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Saturday, December 29, 2018

'Sodom' DVD: 50 Shades of Gay Analysis of Same-Sex Relationships

The  TLA Releasing September 11, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 drama "Sodom" is a textbook example of quality art-house gay cinema. It centers around a relevant relatable theme and has good humor. Other attributes include a strong live-stage vibe and most intimate scenes being much more erotic than pornographic.

"Sodom" commences with the highly symbolic scene of 20 year-old footballer (my people call it soccer) Will being the victim of a homoerotic prank by his teammates during a trip. He is heavily made up, stripped of even his socks, and handcuffed face-front to a lamp post on a relatively quiet street.

This image prompts the first of many societal observations; the comment this time is that it is amazing that all-male organizations such as fraternities and sports teams that outwardly project aggressive masculine heterosexual images often involve at least copious naked horseplay and regulalry impose actual sexual domination on group members. 

A related aspect of this supports the gay fantasy that at least 50-percent of men desire sex with other guys; personal and societal pressures are the culprits regarding sublimating these urges into what they can consider acceptable outlets such as team showers and fraternity hazing.

An amusing personal experience regarding the hang ups of guys who identify themselves as fully straight involves a high-school friend. This guy being a star wrestler and enjoying running naked in the gym hallways should have been a tip off back then.

This buddy shared several years ago that he sees a dominatrix every week. Further pressing prompted confessing  that these sessions involve a strap-on. Pointing out the enhanced pleasure and humiliation benefits of being on the receiving end of the real thing prompted a "he doth protest too much" freak out. 

Our regularly scheduled post continues with well-off 30-something man Michael discovering Will on his way home after an evening out. A team effort gets a still cuffed Will partially covered and into the apartment of Michael. Some of the aforementioned eroticism enters the picture in the form of a fully dressed Michael having a drink with a barely dressed and shackled Will. As expected, this leads to completely consensual sex with the restraints intact, 

Micheal and Will sharing not-so-intimate details of their lives after having sex reflects the odd truth of old-school gay hookups, It is amazing that a guy will volunteer every small detail related to sexual activity within minutes of meeting a potential "buddy" but will not even share general information about his work or where he grew up.

Will literally and figuratively gets an out but quickly returns for another erotic scene, The rest of the story that comes out is that Will is not. The story that is familiar to most gay men is that Will has a history of messing around with a buddy, is engaged to a woman, and has mixed emotions.

The initially revealed story of Michael reflects both the rushed nature of gay relationships and the sad experience of many couples all along the Kinsey Scale. Many years with a soulmate lead to things getting stale; this prompts Michael to look for love with too many faces in all the wrong places. This leads to the soulmate becoming the one who got away. 

The sweet portion of "Sodom" has the connection between the boys seemingly being strong enough for Will to realize the wisdom of "to thine own self be true" and to seriously considering uprooting his life to build one with Michael, This relates to several experiences that many of us have,

Any positive new relationship is exciting and can produce a high; a strong connection greatly enhances that sense. On top of that, travel magically increases the impact of any experience and can make the impractical seem feasible. 

For his part, the prospect of a life with Will makes Michael believe that there is a way that he can recapture his past happiness.

One spoiler is that "Sodom" not being a Hollywood movie and young and cute Will not being doe-eyed or completely hairless prevents the road to a happy ending from encountering more bumps. Will coming down from his high and starting to think more clearly creates some doubt regarding his willingness (no pun intended) to upset the Adam's apple cart in ways that include telling his teammates where he spent the night and informing his fiancee that he cannot marry her because he now plays for the other team.

The final round of commentary in this post begin with the sad statement this time that staying in the closet has such a long tradition because it allows many men to adequately have their cake and eat it as well. The collateral damage from that is that the "other woman" is denied the desired relationship.

The rest of the story is that one cost of the tremendous advances in gay rights is the form of angst of guys like Will and men like Michael who fully embrace the idea of literally or figuratively putting a ring on it. NONE of the advancements should EVER be reversed, but this requires that guys who suppress their desire for intimacy with guys man up and choose a side in a manner that minimizes the emotional pain of those whom this affects. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

'Brotherly Love' DVD: Entertaining Gayma Answers Question of Whether Catholic Brother Can Get Some Lovin'

The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2017 gay-themed drama "Brotherly Love" offers insight into the mind of a nice 20-something guy on the cusp of taking his final vows as a Catholic brother. His dilemma is the extent to which his love of God conflicts with his love for his fellow man.

Another interesting aspect of this one is that it follows the pattern regarding the inverse correlation between the quantity of male nudity and the quality of the film; in this case, the limited amount of lewdness corresponds to this film having a solid  mix of heart and humor.

The festival accolades for "Love" include writer/director/star Anthony J. Caruso taking home the Best Actor and the LGBT Film honors at the 2017 IndieFEST Film Awards. This 30ish guy plays Brother Vito Fortunato, who spends his days preparing to fully devote his life to God and his nights hitting gay bars with wild manchild best friend Tim. 

The following YouTube clip of the Breaking trailer for "Love" nicely summarizes everything that makes the film entertaining in ways that include taking a moderate tone regarding a subject with which many devout Catholics struggle.

