet; she begins by stating that she still celebrates Christmas but goes on to cite the pagan rituals of the holiday as examples of that marking of the holiday. She specifically talks about having a Christmas tree and exchanging presents.

Bucheler ends on a high note by having the final sequence center around one of the hosts debate a believer in front of an audience. This competitor bizarrely uses clips from "Experience" to conduct a one-sided debate on the existence of God; the rebuttal to this discourse is hilarious.

The best viewpoint regarding both "America" and "Settlers" (and to avoid relatives storming away from the dinner table) is to remember that there is your view, the view of the other guy, and the truth. People should remember that although there is no definitive concrete proof that God exists, it is equally true that we accept the veracity of many things that occur beyond our perception.

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

Friday, November 24, 2017

'The Search for General Tso' DVD: Comprehensive History of Loved Chinese Chicken Entree

Truly independent and innovative documentary DVD company Bullfrog Films picks a subject near and dear to the heart of millions regarding the release of "The Search for General Tso." This non-fiction movie provides an entertaining overview of the history of Chinese food in America in the larger context of the equally delightful study of the titular sweet and tangy dish that is the fave of so many people.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for the film is so delightful by itself that you almost definitely will not say "Tso what" in response to this introduction to the production.

This behind-the-scenes look (complete with a tour of a fortune cookie factory) at the Chinese restaurant industry begins with a photo shoot that shows the origin of the pictures of food on the wall menus of many Chinese places. This alone should create a craving for the titular entree.

We soon meet the Guinness World Book record holder for the largest collection of Chinese food menus; this collection is from more countries than there are in the U.N. This aspect of this segment provides the element of "entertainment" that is part of any good documentary; the educational aspect includes learning of a method for determining the best meals in a Chinese restaurant.

Filmmaker Ian Cheney also takes us to the Hunan Province in China to learn more about the real-life general for whom the dish is named. The response of the locals on learning about the American concept of Chinese food is hilarious.

The history of Chinese food restaurants in America is almost as amusing; we learn about origins that include chop suey joints. A fascinating aspect of this is the huge disparity between the Chinese population in our country and the proliferation of restaurants that serve food from their nation, Other perspective comes via comparing the popularity of that cuisine to that of pizza.

The largest context of all this is that Cheney and Bullfrog focus on a subject that is of interest to the general public but receives little thought. The payoff comes when we realize our ignorance regarding a fascinating topic. This is comparable to learning the process for manufacturing shoe laces is worthy of a big-budget film.

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

'Elton John Diamonds' CD/LP/Digital: The Tiffany of Holiday Box Sets

UMe outdoes itself by topping the (reviewed) incredible 2016 Rush "2112" 40th Anniversary collector's edition with this year's "Elton John Diamonds." As exciting as it was to receive "2112" a year ago, opening the shipping box of the limited-edition 3-CD version of "Diamonds" was a true "wow" moment regarding which neither the photo above or any other two-D image can do justice.

The following YouTube clip of a John promo. for the release provides a good sense of the aforementioned magnificence.

The sturdy dark-blue gift box looks spectacular even without considering the bright sparkly letters that are highly apt both for this 50th anniversary celebration of the songwriting partnership of John and Bernie Taupin and for the trademark style of the former. Only having this set include cardboard replicas of his trademark '70s-era rhinestone glasses wold have improved this set.

The next nice surprise was discovering that the 72-page booklet with individual images and liner notes for John songs was a sturdy hard-cover tome. The quality of this publication (and the entire set) reflects the same trend as Millennials buying hardcover books; their inability to purchase many of the same things as us Xers prompts them to spend more on less-expensive items as a means to express their personalities. (A relatable personal experience regarding this is spending $60 on a bound collection of every Police album during my 20s.)

Removing the booklet leads to discovering the well-constructed envelope containing the five frame-worthy highly stylized cardboard prints of John from each stage in his career. Again, the above image does not do them justice.

Further excavating into this three gifts in one set that would take care of roughly one-half of Hanukkah (and has an apt color scheme for that holiday) unearths the three CDs that are the heart (in both senses of the word) of this treasure box. Disc One includes the 17 top John hits of the '70s; Disc Two takes us from the '80s starting with "Song for Guy" and brings us up to the Tim Rice era with "Circle of Life" from "The Lion King."

