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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

'In Her Name' DVD: Compelling Ripped From Headlines Docudrama on Case of Rape-Murder of 14 Year-Old Girl

Icarus Films awesomely blurs the line between its history distributing "innovative and provocative" documentaries and its current mission of releasing DVDs (including documentaries) of "films from independent producers worldwide" with the January 16, 2018 release of the 2016 docudrama "In Her Name" (nee "Kalinka").

The "docu" part comes from basing the film on the real-life 30-year campaign of accountant Andre Bamberski (Daniel Auteuil) to have the French legal system hold Dr. Dieter Krombach responsible for  the rape and murder of the then 14-year old daughter of Bamberski.

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Name" looks like a promo. for a major Hollywood thriller because the real events are straight out of that genre. They also show that there is not always a difference between fact and fiction.

The trifecta of globally related elements make this one very relevant to every viewer. The sexual violation and related killing of a young teen girl sadly is relatively common. The associated elements of the rapist-killer being both a stepfather and someone with whom Andre spouse Dany had an affair also is not unheard of. The final aspect of this is Andre never giving up his cause despite all that it costs him. In other words, most of these actual events are not unique either to this case or to the countries in which they occur.

The film starting near the end of the story with the modern-day arrest of Andre for taking the law into his own hands is an example of a pet peeve of film critic Leonard Maltin; Maltin is critical of what he thinks is virtually every film made during the past few years starting with a dramatic scene and quickly cutting to another scene with an inter-title along the lines of "two weeks ago."

In the case of "Name," the action shifts from 2012 to 1974. Writer-director Vincent Garenq legitimately does so to strike the proper balance between exposition and quickly grabbing the audience. This relates to providing folks who do not know this story information about how the relationship between Dieter and Dany leads to the rape-murder.

The flashback brings us to 1974 Morocco where the young daughter of Dieter and her classmate Kalinka Bamberski are friends. Dieter soon seduces Dany into including benefits in their friendship, and she subsequently confesses that affair. That adultery prompts the Bamberskis to move back to France. A creepy scene as they are preparing to leave Morocco provides the first sense that the evil side of Dieter extends beyond seducing a married woman.

The affair (and the deception) continuing leads to the Bamberskis divorcing. The circumstances of the events that trigger the 30-year quest of Andre are shocking and sadly relatable. He knows that Kalinka and her brother are in Germany with their mother and now step-father Dieter. He does not expect to get a telephone call telling him that Kalinka is dead.

This is akin to a relative either suddenly getting sick or going into the hospital and then dying either during the proceeding or in the period following that stay. The story almost always either is that the doctors do not know what occurred or that they do know but they are not negligent.

Andre learns on arriving in Germany that the cause of death is unknown; he is told that Kalinka is discovered the morning after an uneventful night and that Dieter is asserting to have given her injections and taken other measures to save her.

Andre pushing hard to get the autopsy report both provides more information regarding the condition of Kalinka at the time of her death and indications that that exam is incomplete. The strong implication is that the medical examiner is protecting one of his own.

This leads to 30 years of Andre seeking to hold Dieter responsible only to always have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory; this includes obtaining a favorable judgment from a French court only to have it not be enforced and a German court proceeding regarding a teenage girl accusing Dieter of a similar form of rape as Kalinka only resulting in jail time through the relentless efforts of Andre.

These efforts and Andre constantly petitioning the court system and government officials for relief deplete both his financial resources and his personal relationships. This puts him in good company with countless real, reel, real-reel crusaders who continue pursuing a just and righteous cause long after 99 percent of us would have abandoned it to preserve our assets, our connections with the important people in our lives, and our sanity.

Andre hiring thugs to grab Dieter and essentially drop him at the door of the police station leads to the events from the opening minutes of "Name." We then see Andre as a guest of the state and facing several years of incarceration for doing what seems to be the job of the legal system.

Both modern filmmaking and the common flaws of legal systems around the world make it equally likely to those who do not know the actual events that inspire the movie that Andre will be a martyr, that Dieter will be jailed for his crimes, or that there will be some combination of the two. You need to watch to find out but are sure to feel emotion regardless of the conclusion,

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

'Coffee House Chronicle: The Movie' DVD: Boys and Men Meeting Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now Over Java

The Dekkoo Films December 5, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 comedy "Coffee House Chronicles: The Movie" makes a great companion to the TLA Releasing October 2017 DVD release of the (soon-to-be-reviewed) S1 of the web series "I'm Fine." Both productions focus on the heart and the humor of gay dating in the 2010s.