At the heart of the matter, "Love" addresses an unfortunate side effect of relatively new societal and legal equality for gay men. Vito being able to be openly gay presents him with the issue of reconciling his option of having a full life with Mr. Right (or a night with Mr. Right Now) with his desire to fully devote himself to the man upstairs. His supervisor and his two peers accepting his sexual orientation is nice to see. 

A related theme is that Vito knows that God does not hate fags; the issue is that this deity requites that those who fully commit to doing his work downstairs take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Vito, who has tasted his share of forbidden fruit, is having the most trouble with the first two requirements. 

The internal struggle of Vito ultimately distresses him to the point of reverting to his old habit of consulting with his former teacher Sister Peggy. Her nun sense solution is for Vito spend his summer working at a Catholic facility for AIDS patients. The manner in which the stars perfectly align regarding this trip either is divine intervention or movie magic.

Caruso does especially well portraying the relationship between Vito (who brings tons of baggage on his trip) and cute volunteer gardener Gabe Rimes (whose last name seems to have an extraneous letter). Gabe is a sweet and relatively wholesome guy who is a stranger to the alleys of Austin. Whether having a full life is something that he can do without Vito (make it without him) takes center stage. 

The prelude to Gabe inviting Vito to see his double wide involves the boys engaging in friendly bantering as Vito engages with the clients inside while Gabe spends long hours hoeing out back. Many of us can relate to the Saturday night of Gabe consisting of watching "Golden Girls" reruns alone. An aside regarding this is that that series provided a bonding experience for gay men in the '80s. They would gather at bars to watch it during that not-so-enlightened era. 

Watching Gato have a low-key first date is equally sweet and charming. Although "Love" does not address it, this courtship reflects that relationships in which sex does not immediately happen have the best chance of long-term success. 

We also get to see a relatable senior-citizen gay couple; their bickering is hilarious, and they follow the pattern of many committed couples across the Kinsey Scale in that they show that opposites attract. The story of how they met is a "Loving" highlight.

We further get a twofer in terms of the tried (but not always true) methods of persuading someone to share a shower and to sleep in a bed rather than on the floor. A related note is that sometimes an act of kindness just is an act of kindness.

The best news is that this Summer of Love shows that some form of guiding influence provides two righteous dudes the opportunity for a happy ending.

Breaking almost always includes at least one bonus feature; they do especially well this time with a Caruso-hosted "behind-the-scenes" look. A highlight of this is a festival trailer with several alternate scenes that include some actors and sets that differ than those that appear in the final version. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

'Good Manners' DVD: Preteen Wolf

Icarus Films marks Oscar season by releasing the aptly hybrid film "Good Manners" on DVD on November 13, 2018. "Manners" is weirdly wonderful with top-notch twists. 

"Manners"  DESERVEDLY winning 24 awards and having an additional 18 nominations speaks to the quality of the film. These accolades include a "Fantastic Features" honor at the 2017 Austin Fantastic Fest and "Best Picture" at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Latin America Cinema and the 2017 Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival. 

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Manners" provides a glimpse of the successfully eclectic style of this future cult classic. 

Manners" begins on a tone that reflects one aspect of the titular phrase. Clara is at the home of disgraced party-girl Ana to apply to be the nanny of the baby of this heiress when she delivers that illegitimate bundle of joy. 

This portion of the film is laden with social commentary; Ana shamelessly exploiting Clara, who must grin and bear it, and Clara becoming the caregiver of flighty Anna reflects the system in most of the "civilized" world. We also get a strong sense of the feeling of entitlement on the part of Ana.

The first twist comes via Ana and Clara crossing way over employer/employee (and racial) lines. This is not to mention another relatively unusual aspect of their relationship. Ana sleepwalking and having odd dreams is the icing on the cake in this portion of "Manners." 

Ana telling Clara the story of her not-so-immaculate conception is a highlight for two reasons; this tale is told via very stylized animation and sets the stage for the rest of the film.

All this leads to Ana giving birth to Joel, who clearly is not like other boys; a complication leads to Clara taking custody of the new-born and moving him to her apartment. The cover story that she subsequently tells him is straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales

A montage covers the early years of Joel up to his seventh birthday. With the exception of literally and figuratively having a vegetarian diet, this cute and charming lad mostly is like his peers with the exception of several days a month. The days during this period are just fine, but he must spend the nights shackled in "the little bedroom" for the mutual safety of himself and the general populace. Part of the challenge for Clara is making her son understand why there are times that he cannot play reindeer games with the other kids.

Things come to a head when our excitable boy and his buddy run off to a mall for an overnight mission. This causes Clara even more angst than is typical in such situations; subsequent events show that she has good reason for concern,

This leads to a scene that is well known to horror fans; the resulting confrontation creates terrific ambiguity that ends this perfect movie on an ideal note. 