The best way to describe Disc 3 is to borrow the phrase "17 bonus tracks of personal favorites curated by Elton himself" from the press materials for "Diamonds." Highlights of this include a John and Luciano Pavarotti duet of "Live Like Horses" and John doing classics such as "Lucy in the Sky in the Diamonds" very proud. His take on "Pinball Wizard" is particularly notable for really putting his personal style on that one.

The bigger picture regarding all that is that the long career of John means that (especially considering the "The Lion King" connection) he has a large impact on fans literally from 70 to 7.

The reasons for John being near-and-dear to the heart of your not-so-humble reviewer date back to being a young child listening to his hits on AM radio and LOVING both being able to stay up late enough to see a holiday episode of the sitcom "One Day at A Time" and watching teen stars Valerie Bertinelli and MacKenzie Phillips dress up to perform the John/Kiki Dee duet "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," which is on Diamonds D1. (Any Gen Xer is challenged to not thing of Bertinelli wearing large sparkly glasses when listening to the song.)

The mid-80s bring college and repeatedly listening to a cassette copy of an album of John hits of the '70s.

The 1990s largely are a John-free era with the exception of a hilarious episode of the Britcom "The Vicar of Dibley." Confusion regarding the birth name of John leads an awesome variation of the sitcom plot regarding an unsubstantiated promise to have a celebrity appear at a charity event.

The 2000s bring resurrection in the form of learning that my American-born sister (a.k.a. The Wicked Witch of the West End) is a neighbor of John. Another aspect of this is a report that John is the featured entertainer at the 50th birthday party of the Master of the Universe/husband of the aforementioned sibling. The only disappointment regarding missing that alleged event is not hearing John sing "The Bitch Is Back" in that setting.

The 2010s begin with a more personal experience. Suffice it to say that sleeping in the same bed and luxuriating in the same massive soaking Jacuzzi (but not necessarily at the same time) is a perk of a recent fabulous hotel stay. Receiving "Diamonds" a couple of days ago is keeping this hot streak going,

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

Time Life and Mill Creek Entertainment Releases Top Classic TV Comedy DVD Set Black Friday Suggestions

[EDITOR'S NOTE: A variety of circumstances regarding a delay in reviewing the Time Life November 7, 2017 release "The Red Skelton Hour in Color: Deluxe Edition" precludes formally including it in the list below. This "in progress" title earns that distinction based on the "never released" material and hilarious classic comedy of mime-extraordinaire Skelton and his show-biz legend friends who include Milton Berle and Tim Conway.]

One of many things for which Unreal TV is grateful this Thanksgiving is that new and renewed relationships in 2017 facilitate resuming the site mission of informing people about classic TV shows. New friends Time Life and Mill Creek Entertainment are particularly helpful in that regard.

This exciting development also is supporting the resurrection of the Unreal TV tradition of a Black Friday list of DVD sets to consider as holiday gifts for the special sofa spud in your life. The subjective ranking below reflects the excitement level that your not-so-humble reviewer/classic TV fan would experience on finding the sets in his pile o holiday loot.

The primary considerations are the rarity of the programs (i.e., have they been heavily syndicated), the packaging, and the bonus features. Each listing has a brief product description, an explanation for the ranking, and a link to the Unreal TV review of the release.

1.  'Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials Deluxe Collection'

The sturdy colorful box that hosts this Time Life gift set, the commemorative booklet, and the multi-disc sets that comprise this release one week before Black Friday alone is enough to grant it top honors. The comprehensiveness of this tribute to a man who starts out in vaudeville to become Hollywood royalty and have an equally successful 5-decade "second act" on television fully seals the deal.

2. 'Watch Around the Clock' (Black-and-White & Color)

The clever concept behind the separate black-and-white and the color editions of "Watch Around the Clock" by Mill Creek alone warrants high honors for 2017. The quality of the picture and the sound and the unique TV listings style DVD menu are icing on the cake.

Each set has 24 hours of programming (48 hours total) that simulates a broadcast day of an independent station that Unreal TV dubs WMCE. Each day starts with a block of cartoons, moves onto daytime fare, then offers primetime comedies that lead into overnight fare.

The vintage commercials that are interspersed in the programs is the first bonus; the separate bonus DVDs of holiday episodes of classic shows is another notable aspect of the releases.