"Chronicles" consists of episodes of the anthology web series of the same name. Proof that these tales of the city are true includes a real story of an in-person meeting after connecting on Craigslist ending on the second person to arrive at the restaurant immediately stating that he is leaving, throwing money on the table, and walking out.

The following YouTube clip of a "Chronicles" trailer seemingly includes scenes from all 10 vignettes in the film; every gay man watching should see himself and/or someone in his life in most of them.

The stereotypes in this witty series begin with a nice-looking 30-ish man arriving for a date with a man from an online dating app. Efforts to avoid the equally stereotypical effeminate white man idiotically smiling and frantically waving fail. This queen literally latches onto the man who is expecting a masculine black man. This leads to a hilarious joke about misleading online profiles and the pest apparently losing his African-American heritage.

We later separately meet the same couple in equally relatable stories. The dupe learns the value of getting to know a man before being on the receiving end of both forms of sodomy, and the queen shows the value of a promise of exceptional sex.

The opening segment reflects one of the sad but funny truths about online gay dating; many men assume that a profile understates weight by at least 10 pounds and age by at least 5 years. This is not to mention profile pictures often being at least five years old. All of this regularly leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy of posting misleading profiles; the silly aspect of this is that the ugly truth comes out when a meeting occurs.

Speaking of misstating ages, the arguably best (and best acted) segment in "Chronicles" centers around a high-school boy whose online profile grossly exaggerates his age meeting a man whose profile shaves a few years off of his page. Their rationales for lying reflect the hazards of being truthful in that matter.

More depth comes in the form of the cute and likable boy wanting experience with someone who knows what he is doing, and the man wanting to be a positive (not in THAT way) influence on the boy. The adorable and tempting efforts of the boy to get the man to make him a man and the responses of the man to that campaign perfectly reflect that theme. The age and sexuality based hostility that the pair experiences merely for talking in public contributes additional reality.

More reality comes in the form of a gay man learning the harsh truth about a gay porn star. Although somewhat different, it is comparable to seeing late-80s gay porn star Jeff Stryker shirtless and sporting an obvious spray tan standing outside a theater begging folks to buy tickets for his live show. Making eye contact prompted his offering to pose for a nude photo, a reply asking which of us would be nude prompted laughing.

The scope of "Chronicles" extends to an amusing scene centered around transsexuals; the message here is that transitioning does not change much regarding dating attitudes.

The appeal of all this to gay men is that it both is cathartic and shows that common bad dating experiences are tragic when they happen to you and funny when they happen to someone else.

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

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

'PReeXisting Conditions (Trashology 2)' BD: Gross-Out Cross-Dressing Comedy Keeps Waters Spirit Alive

The Olive Films January 30, 2018 Blu-ray release of the pure indie 2015 comedy "PReeXisting Conditions (Trashology 2)" is another example of Olive introducing an obscure film that most of us miss at the theater. "Conditions" can be considered the homage of writer/director star Brian Dorton to King of Filth John Waters and ground-breaking (oft-cross-dressing) Canadian comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall. The Blu-ray cover art mimicking the famous "Brady Bunch" opening credits by putting images of the freaks who inhabit the "Conditions" world can be also be consider a nod to a North American classic.

Although watching "Trashology" helps follow the action in "Conditions," doing so is far from crucial.

The following YouTube clip of the "Conditions" trailer excels regarding the purposes of these promos by perfectly presenting the themes and the tone of the film.

Dorton plays comically big-boobed red neon-haired white trash Katrina; her best friend is big-boobed green neon-haired white trash Melissa.  Their "novel" adventures begin with Melissa getting excited about her record-breaking six-month anniversary dating boyfriend Carl. The girls going to visit Mr. Right leads to one of their first adventures that requires that Melissa must decide whether to stand by her man or to create a who's Sony now situation.

An attempted sexual assault (involving large jugs) at a grocery store sets the primary action in the film in motion. The would-be-assailant and his buddy tracking down the girls leads to an incident that causes the women to flee.

Meanwhile the black friend of the girls Clitty Hyman has her own man trouble.  A redneck is delighting in driving up to Clitty and making nasty racial comments followed by pelting her with fried chicken or watermelon. This woman subsequently taking the five-second rule to its ultimate degree is one of the most gross-out moments in this film that revels in being disgusting. Another memorable scene has a nun committing an almost vomit-inducing foul act. We further get a scene involving mishaps with a colonoscopy bag.