As this posts and many other reviews discuss, the magic of "Manners" relates to the perfect blending of numerous themes and tones. We get the aforementioned social commentary, the drama of a single mother contending with a special-needs child, a fairy tale, and the overall theme of society being hostile toward people who are different. As "Frankenstein" address, the monster is not always the "freak." 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

'Benji: Off the Leash!' Blu-ray + DVD + Digital: A Shaggy Dog Story for A New Millennium

Mill Creek Entertainment once again shows the value of going to the dogs regarding the October 23, 2018 Blu-ray + DVD + Digital of the 2004 family dramedy "Benji Off the Leash." The abused boy who is at the center of this story is not the only element of this variation on "Benji" films that make it different than the '70s adventures of the titular everymutt.

Fans of the earlier fare will delight in the Creek releases of (reviewed) "Benji," (also reviewed) "For the Love of Benji," and the even-more recent (reviewed) "Benji's Very Own Christmas Story." 

"Leash" begins with narration that describes a talent search for the new Benji; the action then makes a nod to the original film by shifting to an abandoned house that is similar to a home that plays a central role in that movie. The aforementioned lad Colby is using that house as a safe haven for a mother dog and her newborn puppies. The refuge is needed because his father (only known by his last name Hatchett) both is over-breeding the mother to a life-threatening extent and is intent on leaving a brown shaggy mongrel from the litter to die because the puppy lacks monetary value. 

Other action in this film set in Gulfport, Mississippi centers around two comically inept dog catchers. Livingston and Sheldon are pursing their white whale in canine clothing. The pooch known as "Lizard Tongue" for an obvious reason is very skilled at evading the civil servants.

The two worlds collide on the substandard way that Hatchett operates his dog-breeding business putting him on the radar of Sheldon and Livingston. This coincides with the shaggy dog and Lizard Tongue enjoying puppy love. 

Drama enters the picture regarding a need for emergency vet service and related pressure being exerted on Hatchett. All of this shows that the snooze button no longer can be hit regarding the wake-up call that Hatchett requires. 

This being even a 21st-century "Benji" movie ensures a happy ending for at least some of the dogs and all of the kids. Additionally, adults who deserve a trip to the doghouse get it.

The appeal of "Leash" extends beyond keeping the Benji legacy alive; it shows that a wholesome movie with a bare minimum of edge can get greenlit. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

'Star Trek: Discovery' S1 Blu-ray & DVD S1: Boldly Going Where No Trek Series Has Gone Before

CBS Home Entertainment continues serving Trekkers and Trekies alike very well regarding separate  November 13, 2018 Blu-ray & DVD of "Star Trek: Discovery" S1. This release joins a complete set of CBS releases of every "Trek" series; it also allows those of us who either prefer physical media over streaming and/or do not subscribe to CBS  All-Access to check out this neo-modern take on Trek complete with cursing, nudity, and an openly gay couple.

Seeing open hostility among crew members is equally awesomely honest and refreshing. Although "Discovery" definitely is not your daddy's Trek, he will enjoy it. 

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Discovery" highlights the darker and more atmospheric elements of the series that distinguish it from other Trek series. That is not to say that there are not shiny happy Starfleet personnel and tech.

One of the numerous nice things about "Discovery," which occurs a decade before the original series ("OS") and a century before "The Next Generation" ("TNG,"),  is that the confusing and arguably flawed first two episodes lead to a series that a greater percentage of Trek fans can enjoy and embrace. 

The pilot is rather difficult to follow. It opens with literally and figuratively dark scenes featuring aliens that do not look familiar to Trek fans. We quickly determine that this species is Klingon. It is not explained why they do not look anything like the Klingons from the "OS" era or those of the "TNG" period. 

The action alternates between the activities of the Klingons and the crew of a ship that creates more confusion by not being named "Discovery." This is not to mention the opening credits including the names of everyone's favorite "Rent" boy Anthony Rapp and others even those they do not appear until the third episode. 

A HUGE frustration regarding the first episode is that those of use who are not fluent in Klingon must have the subtitles on to understand what members of that species are saying; the problem is that subtitles remain on when the Starfleet personnel speak English; this requires turning the subtitles on-and-off. This flaw is corrected by the second episode,

Then-second-officer Michael Burnham is at the center of the action and remains there throughout S1. She is serving on the U.S.S. Shenzhou, which investigates damage to a Federation satellite on the edge of Federation space. This soon leads to Burnham taking action that escalates The Klingon War that has a prominent role in Trek lore. 

The response of the Klingons incorporates an aspect of their culture that also is well-known to Trekkers and Trekkies. This leads to a battle that leads to a real game-changer for Burnham. 

Burnham becoming the Tom Paris of "Discovery" on boarding the titular vessel is only the tip of the iceberg regarding her. Aspects of the life of Burnham that make her unique warrant a strong comparison to Spock and a lesser similarity to Worf and Seven of Nine. This relates to the role of Burnham regarding an aspect of Vulcan culture that also pops up in Trek series; this is not to mention an amusing "Dad always liked you best" element in her history.

"Discovery" definitely looking more advanced than the Enterprise that Kirk commands 10 years later alone is puzzling. This ship having tech. that is beyond that of the Enterprise of Picard 100 years later truly is surprising.

On the subject of comparisons, Trek vet and current guiding force Bryan Fuller provides plenty of Easter eggs and other nods to the franchise lore. This includes one well-known character being a regular, a list of prominent captains having familiar names and a lesser-known one, and an OS villain plaguing Discovery captain Gabriel Lorca.