3. 'Mama's Family' Complete Collection

Time Life does "Mama" proud regarding this Wal-Mart exclusive box set that has the original broadcast versions of all 130 episodes of the six seasons of this classic '80s sitcom. This spin-off of "The Carol Burnett Show" (see below) chronicles the hilarious misadventures of the titular irascible Southern small-town widow and her wacky family.

The numerous terrific special features include the "Eunice" TV movie that bridges the gap between "Burnett" and "Mama," a cast reunion, and "Burnett" sketches.

4. 'The Best of the Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Edition'

Speaking of "Burnett" and Time Life, this great source for DVD sets of classic TV fare does a great job with this multi-disc set that pays homage to this mother of all '70s variety shows; the numerous "very special episodes" include the series' finale.

The copious bonus feature include a great new interview in which Burnett validates that fans "get" the show.

5. 'Hooperman' S1 & S2

The separate Olive Films DVD releases of the "Hooperman," which finds creator Steven Bocho successfully straying from quirky edgy dramas with heavy humor to a quirky edgy sitcom with moderate drama, misses hitting the trifecta of DVD releases of TV shows by that much. "Hooperman" is a fondly remembered show and has a limited syndication history; however, this series that has John Ritter as the titular kind-hearted police detective/reluctant landlord only has the pilot for the failedcom "Poochinski" as a special feature.

6. 'Angie' Complete Series

The CBS Home Video (through a license to Visual Entertainment) of this Garry Marshall "blue blood marries blue collar" sitcom earns the award for most-anticipated release. Further, this series also has a very limited syndication run.

This series (which stars Donna Pescow, Robert Hays, and Doris Roberts) passes the test of time and evokes nice memories for original fans; the lack of any extras is a slight handicap.

7. 'Alice' Season 5

The always great Warner Archive deserves great credit for releasing a new season of this sitcom about a diner waitress/aspiring singer and her zany co-workers. Further, this strong season opens with "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" actress Diane Ladd and ends with southern tomboy Jolene joining the staff.

The only reasons for this last-place finish are that the strong syndication run of the series, the releases of the first four seasons already somewhat satisfying the appetite of fans for episodes, and the only extras being a few S6 episodes that the (presumed) next "Alice" release on December 5 2017 will include.

The fact that this release ranks six among the tons of releases of classic sitcom in 2017 adds additional perspective.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding this ranking or looking for help selecting DVD sets to give friends and family is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

'Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi at Rockwell Museum Brings True Magic to Stockbridge

The teen idol level crowds for the November 11 opening of "Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi" at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts illustrates the immense appeal (and talent) of the titular tween (and fanboy) idol.

On the broadest level, this exhibit notably is the first (but hopefully not the last) to feature art from Dungeons and Dragons (D&D); the reason for that prior omission is that that work has not previously been considered art.

Lovers of fairies, goblins, and dragons (oh my) have until May 28, 2018 to view this labor of love by DiTerlizzi and Rockwell world-class exhibitionist/tour guide Jesse Kowalski. Early influences of this exhibit include inspiring Kowalski to play marathon Dungeons and Dragons games and your not-so-humble reviewer getting into The Spiderwick Chronicles. The latter is equally thrilled to have scored some of the copious signed books and prints of DiTerlizzi while exiting through the gift shop after visiting the exhibit with Kowalski.

The favorite story about DiTerlizzi among the many that Kowalski shared related to the below illustration. The only stipulation regarding a commission for a cover for Dragon magazine being that the illustration include a dragon inspired DiTerlizzi to have the dragon engage in the non-dragon like activity of chess.

The visit began with visiting the original of the print that adorns both the exhibition catalog and the top of this article. Kowalski explained that DiTerlizzi painted this image with characters from all his books for the show. Kowalski also shared that the next project of DiTerlizzi was a book titled The Broken Ornament, which is coming out for Christmas 2018.

Kowalski next stated that the following three reasons were why a museum that centered around an artist known for mid-20th century depictions of Americana was hosting an exhibit of the work of an artist who was best known for fantasy-oriented work.

1. Rockwell is an inspiration for the art of DiTerlizzi, who is carrying on the tradition of illustrators. A cited aspect of that influence is Rockwell being a traditionalist and DiTerlizzi being very devoted to using old media. Another example of this is a young DiTerlizzi studying a volume of Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers.

The following YouTube clip of DiTerlizzi  discussing both the exhibit and his virtually life-long love for Rockwell further speaks volumes about thus match made in Heaven.