The literal door-to-door adventures in the film bring in another cult-comedy element by evoking thoughts of the "Harold and Kumar" franchise. These include seeking refuge at the home of a wheelchair-bound elderly woman with her own female troubles.

All of these elements (including the ensemble aspect) give "Conditions" a strong vibe of a subversive sketch series by a cast who are in it for the love of the game and who revel in creating shock value in an era in which we think that we have seen it all until watching this film.

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

Monday, January 29, 2018

'Belle Epoque' BD: Oscar-Winning Tale of Love and Lust During the Spanish Civil War

The Olive Films January 30, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1992 Penelope Cruz Romance-Comedy-Drama "Belle Epoque" gives those of us in the frozen 2/3 of the US a much-need witty and charming tale literally set in the sunny Spanish countryside. As is always the case, Olive chooses well regarding upgrading this beautifully filmed movie in Blu-ray. It looks and sounds mahvelous, simply mahvelous.

The more than 20 major formal accolades for this tale of deserting soldier Fernando and the four objects of his affection set during the '30s era "troubles" in Spain include the 1994 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and the 1995 BAFTA for Best Film not in the English Language. Informal accolades include "Epoque" evoking strong thoughts of the awesome novels of Spanish-in-spirit authors Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Llossa Vargas. It also has shades of more American author John Irving.

This fable by director Fernando Trueba and writer Rafael Azcona awesomely opens with a POV shot of a car approaching a suitcase in the middle of the road; the father-in-law and son-in-law soldiers stopping to investigate and soon catching AWOL Fernando leads to a wonderfully bizarre exchange about the national state of affairs and pragmatic considerations related to Team Republic member Fernando. This interaction concludes with an accident that is a great example of the perverse dark humor that greatly contributes to enjoying "Epoque."

Fernando finding himself at a brothel where a warm bed seems to appeal to him more than the company that comes with the fee for the nightly lodging begins his friendship with middle-aged landowner/artist Manolo, who sees his younger self in this rebel. Suffice it to say that these men learn that politics make strange bedfellows.

Fernando subsequently finds refuge at Casa Manolo in exchange for companionship and cooking. The wiser and older member of this domestic partnership supports Fernando moving onto Madrid just as the four daughters of Manolo are coming for a visit. However, seeing what he would be missing out on prompts Fernando to extend his visit.

Eldest daughter Clara is a widow who enters that state due to a terrifically quirky accident that seems destined to repeat itself during the film; Violeta has a personality that reflects largely absent wannabe operetta star mother Amalia raising her as a boy, engaged in a pending marriage of convenience Rocio, and "baby of the family" Luz (Cruz).

Fernando has wonderfully quirky trysts with each of the three older sisters, and Luz seems destined to miss her turn. The one with Violeta easily is the most bizarre and mutually fulfilling. This intercourse also prompts Manolo to lament that he is gaining a son-in-law and losing a mutually exclusive friend.

For his part, Manolo has a rather unique condition that prevents committing adultery despite Amalia spending most of her time travelling in pursuit of stardom. However, her visiting with her sugar daddy/lover does not stop her from vigorously fulfilling her wifely duties for a delighted Manolo despite this comically frustrating her benefactor with benefits.

Other wackiness enters the picture in the form of the aforementioned fiance goofily trying to lose his religion and take other frantic action to obtain the affection and the related hand of Rocio. This also brings his very proper mother and a not-so-proper priest into the action.

All of this occurs in the context of uncertainty regarding the nature of the government in the near future and even how long any change in that system will endure. The sense that Spain becoming a Republic will lead to a free-for-all also plays a role. This particularly is true near the end of the film when all concerned truly believe that making up the rules as you go along is fine.

All of this wackiness and great fun at the expense of a country in turmoil shows that silliness always is fun and that people should not get hung up on political ideologies. This is not to mention the wisdom of recognizing that what leaders or system calls the shots does not matter very much.

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

Saturday, January 27, 2018

'Robot Wars' DVD: Bringing Cogswell Cogs/Spacely Space Sprockets Feud to Next Level

The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD of the 2016 film "Robot Wars" shows that Breaking does dystopoian post-apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers as well as it does gay-themed films and other quirky indie art-house fair. In other words, art richly trumps commerce with these guys.