On the subject of Lorca, Fuller further strays from traditional Trek lore by making this space cowboy less heroic and likable than his past-and-future- peers. He is almost perpetually grumpy and even less respectful of Starfleet rules and principles than the other guys on their best days. In fairness to this fearless leader, he is not himself these days. 

Lorca gets his Picard moment in the form of extreme torture at the hands of an enemy. Both incidents even involve weaponizing light. 

Fuller goes further in populating the crew with folks who are even more quirky than those of other Trek ships. This begins with literal space cadet Sylvia Tilly. Her overall unduly gleeful manner and extreme candid chattiness create an incorrect assumption regarding her referring to her "special needs" in her first scene.

We also get First Officer Saru, who is alien with a prey mentality literally encoded into him. In addition to being physically one of the most odd characters in Trek lore, his version of a spidey sense makes him fascinatingly unique.

Rapp plays Lt. Paul Stamets, who seems to have a mood to match every occasion. His uniqueness extends beyond developing a way-cool ability early in the season to being the first openly gay Trek character. His cute and charming relationship with ship doctor Hugh Culber make them the best-ever Trek couple. 

Fuller again sticks to the script by having the Discovery chief security officer meeting a violent end setting the stage for the predecessor of this individual. In this case, it is dashing tall, dark, and handsome Ash Tyler. Tyler just as aptly has something in common with Voyager security chief Torres. 

The adventures of this gang are even more serialized than those of a couple of season of the "Enterprise" gang. They simultaneously are contending with open warfare with the Klingons and both trying to properly utilize the unique tech. of their ship and to contend with friendly and not-so-friendly attempts to obtain it. 

Highlights include trekking to a parllel universe and contending with evil twins sans goatees. The season finale is just as special by paying homage to "Enterprise." 

The numerous bonuses include several "making-of" features, a season recap, and promos.​

Saturday, December 22, 2018

'Forever My Love' DVD: Cliff Notes Dubbed Version of Epic Trilogy Docudrama Trilogy on Life of Austrian Empress Sissi

The Film Movement November 13, 2018 DVD release of the classic 1962 period-piece romdram "Forever My L:ove" is an awesome present to both the general movie-going public and to your not-so-humble reviewer. This release of this English-dubbed condensed version of the trilogy of films known as "The Sissi Collection" allows folks who only have 2.5 hours to experience this epic to watch the version that is a holiday favorite.

This release also allows a holiday treat in the form of allowing regifting an edited version of a review of the Movement October 2017 Blu-ray release of "Collection," which includes "Forever." One disclaimer is that our topic du jour does not include every scene to which this post refers. Please consider these mentions a bonus regarding "Forever."

Folks whom this real-life fairy tale with strong elements of the Princess Diana story greatly intrigues are encouraged to purchase "Collection." The "Trekkies" (rather than "Trekkers") regarding this epic likely will be content with "Forever."

The highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer sharing that images of the real-life Sissi still prominently appear throughout Vienna provides a sense of the significance of both "Forever" and the trilogy.  

"Sissi" from 1955 is a Cinderella story in a few senses of the word. The film opens with jocular Duke Max in Bavaria fishing with a few of his eight children in the idyllic wilderness around their castle. The group returns home to dine and is subdued by Duchess Ludovika (a.k.a. Mom).

An excited Ludovika (a.k.a. Vicki) soon summons daughter Helene (a.k.a. Nene) to privately share that Archduchess Sophie is summoning Nene to marry cousin/newly coronated Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph. A desire to conceal the purpose of this family reunion prompts bringing oblivious teen tomboy Sissi along.

The Cliff Notes of what follows is that an amusing wacky misunderstanding causes a bumbling security officer to mistake Sissi for an enemy of the state, Sissi and Franz meet and fall in love without fully realizing whom the other is, Nene and Sissi experience sibling rivalry, and our fairy-tale couple have a storybook wedding complete with fireworks but sans animated woodland creatures.

"Sissi: the Young Empress" amusingly foreshadows the Princess Di story in that newly wed Empress Sissi is highly popular with her subjects and is at war with her mother-in-law. Two particularly large bones of contention relate to Sissi having a more lenient and supportive attitude towards Hungarian malcontents than Archduchess Sophie, and Sophie literally taking the infant heir to the throne away from Sissi.

The "incognito" element is particularly strong in "Empress." A spontaneous undercover second honeymoon soon after the (presumably) first one finds our couple staying at a small rustic mountain inn. Watching these young lovers freely frolic and literally spit shine boots is great fun.

Another particularly cute scene has Franz Joseph giving homesick Sissi a literal taste of Bavaria and distressing his mother (who comes across as the party pooper) in the process. Despite the grandness of this gesture, Sissi equally literally runs home to mother to escape the trauma and the drama of palace life.

Of course, this fairy tale epic reunites Sissi and Franz Joseph and ends with the grand spectacle that is a trademark of this trilogy. These final scenes additionally incorporate the nature scenes that enhance the films and make viewers want to visit the region.