The exhibit including numerous drawings (including the one below) from the DiTerlizzi book Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of-this-World Moon-Pie Adventure provides a great chance to see the influence of Rockwell (and Melies?). Kowalski notes that this tale of the titular '30s-era everykid travelling to the moon before venturing further into the Milky Way has a very Rockwellian style.

Kowalski goes on to share that the style of DiTerlizzi changes with each book, noting that such shifts are unusual for artists.

Another inspiration is clear in a sketch of the D&D character Nermal. This low-level wizard both shares the name of the adorable kitten from the Garfield comic and looks like human Jon Arbuckle from that world.

2.  The exhibit title "never abandon imagination" reflects that the work of DiTerlizzi inspires adults and children; Kowalski notes that a key aspect of that is "believing in fairies and goodness in the world."

3. The parents of DiTerlizzi encouraged him throughout his life and his teachers inspired him; a cool aspect of this is that the exhibit includes drawings (which include a map of the fantasy world of Gondwanaland) from these early years. Visitors can also see his D&D dice from his high school days.

A fascinating aspect of the wonder years of DiTerlizzi was that he he drew because he often was bored; Kowalski shared as well that that boredom additionally prompted DiTerlizzi to explore the wilderness near his childhood Florida home. A hilarious element of this was learning that that experience prompted DiTerlizzi to advocate that children be bored.

The next tale of DiTerlizzi was a variation of the '60s sitcom "Green Acres" and somewhat paralleled the history of Rockwell. DiTerlizzi was working for Dungeons and Dragons after persistently applying to that company following several rejections of submitted sketches when he moved to rural Amherst Mass., which is roughly one hour from the Rockwell Museum.

Kowalski noted that DiTerlizzi never would have created The Spiderwick Chronicles if he had not moved; the rationale was that those books required experiencing nature. The exhibit reflected this including nature sketches by DiTerlizzi, whose influences included nature artist John J. Audobon. Audubon additionally inspired Owlbear (who is in the show) that is a DiTerlizzi D&D creation.

This portion of the exhibit devoted to the hugely successful (and equally awesome) Spiderwick period led to Kowalski sharing that that popular work led to DiTerlizzi literally having his choice of classic tales to re-imagine. This master of fantasy passed on well-known works that included Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz to create a new vision of The Reluctant Dragon in the form of Kenny & the Dragon. The image below is of the titular characters.

This immersive journey into the world of DiTerlizzi  ended with his latest (and most adorable) work, The Story of  Flea and Diva. The black-and-white image below is of our heroes, who are in living color in their book.

The big picture (pun intended) regarding both this the DiTerlizzi exhibit and this article is that this artist and his artful curator made all this possible for a trifecta of reasons; they want to inspire kids to read, to be creative, and to get them in the door to see the classic work of Rockwell. Your not-so-humble reviewer becoming a larger Rockwell fan and reading The Spidert and the Fly by DiTerlizzi shows that he and Kowalski should not be sad because two out of three ain't bad. 

Anyone with questions or comments regarding Rockwell or DiTerlizzi are better off reaching out to Kowalski but are welcome to try emailing me or connecting on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, November 20, 2017

'Repatriation' Theatrical: Mega-Festival Award Winner About Former High School BMOC Learning You Cannot Go Home Again

RGB Films and Media Circus provide special holiday food for thought regarding the recent theatrical release of the indie drama "Repatriation." This "night in the life of" film follows Army uniform-clad 30ish man Chad (producer Ryan Barton-Grimley) on a "thank you for your service" bar crawl in his Midwest home town. Barton-Grimley plays this role so well that he almost certainly is a former high-school stud with a sordid past.

Folks who miss this one in the theater are encouraged to look for the DVD and VOD releases in a few months.

The scads of festival accolades for this exceptional character study with genuine surprises include Best Drama and Best Indie Feature at the Los Angeles International Film Festival Awards and Best Actor and Best Film wins at the London Independent Film Awards.

The following YouTube clip of the "Repatriation" trailer is equal parts teaser and Cliff Notes of the film.

This fable begins with Chad drinking with veterans; one of these men advising this fresh-off-the-bus "kid" to not overdo it by hanging around bars because he will be offered more "thank you for your service" drinks than he can handle prompts our "hero" to do exactly that. One spoiler is that Chad pays a high price for not listening to his elders.