The best way to describe this awesomely unique film is that it is a successful mash-up between the cult classic '80s scifi film/television series "Max Headroom" and the space-age cartoon "The Jetsons." Human existence is comparable to the world of "Max" in which large corporations control every aspect of our lives, fringe elements of society aptly live in a harsh desert wasteland on the edge of the "civilized world," and invasive Borg-like tech. allows us to be monitored.

The overall brighter world of "The Jetsons" comes into play regarding the ruthless corporate espionage that makes the dirty tactics employed by business rivals Spacely Space Sprockets and Cogswell Cogs look like child's play. In the case of "Wars," the Milipore corporation is the target of the nefarious doings.

"Wars" starts out like more traditional caper/government shenanigans flicks in that Billy is serving a torturous prison sentence for a heist gone wrong. Salvation with a price comes in the form of ladder-climbing "suit" Jules approaching him with an offer of release from his unfortunate incarceration in exchange for participating in the theft of undisclosed tech. from Milipore.

Billy learning that the nefarious Decker who is his Fagin is part of the rogue's gallery that is committing the crime solves the "why him" mystery regarding the recruitment of Billy. The other participants are security tech. whiz Kyle and innocent Natalie, who aspires to be like Jules.

The typical things that go wrong during such ventures leads to our gang taking off across the aforementioned wasteland with the bulky (and still undisclosed) tech. in tow. The motivation to continue hauling booty under these adverse circumstances include the promise of an unpleasant termination in the case of a failure to deliver the goods.

The resulting mayhem includes threats from without and within, a shaky alliance with a former literal partner-in-crime of Billy, and discovering the true nature of the purloined tech. In other words, another day at the office in this bleak reality.

Increasingly frayed nerves, frustration regarding the aforementioned betrayals, shifting alliances, and entertainingly limited budget effects add to the fun of this homage to the scifi of the '80s and the early '90s before advanced CGI established the norm.

It is equally refreshing that, famously ala "Seinfeld," no one in "Wars" is particularly likable and definitely is not someone you would bring home to meet the parents. At the same time, like "Seinfeld," you feel sympathy when someone literally gets fried.

The extras include a "making of" feature and a trailer for the similar "The Men Who Fell" film by "Wars writer/director William L. Stewart.

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

Friday, January 26, 2018

'The Hanging Tree' BD: Final Gary Cooper Western

The Warner Archive January 23, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1959 drama "The Hanging Tree" illustrates one of the top 10 Archive attributes; this release and other film and television Westerns in the Archive catalog show that this genre has far more depth than saloon fights and cattle stampedes. The broader lesson is to not rule out any category of film until you watch at least one from it.

The Western vibe is particularly strong in the opening scenes in which stranger Dr. Joseph Frail (Gary Cooper in his last starring role in a Western) rides into 1870s Montana gold camp Skull Creek and engages in an abbreviated negotiation for a cabin; his rejection of an offer to buy a woman for $5 but soon turning attempted thief Rune (Ben Piazza) into his indentured house boy is open to interpretation.

An early indication of drama is when Frail violently responds when a townsfolk who knows the past of that medical practitioner makes a derisive comment regarding an incident; we also learn early on that Frail is an expert marksman and plays poker well.

Other locals include unstable miner Frenchy Plante (Karl Malden) and faith healer/preacher/alcoholic George Grubb (George C. Scott in his first film role).

Western style romance enters the picture when Frail provides Swiss immigrant/stagecoach accident victim Elizabeth Mahler (Maria Schell) long-tern care. The threats during this convalescence include the risk of Frenchy taking the virtue of Elizabeth and the proper women of the community robbing Frail of his not-so-bad name.

A cute scene in which Elizabeth rids through town telling everyone whom she sees her name creates hope of her adding "You killed my father. Prepare to die."

The saga continues with Elizabeth and Rune striking out on their own with hopes of finding a literal gold mine. A "Great Expectations" element enters the picture via Elizabeth having a secret benefactor and reacting strongly on learning the identity of that angel.

This portion of the film further provides a maturity test; the extent to which a viewer finds repeated references to a glory hole humorous determines the extent to which he or she has the mentality of a 12 year-old boy.

Although the titular execution spot literally and figuratively remains in the background throughout much of the film, it becomes the main arena of action during the climax that is a perfect example of mob mentality. These events additionally include a cynical message regarding crime and punishment as well as ill will toward your fellow man and woman.

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

'Judgment Night' DVD: Three Men and a Baby Brother Inner City Nightmare

The Warner Archive January 23, 2018 DVD release of the 1993 urban drama "Judgment Night" being "a night in the life of" film makes it a great companion to the Archive release the same day of the (reviewed) '90s "night in the life of" film "SubUrbia."