The 1957 film "Sissi: The Fateful Years" maintains the style and the quality of the other two films in the trilogy. The Di thread continues with mother-in-law problems and rumors of infidelity.

The "Forever" extras include a making-of featurette and an excerpt from the documentary "Elisabeth [a.k.a. Sissi] Enigma of an Empress."

All of this shows that either "Collection" or "Forever" provide hours of beautiful scenery, a love for the ages, and a lesson in 19th-century European history.

Friday, December 21, 2018

'High Voltage' DVD + Blu-Ray + Digital: Horror-Comedy About Rock Band Paying Shockingly High Price for Year at the Top

Sony Pictures delivers a nightmare before Christmas regarding the November 20, 2018 Blu-ray + DVD + Digital release of the horror-comedy film "High Voltage." This homage to cynically dark-humored films of the '80s provides the bonus of commentary on the current state of the career of star David Arquette (a.k.a. former Mr. Courtney Cox). 

Arquette displays great self-effacing humor as has-been former rock god Jimmy. His opening narration provides the best line in the film in which he states that he is celebrating his 50th birthday for the third time, This leading to an unwelcome reminder of his former glory is another highlight.

That "Groundhog Day" style celebration sets the stage for the remainder of "Voltage." Thirty-four year-old musician/family guy Scott and 23 year-old singer Rachel crash the party. This pair showing Jimmy what they have leads to forming a band.

Arquette shows more shameless humor regarding his effort to launch his new effort. He must pay for his past sins by kowtowing to Rick (Luke Wilson), who is the son of the former promoter of the old band of Jimmy. Jimmy must play nice and make up for his prior sin of not treating Rick well back in the day.

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Voltage" nicely conveys the style and the spirit of the film. 
The first gig of the band is the night that changes everything. Then-insecure Rachel having a not-so-great debut prompts an impromptu band meeting regarding where to go from there. The car in which Rachel is riding sans boys being struck by lightening as she is leaving gives her both an entirely new perspective and "Static Shock" style power to harness electrical power.

This leads to Rachel not demonstrating such great responsibility regarding her great new power. The good aspect of this is using her new-found ability to get the band on the road to success; the evil aspect of this is that this electricity comes at the cost of frying not-so-innocent men. The oft-presented and almost never heeded moral of this is that the hot chick who shows interest in you most likely lacks pure intentions. The rest of the story is that you pay dearly for what at most is an hour-or-so of pleasure.

This leads to Jimmy and Scott having to decide the extent to which they can condone the behavior that is granting them fame and fortune. Being an older former teen idol prompts Jimmy to repeatedly remind Scott that he should be careful about abandoning his one-shot at stardom.

Of course, all this climaxes after Rachel gets fully high on her own supply; any harm to the boys is collateral damage.

An unintentionally amusing aspect of "Voltage" is that it is similar to the 1977 six-episode failedcom "A Year at the Top." The concept of this one is that aspiring rockers Greg (Greg Evigan) and Paul (Paul Shaffer) sell their souls for the titular 12 months of stardom.

The bigger picture is that "Voltage" reflects the nature of fame. The reel and real lives of Arquette show how popularity can ebb and flow; the nature of the current (no pun intended) high shows that any short cuts come with prices that can range from a lack of integrity to a more costly compensation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

'Community' CS BD: Joel McHale & Company Get Schooled

The Mill Creek Entertainment October 23, 2018 Blu-ray release of 2009-15 sitcom "Community" is the crown jewel in the recent series of releases of this type from this company that helps keep cult classics alive. The Creek section of Unreal TV 2.0 includes posts on BD CS releases such as "Happy Endings," "The Masters of Sex,"  "Rescue Me," and "The Awesomes."

As a practical aspect, the "Community" set (which looks and sounds spectacular in Blu-ray) provides an affordable means either to buy a first-ever set of this top-ever sitcom or to upgrade from the single-season DVD sets that take up more shelf space, 

"Community" creator/star Chevy Chase nemesis Dan Harmon truly hits comedy gold with the concept and the execution of the series. The program centers around misanthropic and conceited disbarred attorney Jeff Winger (Joel McHale of "Talk Soup). Being caught lying about his undergraduate education results in McHale experiencing what may be the only reel or real case of being sentenced to complete his education. His doing hard time at Greendale Community College sets the stage for interacting with his fellow misfit students and the comically inept faculty and staff and to contend with absurd bureaucracy.

Additional context comes via the fairly recent explosion of claims of racism at Evergreen State College in Washington. The nature of that scandal and the manner in which the students respond provide strong proof that Harmon bases Greendale on that school.

Winger and his gang form a "family" in S1 by creating a study group for the Spanish class of woefully unqualified Senor Chang (Ken Jeong of the "Hangover" franchise). This evolves to taking on other classes and ultimately becoming a trouble-shooting committee that seeks to put right what once went horrible wrong. 

The most notable member is naive pop-culture addict Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi). His tying real life into movies and television series and his tendencies to escape into fantasy worlds when faced with stress drives much of the action. A prime example of this is the S2 Christmas episode in which our friends are transformed into stop-action holiday characters. We also have Abed be the center of an awesome alternate reality and other variations on the lives of him and his friends. 