The awesome linear narrative begins with our high-school baseball star running into his entourage from those days and finding that their lives are not nearly as exciting as his tales of being based in Luxembourg and serving in what presumably is Afghanistan. Chad also is reunited (and it feels so good) with slightly younger sister/idolizer Camille of a teammate.

This reliving of glory days that include reminiscing about Chad girlfriend Emily being the envy of every girl and the object of lust of every boy moves onto a bowling alley, where the shining armor of Chad begins to tarnish a little. He runs into a college classmate, who now is a boring family guy. This bowling party includes a woman who is not a member of Team Chad, but things remain overall congenial.

Things turn more ugly at the next watering hole; the patrons there include two young soldiers and the brother of Emily. These encounters and Chad starting to reveal his true nature shows that this guy is more Eddie Haskell than Wally Cleaver.

Chad then hilariously being put in his place by a burn-out working a convenience store graveyard shift is the first loose thread that starts to unravel the uniform of this hometown hero. This showing that the emperor has no clothes concludes at the house party that is the last stop on the crawl. On a larger level, all of us who are outsiders at such at gathering and become prey for the pack can relate to Chad being sent scurrying with his tail between his legs.

The final scene is even more revealing and adds the Thanksgiving-themed lesson that home is where they must take you in to the larger moral of this fable.

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

'In His Own Home' DVD: Lesser-Known Tale of Police Brutality of Black Man

The IndiePix Films November 7, 2017 DVD release of the 2014 documentary "In His Own Home" adds a thought-provoking element to the national discussion of how law-enforcement officers handle confrontations with black people. The 25-words-or-less description of the issue this time is that University of Florida officers shot a black graduate student on arriving at his apartment for a wellness check.

Kofi Adu Brempong is a Ghanaian doctoral student/instructor with an ongoing history of mental health issues when a neighbor calls the university police to report that Kofi is screaming in his apartment. The undisputed account is that the subsequent incident escalates from shooting a bean bag gun at him and tasing him twice to shooting him in the face in a manner that causes severe disfiguring damage. The only physical threat from Kofi during this incident involves holding an aluminum table leg.

The background information that director Malini Johar Schueller provides includes that the shooting comes a few days after a faculty-initiated wellness check on Kofi regarding the same issues that result in the screaming on "the night of." We further learn of a then-calm Kofi checking in with university police a few hours before the shooting.

We also discover that the officer who fires his gun that night is a former Gainesville, Florida police officer at the center of an incident in which off-duty cops throw eggs at black residents. This is on top of another local incident regarding a white officer arresting a black passenger in the course of a routine traffic stop.

The source materials for "Home" include news reports, footage of relevant proceedings, scenes from the hospital room of Kofi, and talking heads who include a student of Kofi and a community activist.

This pure documentary approach support the "Black Lives Matter" thesis of "Home." At the same time, it is important to remember that even propaganda that supports your side still is propaganda.

Schueller makes his point that there is compelling evidence of excessive force but does little to show that race is a factor. It seems that an essential rent-a-cop whose bad judgment is so egregious that a police union cannot save his job following a single incident is likely to be trigger happy regardless of the color of the person against whom tasing is ineffective.

One larger issue, which receives a little airtime, is that campus police forces and even municipal law-enforcement departments should not receive more firepower than they seemingly can handle. It initially is hard to believe that a campus cop needs to be armed with a lethal weapon and cannot call in the literal big guns when necessary.

An even larger issue is the one that the title of "Home" suggests; all of us should be able to feel secure that law-enforcement officials respect the constitutional protection regarding the sanctity of wherever we reside.

The DVD extras include the trailer that provides a good overview of "Home," and deleted scenes that includes an extended interview and separate additional footage of the aforementioned arrest during the traffic stop.

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

'the leftovers' S3: BD: Saving the Best Remnants for Last

The Warner Archive October 10, 2017 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the third (and final) season of the HBO drama 'the leftovers' verifies that producer/author Tom Perrotta and his "Lost" partner-in-production Damon Lindelof conceive each season in this exceptional series as a third of a trilogy. The S1 review summarizes the lore of this series that centers around the sudden departure of 2-percent of the population of Earth on October 14, 2011; the post on S2 discusses how the characters respond to a riot at the end of S1.