Both movies reflect the existential crisis theme that is common in indie and indieish movies of the era. The recent high school graduate slackers in "SubUrbia" contemplate their most likely miserable future; the 30-something yuppies in "Judgment" reflect on whether they have gone soft while nocturnally trying to flee a psychotic drug dealer.

Considering that former brat packer Emilio Estevez stars in "Judgment" as Francis "Frank" Wyatt, it is apt that this film plays out like a dark and perverse version of an '80s John Hughes film. Young executive Frank, his two comparably successful buddies, and little brother John Wyatt (Stephen Dorff) live in upscale Chicago suburb Evanston.

Aptly cast Jeremy Piven plays obnoxious/weak link Ray Cochran, who provides many of the catalysts in this twisted tale of a boys' night gone wrong. This begins with Cochran pulling up to Chez Wyatt in a massive luxurious RV that he deceptively obtains.

The boys board the gas guzzler to attend a boxing match in Chicago. Heavy traffic en route first leads to the preliminary bout of the evening that also provides the first of many machismo tests.

Highly impulsive Ray then recklessly drives in an effort to circumvent the gridlock; this results in the boys getting lost in the inner city.

Subsequent callous disregard for common sense by Ray triggers events that result in the boys incurring the wrath of aforementioned pusher Fallon (Denis Leary). This in turn leads to a video-game style hot pursuit through neighborhoods that the future Masters of the Universe would never knowingly or willingly enter any time of the day or night despite the provided perspective that they are within 10 miles of their homes.

The first segment is one of the best and most humorous; our chums find themselves at the mercy of a modern-day Boxcar Willie and his entourage while Fallon searches the rail yard in a highly "Warriors; come out and plaaay" manner. One difference is that Fallon is looking to put a cap in a dome, rather than a Louisville Slugger up a butt.

The chase then progresses to a public housing project where the residents are reluctant to help. This leads to another incident in which Ray demonstrates a lack of character.

Out cats and mice move into the sewer, where the boys reach an shaky agreement that a male must reach a point where he decides if he is a man or a mouse; this leads to the prey being more willing to shoot back at the hunter.

The final showdown occurs in a large store where the boys have an awesome moment of glee in which it seems that they will enjoy an escape by cop. That not working out leads to the inevitable mano-a-mano showdown between Frank and Fallon. The significance of this includes whether Frank still is a man despite his now comfortable and violent confrontation free existence.

This being Hollywood ensures that Frank provides Fallon every chance to walk away as unbloodied as possible; the flip side of this is that the lingering effects of the Hays Code requires that Fallon leave the store either in handcuffs or a body bag.

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

'The Misguided' Theatrical and VOD: Australian 'Trainspotting'

Early Autumn and Indie Rights provide Los Angeles audiences (and VOD sofa spuds) a chance to see an entertaining quirky Australian dramedy by premiering the dramedy "The Misguided" at the Arena Cinelounge on January 26, 2018. This character study of two drug-indulging 20-something brothers and the woman in their lives is a good throwback to the indie films of the '90s. It also shows that some themes span the globe.

The desperate times of college dropout/low-level drug dealer Levi require the desperate measure of moving in with recovering addict brother Wendel. The skirt enters the picture in the form of Wendel ex-girlfriend Sanja coming around to collect her car that Wendel still has several weeks after their breakup. This visit is the catalyst for the Levi and Sanja to commence their relationship with strong Freudian overtones.

The manner in which Levi returns the car to Sanja further creates a rift between him and Wendel; the general idea is that this violates the bros before whoes principle that governs friendships between men who do not have the same parents.

Wonderful humor comes in the form of Wendel delighting in reminding Levi where Sanja has previously put her tongue and that Levi is inserting himself in orifices that Wendel has utilized. These exchanges also set the stage for a remark regarding which sibling is the bigger man. Thees post-adolescents further delight in discussing what paying the bills might require.

A tried-and-true dramatic plot involves a relapse by Wendel requiring that Levi conduct the experiment of whether blood is thicker than water. This coinciding with Levi and Sanja being on the cusp of escaping family dramas regarding both their clans enhances the tension.

As indicated above, the appeal of this tale of "Misguided" post-adolescents is that their stories are relatable. Many guys who struggle with becoming adults determine that drugs solve a multitude of problems, Another aspect of this is that "good" girls often feel impulses to rebel, to see the good in men who do not fit well in polite society, and to save these misfits.