Former high school football hero/stud Troy Barnes (Donald Glover a.k.a. Foolish Gambino) has the dual characteristics of practically being joined at the hip with Abed and of being highly relatable as a person who peaks early in life. Harmon does him well by fulfilling his greatest fantasy.

Troy high-school classmate/obsessive perfectionist good girl Annie Edison (Alison Brie) nicely reflects the dark side of someone who tries too hard. She is best remembered as the den mother of Abed and Troy.

Unfiltered Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) is the pretty girl/object of the affection of Jeff who takes up the cause of the week. Her inability to get her life together and her horrible romantic choices provide great entertainment. A relationship with shirtless hacky sack playing slacker Vaughn (Eric Christian Olsen) is a series highlight.

The adults consist of middle-aged mother hen/devout Christian Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) and racist/misogynistic/classist senior Pierce Hawthorne (Chaser). Shirley is mostly there to express disapproval of the antics of the "kids," and Pierce largely plays the role of the grumpy old man who insults his friends and provides "oh Grandpa" moments. Constant references to metrosexual Jeff being gay is a theme. 

Harmon does a great job skewering both the arrested development of Millennials and the frustratingly increase in public outrage that only is worse in the years since "Community" has fallen one season and one film short of its goal of seven seasons and a movie. Examples of the immaturity of the students include the loved paintball episodes and other outings in which the entire campus engages in fun-and-games that almost literally destroy the place. Another classic episode has a pillow fort overtake the campus. 

We further get a wonderfully true-crime style documentary surrounding the ass-crack bandit who uses an unconventional coin slot, an awesome send-off for Pierce that has his nastiness massively backfire on him, and much more good dark humor. This is not to mention the numerous times, such as a scheme to deal in a stash of textbooks, in which group members hilariously turn on each other. 

This clear willingness to go there via comically absurd lengths warrants comparing "Community" to the better seasons of "The Simpsons" and "South Park" absent the profanity of the latter. It also reminds us of the Golden Age of Chase by evoking thoughts of the early days of "SNL." Sadly, we get "fat" Chevy. 

The numerous extras include some of the best-ever outtakes, puns, and gag reels that highlight the strong comic chops of the cast. We additionally get deleted and extended scenes that criminally are excluded from the broadcast episodes. This is not to mention behind-the-scenes features that demonstrate that the love for the series is mutual between those who make it happen and those of us who benefit from them "going there," 

As mentioned above, the special quality of the previously released and new material relates to the social commentary that is put in proper perspective; this is true of most of the aforementioned other shows that Mill Creek has released.

The level of public outrage regarding every fictional portrayal over what includes acts that are deplorable in real life but still valid fodder for comedy simply requires too high of a price these days. No reasonable person can assert that any modern "atrocity" is comparable to the behavior of the Nazis, but the principle of Mel Brooks that laughing at Hitler robs him of his power has great applicability.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

'Our Cartoon President' S1 DVD: Stephen Colbert Series Funny Because Its Sadly True

The CBS Home Entertainment December 18, 2018 S1 DVD release of the Showtime animated-series "Our Cartoon President" proves the adage that you can laugh or you can cry. Unlike his subject, executive producer/Trump nemesis Stephen Colbert is not guilty of hyperbole in stating that this three-disc set of the 17 regular-season episodes and the November 14, 2018 musical "Election Special 2018" includes "world-class amenities."

Although the themes of "President" are similar to the 43-era live-action sitcom-parody series "That's My Bush" and the animated-program "Lil Bush Resident of the United States," the current series is more hard hitting and sticks c;loser to actual events.  Being on a premium cable network provides the additional bonus of being able to say all of the seven words that George Carlin reminds us are unfit for broadcast networks.

The topics in "President" include the Mueller investigation, the threat of a federal government shutdown, the controversy regarding Confederate statues, funding for the wall, etc. We further get to see what fools these top administration officials and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle be. This includes the Chuck and Nancy Show sans a tinkling contest. 

The following YouTube clip of the Showtime trailer for "President" is a sad reminder that it is funny because it is true.

The episode introduction by the creative team for the pilot provides a good sense of the evolution of the series; the insights include a last-minute makeover for one character, The aptly titled "State of the Union" centers around the angst of Trump regarding his obligation to  deliver that speech.

The especially amusing "Media Strategy" has Melania struggling to suppress her "plaid-shirt guy) impulse to roll her eyes during Trump speeches. This relates to the overall "President" theme of the first couple having a loveless marriage; a meeting in which they seek the advice of the Clintons is hilarious. 

"Wealth Gap" is pure Trump; this one has POTUS going to great lengths (and absurd expense) planning a second wedding ceremony for his third wife. Much of the humor relates to a desire to show off his assets motivating the event. Cartoonishly dim-witted Eric "Beavis" Trump taking the brunt of his father overextending himself is particularly hilarious. 

The aforementioned special truly pulls out all the stops beyond having a few musical numbers. We get Team Trump desperately trying to keep their majorities in both house of Congress and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer proving their inability to relate to everyday folk. This is not to mention Trump trying to have his cake and eat it too, and Hillary literally going on rampages. In other words, business as usual in Washington. 