The trilogy pattern of "leftovers" begins with S1 being adequately compelling to draw in fans, S2 being interesting but still the weakest entry, and S3 providing big payoffs in terms of story and closure. One can only hope that Warner and HBO heed the lesson regarding not extending a franchise beyond a third entry.

Like S2, S3 opens oddly but soon makes sense. This episode further establishes the S3 pattern of montages set to an eclectic mix of music. These early scenes depict a group of 19th century Puritans anticipating a repeatedly delayed rapture.

The action then shifts back to Miracle (nee Jardeen), Texas where our leads call home. Peace is restored and reforms are in place in the wake of the conflict at the end of S2. Once and current police chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) is keeping the peace with (reformed) now 25 year-old stepson Tom. The aforementioned final entry payoffs include the story of how Kevin and Tom's mother Laurie (Amy Brenneman) somehow form a family.

Although Kevin and significant other/federal agent Nora Durst are still together, many other characters are in new (sometimes unlikely) friendships.

This season centers around a Biblical prophecy that predicts that the titular rejects will join the suddenly departed on the impending date of October 14, 2018. The significance of this date is that it is the seven-year anniversary of the central dramatic population contraction.

Minister/Nora sibling Matt Jamison stirs things up with his personal gospel that identifies the seemingly multiply resurrected Kevin as the messiah whom Matt and other believers want to accept the mission of preventing the upcoming end of days. Conflict regarding this is that Kevin does not believe that hype.

The most entertaining story arc revolves around Nora; she pursues an offer to undergo a process that reunites "leftovers" with loved ones who are two-percenters. Symbolism enters the picture in the form of Nora losing her husband and two children in the first culling and '80s sitcom "Perfect Strangers" star Mark Linn-Baker advocating the reunion procedure after being the only one of the three "Strangers" stars to not depart in the first wave. It is predicted that Linn-Baker and co-star Bronson Pinchot will do the dance of joy if reunited.

The homage to the work of Lindelof on "Lost" extends beyond the copious symbolism, heavy use of music, and regular temporal shifts in narration to have the main characters travel to Australia for reasons that include saving the world; this includes a necessary procedure (which involves the most hilarious moment in the series) in a fortified underground bunker. One difference is that Jack Shephard saving the world never requires that he whip it out.

Perrotta nicely puts his creativity to use in building the action to a perfect series finale; it keeps us guessing to near the end and follows the example of "The Sopranos" and "Cheers" of providing a sense of life (in some form) continuing.

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

'Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials Deluxe Collection' DVD: More Classic Comedy Than One Could Hope for

The Time Life November 14, 2017 release of the gift set "Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials Deluxe Collection" shows what becomes a legend most. The excitement begins with the colorful sturdy box that houses the set, continues with discovering the booklet that begins with a love letter from Linda Hope to both her father and his fans and goes on to provide essays and photos that chronicle the career of Hope, and goes on with finding the four DVD sets that are the heart (in both senses of that word) of the collection.

The fun of the "Thanks" for boomers and for Gen Xers who develop a love of classic comedy early on is revisiting the Hope specials and Dean Martin roasts that are "appointment television" of the '60s and '70s. The treat for Millennials is expanding their horizons beyond the mostly edgy content of their formative and adult years. They will see folks who thrive on performing and who love and admire each other. Please remember that it is hip to be square.

The set by the numbers is that the 19 discs include 39 specials, which include 20 that are seeing the light of day for the first time since first airing. This collection is la creme de la creme of the 250 Hope television specials over five decades.

Rather than try to list the numerous stars who appear in these specials, it suffices to say that most big names from the '50s through the '70s show up at least once. They include edgy comedian Redd Foxx and the still sexy Raquel Welch.

The collection begins with the six-disc "Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials." The 13 specials from 1956 - '96 include the "in living color" October 1975 program "Highlights of a Quarter Century of Bob Hope on Television" in which Hope introduces clips from his specials dating back to his very first one with Dinah Shore and has his showbiz friends stop by to say hi.

A highlight of "highlights" include a skit in which Hope and the "I Love Lucy" cast appear in a "Love" skit in which Lucy goes to great lengths to conceal having a seal in a closet; we also get a clip from roughly 20 years later in which John Wayne plays an old west Archie Bunker reacting to Hope as his son telling his father about his "mixed marriage."

Other fun clips from past specials have Ingrid Bergman and Hope play a highly competitive Hollywood couple and Hope and Jackie Gleason as cops who don drag to catch muggers.