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

Thursday, January 25, 2018

'SubUrbia' DVD: Bogosian's and Linklater's 'Slacker II'

Warner Archive goes awesomely Hollywood-friendly edgy regarding the January 23, 2018 DVD release of the 1996 disaffected youth dramedy "SubUrbia." This tale of a night in the life of a group of post-adolescent losers in a (mostly likely Texas) bedroom community is the product of the dark social commentary dream team of director Richard Linklater and writer Eric Bogosian based on the Bogosian play of the same name.

Both men have strong track records for revealing the plight of the every post-adolescent male in an increasingly solitary society; Linklater is particularly skilled at showing how our friends become our family, including regular swift shifts between love and intense hate.

The following YouTube clip of the "SubUrbia" trailer highlights the strengths of the aforementioned collaborators and provides a good sense of the themes of the film.

"SubUrbia" makes excellent use of the quirky (largely indie) young actors of the day. We see Giovanni's Ribisi in his role as apparently unemployed guy Jeff living in a pup tent in the garage of his mother; Steve Zahn plays stoner pizza guy Buff, who will make you think several times about ever ordering that delicacy again. We also get Parker Posey doing her thing as hip record company producer Erica.

The rest of the ensemble includes Nicky Katt as psychotically angry young man Tim and vaguely Tom Petty looking Jayce Bartok as local boy made good as indie rock singer Pony.

The evening commences with the locals following their habit of congregating in the parking lot of a local convenience store that a Pakistani couple owns. The tension between hard-working engineering student Nazeer and Tim is particularly strong regarding this chronic trespassing. In typical Bogosian style, this conflict escalates to a threat of serious violence on a couple of occasions.

Pony pulling up post-concert in his limousine is another catalyst for trauma and drama. Although he is surprisingly chill for an early 20-something guy with fame and fortune, this arrival triggers intense feelings among his former classmates. His horribly trite lyrics, such as a song about a mini-van crash, contribute good humor.

The angst of Jeff relates both to having a disputed level of involvement in the early music career of Pony and anger regarding Pony asserting that his songs explain hidden truths. Tim mainly sees Pony as another rich guy flaunting his wealth.

For their part, Buff and group mascot Suze are excited to have a friend who has made good in their presence. Older and wiser viewers will feel sympathy for this pair regarding sincere (but almost certainly unfulfilled) promises of employment as a video producer and album cover artist.

The complete lack of any parental involvement or other guidance in the lives of these slackers is an obvious theme No one seems to care that their lives are going nowhere or even that they literally spend the entire night either driving around or hanging out in a parking lot. Nazeer provides commentary on this aspect of American culture in specifically noting how he will be leaving the group behind and in responding to Buff stating that that fast-food worker is going to Los Angeles that that city has plenty of convenience store parking lots where he can hang out.

The bigger picture in the 20 years since the theatrical release of "SubUrbia" is that a complex factors have made a significant percentage of the "have nots" resent the "haves" merely for "having." No reasonable person believes that building a good career is easy, but it is equally fair to say that achieving success (or simply being born into wealth) is an invalid basis for scorn.

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Modest Out Filmmaker Michael Williams Shows Dividends of Solid Upbringing

Online correspondence with producer/director/writer/cinematographer Michael Williams of Mississippi-based Shendopen Films since reviewing his "Others" like 2017 suspense horror film "The Atoning" provided a strong sense that this 30 year-old talent represented the best qualities of independent filmmakers and that he was living a well-deserved happy life. It was equally clear that his mama raised the boy right.

Williams subsequently sharing his (also reviewed) 2014 post-apocalyptic dust bowl drama "Ozland" further cemented our friendship. The central "Of Mice and Men" relationship and the themes of looking for a better place in a dystopian society and of ascension prompted good relatively deep dialogue. Lighter correspondence revealed that his talented "nephew" Mick played Toto in the film.

A terrific telephone conversation with Williams earlier this week confirmed that he is one of the good ones. His offering exclusive photos for this article was the icing on the cake.

A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man 

The quality in both senses of that term of "Atoning" and "Ozland" makes it clear that the filmmaking skill of Williams comes from within; his cinematography on "Ozland" alone creates intense excitement regarding a possible Blu-ray release of that film.

Williams shared that his parents and his teachers at Oak Hill Academy facilitated (rather than encouraged) his interest in film. He provided the general example of receiving permission to prepare video projects, rather than assigned written reports. A specific example was his group making a film instead of writing about "The Red Badge of Courage."