Jared Kushner steals the show as the only attractive male in the inner circle and as the whipping boy of the group. Having this advisor-in-law dress up in humiliating costumes and enduring abuse from Eric and Donald, Jr. is only the tip of the wonderfully comedic iceberg. 

The aforementioned amenities include a table read and a few episode introductions. We also get a clip of animated Trump appearing on "The Late Show." 

The creative success of this political satire shows Colbert that revenge is a dish best served globally.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Batman: Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition Tops Holiday Gift Guide in DVD/Blu-ray Renaissance

The response of studios great and still great but small to increasing incursion of streaming into the DVD/Blu-ray/4K market reinforces the belief of Unreal TV that physical media rules and online content drools. The primary principle is that having something physical facilitates being able to watch what you want when desired.

Discs eliminate any chance of buffering, content slowing down other devices, or a streaming service pulling the content. You additionally do not have the aggravation of having to subscribe to multiple services to get the desired content. 

The aforementioned defense to the offense of streaming, which has value when you are away from home, is to make physical releases more special. On a basic level, this involves designing new packaging to makes a release look cool and to incorporate it into a series of releases, This marketing may apply to the '80s teencoms, classic horror films, or the CGI-animated movies of a a studio.

Holy Hi-Def, Batman!

The Warner Brothers Home Entertainment October 30, 2018 Blu-ray release of Batman: Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition is a PERFECT example of the renaissance in the home-video industry. WBHE has expertly remastered every episode in this 1992-95 series. We also get Blu-ray versions of the equally well resurrected (reviewed) "Mask of the Phantasm" and the (also reviewed) "Batman and Mr. Freeze: Subzero." 

The set packaging is very stylish, and there are special features galore. WBHE goes further by including three mini-figures, placing the discs in a collectible hard-cover book, and providing 7 lenticular cards with "original animation artwork." This is not to mention limiting the run of the sets to 69,048; I scored the relatively low number of 11,601.

A brief diversion into Blogland is that the TAS set is personally particularly special. It is reminiscent of the even-more special WBHE numbered limited-edition Blu-ray release of the Christopher Nolan "Batman" trilogy, which has better packaging and includes toy cars. This set was the first Christmas gift from the highly significant other who has tolerated your not-so-humble reviewer for six years and counting. 

Olive Films Garden 

Purveyor of Hollywood classics, cult films, and art-house fare Olive Films takes top honors regarding taking art-gallery-worthy DVD and Blu-ray packaging to the next level. The Olive Signature division of this company does particularly well regarding collector's editions that put a highly arrogant competitor to shame. 

Many posts on Olive releases can be found in the Olive section of this new-and-improved site; several more are slowly but surely being copied over from Unreal TV 1.0. 

The beautifully remastered collector's edition Blu-ray releases from Signature feature aptly high-end art. Olive supplements this with picture-perfect (no pun intended) remasters. The extra-rich icing on the cake is the copious PBS-worthy documentaries and other features in Signature releases The additional awesomeness is these being limited editions that make them that much more special. 

Warner Archive Awesomeness 

Archive always will have a special place in my heart. Lovers of television and film can thank Ted Turner buying the video libraries of several studios to provide his fledgling basic-cable networks content for Archive having a seemingly bottomless pit of resources 40 years later. These riches include classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, all-time favorites and forgotten big-screen gems from every 20th-century era of Hollywood, and some of the best sitcoms and dramas to hit television from the early days of that medium to the present.

Archive reflects the trend toward enhanced packaging by reproducing the theatrical posters for films on the DVD (and increasingly Blu-ray only) releases of those movies. Archive is even more fully getting with the times by fully stepping with special features.

The bigger picture is that Archive is embracing the idea of leitmotifs that scream for bundled gifts . A few of many examples include releasing Christopher Lee "Dracula" films. Hitchcock movies, Silver Age musicals, etc. within several weeks of each other. 

Most new releases of Golden Age fare provide a full night at the movies by including a cartoon, a newsreel, and a short from the era. We also often get footage of the premiere of the main feature. Archive releases of films from the '40s through the '70s typically have wonderful making-of documentaries that feature film experts such as Robert Osborne, Leonard Maltin, and Peter Bogdanovich. 

The Archive section of this site provides a taste of these releases, including the aforementioned sub-genres; copying over the other 100s of reviews on Unreal TV 1.0 will require years. 

Mill Creek Entertainment Springs to Life 

Mill Creek Entertainment earns a completely sincere and equally heartfelt "Most Improved" award. No one loved the MCE collections of public-domain content more than your not-so-humble reviewer. Getting to see childhood favorites, such as "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction" was great fun. This is not to mention the glee associated with watching less-frequently syndicated classic sitcoms that include "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Burns and Allen."

MCE began stepping up in 2017 with Blu-ray complete-series sets of programs such as "Quantum Leap" and "That '70s Show." 

MCE built on the foundation of "Leap" and "Show" by fulling with other awesome complete series Blu-ray sets in 2018. The MCE section of this site includes posts of the Showtime series "Masters of Sex," the especially good release of the Hulu animated series "The Awesomes," and the one-of-a kind Denis Leary NYFD firefighter series "Rescue Me."