The January 1968 "Bob Hope Christmas Special" has Hope do voice-over narration of his 1967 USO Christmas tour of Vietnam; the stops include bases scarily close to the front lines and an air craft carrier that requires an equally frightening landing and takeoff.

This one particularly is a time capsule in having Hope include a liberal dose of conservative humor among his one-liners about military life and '60s-era celebrities. The right-wing humor includes joking that a chemical company makes asbestos draft cards as revenge against protesters.

An especially amusing aspect of these specials is watching Welch wildly gyrate around the stage regardless of whether she is singing a solo, performing a duet with Hope, or getting down with the soldiers.

A nice gesture that gives these guys in this tough war nice recognition includes rewarding soldiers by having them introduce Hope, having Hope call some men up to provide a greeting from home, or otherwise literally giving a grunt a moment in the spotlight.

A dual time capsule comes in the form of a September 1984 special titled "The Hilarious Unrehearsed Antics of the Stars." This set of clips of Hope and his guests flubbing their lines and cracking each other up reflects the love of (inexpensive to produce) "blooper" shows in the '80s.

The last special in "Thanks" aptly is the last chronologically of the specials. "Bob Hope: The First 90 Years" is a virtual night of 1,000 stars that celebrates the 90th birthday of Hope. The entertainment includes copious Hopeful clips.

"The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast" of Hope that is a bonus disc is a great reminder of these very popular specials of the '70s. Two exceptional aspects of the roast are that they are much more good-natured than the current Comedy Central version of these events and they reflect an era in which the public has a sense of humor and takes things in context. The latter element prompts a disclaimer on the DVD box.

Great fun include Rev. Billy Graham joking about Hope trying to get that man of God to commit a sin regarding the golf score of Hope and both Martin and Jimmy Stewart joking about the on-screen stammering style of Stewart. We further get Wayne be amusingly open in promoting his most recent film.

The disclaimer largely relates to the monologue of black comedian Flip Wilson; Wilson joking about holding a golf tournament for black people and about not being allowed to play at the country club of Hope is one of the best sets. We further later get impressionist Rich Little and Wilson exchange takes on the Wilson drag character Geraldine; this leads to a hilarious joke that seems borderline risque for '70s network television.

The remaining two fun-filled sets in "Collection" are "Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops" (4 discs) and "Bob Hope: TV Legends (8 discs). These sets feature full-length versions of the USO shows and TV specials that Hope and his admirers/friends celebrate in "Thanks" and that earn him the honor of being roasted.

The message of Hope to take away from both this review and this set is that the man of many hours has a rare talent and inherent goodness that warrants the love behind the collection and the specials that comprise it. Bringing this love home provides a chance to relive the days of mostly wholesome comedy, singing, and dancing by folks who know what they are doing and love doing it.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Collection" is strongly encouraged to email me.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

'Sorority House' DVD: Dalton Trumbo Goes Greek

The Warner Archive September 2016 DVD release of the 1939 Anne Shirley/James Ellison drama "Sorority House" perfectly illustrates the Archive spirit; namely, an entertaining rarity with substance.

Famously blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo pens this tale of grocer's daughter Alice Fisher (Shirley of "Stella Dallas" and "Anne of Green Gables."), who discovers the good and the evil regarding the titular collegiate sisterhoods. The fun of this film also includes evoking great thoughts of a college roommate of your not-so-humble reviewer. This sentiment is "fraternities; only $25 a friend."

The well-known social commentary of Trumbo appears early in "Sorority." The kindly widowed "pop" of a mom-and-pop grocery store is Lew Fisher, whose banker suggests selling out to the larger grocery chain with a store on the outskirts of town before that corporation runs Lew out of business. The can-do response of Lew is that he might run the chain out of business.

Unbeknownst to Alice but beknownst to the audience, Lew is borrowing the princely sum of $1,000 to pay the tuition at dream school Talbot University for two years. This requires that shy but not sad Alice quickly prepare for this next chapter in her life.

Fresh off the train coed Alice soon learns of the prestige of sororities and of the effective social death of the rejected "dreeps" who do not make the cut. The better news for her is that an almost immediate chance meeting that involves a couple of slips has Alice catch the eye of BMOC med. student Bill Loomis (Ellison).