Williams added that Oak Hill excused him from fulfilling graduation duties that conflicted with a film festival. This festival subsequently benefiting his career reinforced that value of that accommodation.

Parental support came in the form of being happy so long as Williams got a college degree in "something;" his earning the Top Film Student Award for 2009 from the University of Southern Mississippi is one of many indications that letting him do his own thing paid off.

Flattery Through Awesome Imitation

The aforementioned similarities between "Atoning" and "The Others" and the common elements between "Ozland" and both its stated source material and the Steinbeck story "Of Mice and Men" opened the door to discussing whether Williams watched "Oz" and "Others" with thoughts of how he would have made those films.

Williams responded that he had forgotten about "Others" until he was 1/2 through filming "Atoning." He added that he "was more inspired by 'Beetlejuice;' I have loved it since I was five years-old." He also stated that he has always loved "Oz." The appeal of "Beetlejuice" related to depicting the life of the haunter, rather than that of the haunted.

On a more general note, Williams stated that he based the well-filmed highly atmospheric style of "Atoning" on "Insidious." The exclusive images below from the filming of "Atoning" nicely illustrate that style.

The "scoop" of the interview came when Williams stated that an episode of the television series "Ancient Aliens" inspired "Ozland." The theme of that offering was that aliens coming to earth may assume that any novel that they discover is a true story. Williams stated as well that "in the creation of 'Ozland,' I tried to stay away from the movie." He did state that the flying monkeys from the Disney film "Oz the Great and Powerful" inspired (successfully) making an even scarier monkey for his movie.

Being an Out Religious Southern Man

An enviable relationship with freshly graduated commercial interior design student Cody Moore, an equally strong bond with his family, and being an active church goer all contribute to Williams being the good guy that comes across in his films. It seemed just as clear that the relationship with Moore provided the incentive to risk his closeness with his relatives and his church by coming out.

Williams shared that a prior relationship prompted coming out to a few close friends, one of whom subsequently rejected him. He added that he and Moore had dated for 10 months before Williams came out to his family (who already had a good sense of the importance of Moore) and his community-at-large.

The strong support of the community for "Ozland" and "Atoning" compounded the fear of Williams that these people who meant so much to him would reject him for being gay. His positive simple statement regarding all the people in his life was that "I realized that no one really cares, with a few exceptions."

Further hearing that Williams "can be out in public as a filmmaker [in Mississippi] and as a church member" was very nice. The fact that Williams scheduled our interview to not conflict with attending church and having lunch with his family during the week perfectly illustrated this.

An amusing aspect of this related to discussing that Garry Marshall determined that his marriage benefited from his staying at a hotel whenever he made a film, even if he was shooting in Los Angeles. Williams lightheartedly responded that Moore did not like the manifestations of the stress that "Movie Mike" experiences during a shoot. Not probing any further seemed best.

"Ozland" As Gay Allegory

Although emphasizing that he purposefully makes films with general themes and does not center them around gay characters. Williams shared that "Ozland" reflected some of his personal thoughts at the time of making that film. He noted that the big-brother/protector character Emri discussed whether he ever would find someone to love.

This led to Williams politely stating that he was "very adamant that these are not homosexual characters" and then stating that "I hate society not allowing love without a perception of sexuality." In this case, the love between Emri and his naive fellow drifter Leif was of the brotherly variety.

Williams added that another "Ozland" theme was that there always was common ground.

Although not discussed, the perception that Emri and Leif were gay extended beyond naughty thoughts regarding two good-looking young guys essentially isolated on a desert island. Many gay men fantasize about a handsome Mr. Right who either does not ridicule us for fearing witches and flying monkeys and cares enough to get furious when we are life-threatening stupid or who still is so innocent that thoughts of these creatures create terror. This particularly comes through in a scene in which Emri does a hilarious imitation of the tin man out of love for Leif.

Working With 'Innocents'

The performance of child actor Cannon Bosarge being a highlight of "Atoning" and 20-something Zack Ratkovich doing a superb job as Leif in "Ozland" prompted asking Williams about his secret for getting good performances out of "innocents." It turns out that it comes down to a talent for casting.

Williams quickly replied that he could not take credit for Bosarge; he noted that he first cast that tween thespian in a short film in 2012 or 2013 and had him in mind when writing the role of Sam in "Atoning." Williams emphasized that he still required that Bosarge audition for the role of Sam.