MCE also is getting into the enhanced packaging/awesome special features game regarding classic '80s and '90s films. The current catalog includes the original star-studded "Flatliners" and the rising-star-laden '90s teencom "Can't Hardly Wait." Mid-January "retro" releases include the Arnold Schwarzenegger action-comedy "Last Action Hero" and the John Candy slapstick-comedy Who's  Harry Crumb." 

Happy Shopping

Aptly for this time of the year, the above discussion of the featured studios is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the gift-worthy releases from them. Everyone from a hard-core cinephile to an amateur sofa spud will delight in the initial thrill of seeing an artful set, will love the high-quality production, and will delight in learning more by watching the extras. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

'The 13th Chair Double Feature' DVD: Two Different Takes On A British Murder Mystery

Warner Archive releasing "The 13th Chair Double Feature" on November 13, 2018 continues the  grand Archive tradition of releasing two (or more) versions of the same film. In this case, the titular double-bill is two very different approaches to the titular British murder mystery.

Folks who are familiar with "Freaks" and/or other Tod Browning films can accurately predict that his 1929 production is more atmospheric and lurid than the 1937 film by George B. Seitz, whose credits include "Andy Hardy" films. The latter is lighter in tone and gives this work originally presented as play more of a live-stage vibe than Browning. 

This post will respect the assumed Archive intent of wanting viewers to get the full impact of the differences in the film. A modern example of this contrast is having Tim Burton and '90s-era Ben Affleck separately direct the same story. Part of this full enjoyment relates to not spoiling the very different casting.

Both films are set in Calcutta and occur in the aftermath of the murder of an expat Brit. who is no gentleman. 

The usual suspects for this type of film begins with John Wales, who is the best friend of the deceased. His literally fatally flawed plan to obtain justice for his chum includes staging a seance. Like a good Englishman, Wales hopes that stacking the deck in his favor will result in the culprit becoming a guest of the king.

We also get a royal family in the form of the Crosbys. The secretary of Mrs. Crosby planning to marry into the family contributes to the angst among the group.

The portrayals of medium Mme. LaGrange in the two films are among the most significant differences in the versions. Both are highly entertaining in that this is a very broad character. Additionally, this quirky individual shares some tricks of the trade.

The subsequent seance that inspires the title of the play and the films produces drama that greatly thickens the plot. This results in deduction that leads to the typical drawing-room scene that results in revealing whodunit. A partial spoiler is that the final scene of the Browning film greatly outshines the conclusion of the later version.

The broadest appeal of this release is the aforementioned demonstration of how the same source material can produce radically different results. The narrower focus is that this is another example of Archive facilitating modern audiences getting to see how movies should be made. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

'Mame' Blu-ray: Bea Arthur & Lucy Star in Musical Treat for Friends of Dorothy

The Warner Archive November 27, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1974 musical-comedy "Mame" allows  fans to judge this one for themselves. This film is based on the stage-version of the 1958 Rosalind Russell comedy "Auntie Mame," which based on a story by and about Patrick Dennis.

One sadly undisputed aspect of this film is that Lucille Ball having a very raspy and deep voice at this point in her career should have precluded having her playing any character who sings. The same is true regarding Bea Arthur, who reprises her role as best frienemy stage actress Vera Charles from the 1966 Broadway production. (Yes, I know that God will get me for that.)

"Mame" begins at the end of the Jazz Age; the titular society girl is living it up and thinks that the party will never end until she receives an almost-literal wake-up call during The Crash of '29. This sets the stage (pun intended) for Vera to delver one of the best lines in the play by stating that she is glad that she never set aside any money.

The rest of the story is that The Crash also comes soon after prim-and-proper orphaned nephew Patrick and his frumpy nanny Agnes Gooch (Jane Connell) come to live with his auntie. The foresight of his late father allows Patrick to attend a respectable boarding school and largely avoid the bad influence of his only living relative. 

Meanwhile, Lucy puts her brand of comedy to good use as Mame is required to cut back and to attempt several jobs to keep the roof of her luxurious townhouse over her head. This quest for full employment brings her in contact with future husband/savior Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, "Music Man" Robert Preston, who is best-known to modern audiences for his role in "Victor/Victoria," excels in every aspect of his performance as Beauregard. He gets the bonus of performing "Loving You," which is written for the film. 

Lucy again shines on her trip to the Burnside plantation to meet the mother (Lucille Benson) of Beauregard. Hilarity ensues when a woman scorned and general southern hostility toward damn Yankees combine to set up Mame for a fall. However, that New Yorker wins over the crowd by showing that she is more than a one-trick pony. This leads to the chorus singing the title song that lauds the titular free spirit.

A notable segment that follows is a montage that shows Patrick first growing from a cute and studious lad to a dreamy horndog high school boy and then a skirt-chasing college man. A very cute Bruce Davison of 258 IMDb credits plays that version of Patrick. 

This maturity sets the stage for the final conflict. Patrick is engaged to textbook WASP woman Gloria Upson from Connecticut. This Junior League stereotype and her family are ultra-conservative to the extent of only barely concealing their prejudices. Of course, this does not sit well with bon vivant Mame,