The action shifting to campus allows Trumbo to turn his critical eye to the sorority abodes that more aptly should be considered cat houses. Watching each group subtly (and not so subtly) promote themselves at the expense of the competition is hilarious. One sorority apparently unduly uses a swimming pool as a recruiting tool, and the top sorority the Gammas has the disgrace of seven year-old (heavily used?) mattresses.

Alice and her two roommates initially represent the three bears regarding pledging. Studious and plain Dotty rejects the system that rejects her, desperate-to-fit-in (and subject to intense family pressure) Merle makes a strong effort to make the cut, and Alice is ambivalent until she finds herself in demand.

Much of the fun regarding this is seeing the excitement as the current sisters first make the rounds inviting the elite few to parties that determine if they are going to move forward in the selection process; the subsequent handing out of pledge invitations creates even more fervor.

Meanwhile, Bill is using his status (and insider knowledge) to successfully manipulate the sorority system in favor of Alice; seeing the mislead snobbish leaders compete over this working-class girl is hilarious.

The Bill/Alice relationship also merits comment; the hilarity here relates to Alice initially not realizing that she is engaged. Wonderfully cynical speculation regarding the course of their marriage is that she will drop out of school to work one or more menial jobs to support him through medical school and the early years of his career only to have the effects of time and having a couple of kids lead to Bill divorcing her and moving in with the 20-something nurse with whom he is having a years-long affair.

Trumbo builds all this to an aptly "Stella Dallas" sequence in which Alice dishonors her past despite partial knowledge about the sacrifices behind her collegiate experience. However, our girl comes around only to discover that she has one more lesson to learn.

Despite the wit and wisdom of Trumbo, an even wiser sage deserves the final word regarding the Greek system. Groucho Marx says it best in commenting that he would not want to belong to any club that would have him as a member.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

'the leftovers' S2 BD: Go West Middle-Aged Remnants

The following thoughts on the Warner Prime Blu-ray release of the second season of the HBO series "the leftovers" is the last in this series of reviews on this program before a post on the Warner Archive BD release of the third and final season of this show. As the review of the Prime S1 BD release explains, "leftovers" is based on the novel of the same name by series co-producer Tom Perrotta about the trauma and drama in the lives of those of us who are not among the masses who mysteriously vanish en masse on October 14, 2011.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Leftovers" S2 achieves its goal of providing a taste of the drama and the spirit of the season.

Co-producer Damon Lindelof clearly demonstrates his "Lost" experience right from the opening S2 moments by inexplicably shifting the action from suburban Mapleton, New York to more rural Miracle (nee Jarden), Texas. We soon learn that this Lone Star State community being completely spared the central rapture makes it a Mecca for folks seeking a Utopia.

The pilgrims include former Mapleton sheriff Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), his "steady" Nora Durst, and his teen daughter Jill. The second episode of this season establishes the high price that this family pays for a fresh start.

The early episodes further establish that Kevin cannot escape his demons. The past literally haunts him, and he gets wrapped up in a central mystery involving the unexplained drying up of a lake coinciding with the disappearance of teen neighbor Evie Murphy and two friends of Evie. We further learn during the season that there is evidence that people continue to go poof every so often.

The aforementioned haunting and other stress prompts Kevin to seek relief in the form of an alternative medical treatment. This triggers "Lost" centric events that lead to the dramatic series finale.

The "Lost" vibe is equally strong regarding fully breaking up the band and splitting much of the action into separate venues. The familial split of the Garveys at the end of S1 continues with psychologist/ex-wife/former Guilty Remnant cult member Laurie (Amy Brenneman) staying behind with early 20s son Tom to counsel other "fallen" members of Remnant. Laurie additionally is the author of a book about her Remnant experience.

Reverend Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston of "Doctor Who") also is in Texas; his motives for the move include hoping to improve the health of paralyzed wife Mary. The faith (and the principles) of Matt is severely tested when he is the victim of a brutal attack that threatens the ability of him and Mary to continue enjoying the refuge that Miracle offers.

In equally true "Lost" style, S2 ends with every main character in Miracle and having a role in the typical shocking turn of events that result in the season-ending cliffhanger.

The appeal of "Leftovers" extends beyond the strong cast and acting. On a large level, the series centers around the prophesied ascension of the righteous. On a more specific level, the show reflects current dystopia in which we either wait for the news of the latest disaster or deal with the consequences of a prior one.

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