Specific praise included statements such as that Williams "can talk to Cannon like an adult" and noting that Bosarge is "on point more than some adult actors." Cuteness entered the picture when Williams commented that he would see Bosarge be focused while acting but revert to being a kid by doing things such as playing a bottle flipping game in the corner during a break.

The behind-the-scenes photo below relates to an adorable scene in which a gleeful Sam makes pancakes, oblivious to his trashing the kitchen and ending up with inedible results.

Regarding Ratkovich, Williams shared that that actor won him over by reading a monologue about the Wicked Witch in a manner that convinced Williams that Ratkovich believed in the witch. Williams also stated that the preparation of Ratkovich included studying YouTube videos of the reactions of 8-to-12 year-old kids at birthday parties.

One can only hope that Williams gets inspired to make a "Freaky Friday" body-switching film that casts Ratkovich and Bosarge as the (young) father-and-son.

What's Next 

Well-earned admiration for Williams prompted asking about plans for releasing a collection of his short films; he responded that he considered releasing those movies as DVD extras on apt feature films. The provided example was including his 25-minute 2013 super-hero "Kane" with a full-length film from that genre if he ever made one.

Williams reported that a few scripts that he had written were not ready to produce. The better news was that a film titled "Antler" that Williams described as an "E.T." style thriller was progressing.

Williams further expressed interest in making more music videos. The following YouTube video of his very recent work (featuring Bosarge as a Popcorn Kid) in this area provides proof of the good instincts of Williams regarding this genre.

A more immediate project makes excellent use of the cinematography skills of Williams; he is fresh off working under BombCyclone conditions as a crew member of "Driven" by Emri portrayor Glenn Payne. This dark psychological drama hopefully will see the light of day this summer.

Good News and Bad News

The good news regarding the prolific-by-30 career of Williams is that we can look forward to several more decades of him making quality films in a kind-and-gentle manner. The bad news is that well-deserved success MAY result in commerce playing a larger role than art in his film. One can only hope that taking the boy out of Mississippi does not take the Mississippi out of the boy.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

'Bucky & The Squirrels' Theatrical: 'The Monkees' Meets 'Captain America'

Dauntless Studios boldly goes totally retro regarding a limited-theater run of the mockumentary "Bucky & the Squirrels" on January 26, 2018 before a broader roll-out. The vintage vibe extends well beyond the central story of the titular one-hit-wonder '60s rock band effectively returning from the dead after 50 years. Sitcom veteran Allan Katz, whose credits include Emmy-nominated writing for "M*A*S*H," brings old-school humor into a buzzkill "that's not funny" era. An inadvertent aspect of this is a Harvey Weinstein joke that relates to his Hollywood power in this production that predates his downfall.

The following YouTube clip of the "Squirrels" trailer provides a strong sense of both the amusing concept of the film and the celebrity cameos.

A non-controversial aspect of the film relates to Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin playing large "reel" and "real" roles in this film about the equally neutral concept of the titular Appleton-based band just hitting it big with "Do the Squirrel" in 1968 when the crash of a small plane in the Alps apparently provides a classic rock star death. The discovery (and subsequent defrosting) of the Flash-Frozen Four in 2017 drives the film. A notable omission regarding Appleton is that a list of celebrity natives does not include Edna Garrett of "The Facts of Life."

Other good non-offensive humor comes in the form of segments on the backstory of the group. A hilariously awful modern-day high school video project on the group is a highlight. Additionally, we see the full charm of the band in a clip of a 1968 appearance on an "American Bandstand" style show in which awesomely named host Dave Madden, which is the name of the actor who plays the manager on "The Partridge Family," interviews the clowning boys.

Casual sitcom/kids' shows fans will easily see "The Monkees" in "Squirrels." More hardcore folks will recognize the '70s-era "The Kids From C.A.P.E.R." (Civilian Authority for the Protection of Everyone Regardless). The "C.A.P.E.R." vibe extends beyond both groups being more goofy than the Prefab Four to a particularly strong similarity regarding the shy blonde Squirrels drummer and Doomsday, a "Kid" who literally can talk to animals.

The aforementioned offensive-to-some element enters the picture during the rehab of the boys; their displaying strong mental disability symptoms is amusing to varying degrees and definitely does not endear Katz to advocates of folks with cognitive difficulties. Examples of this humor include a zombie-like race with a chocolate bar as the prize with a Squirrel ultimately rubbing this treat on his face and a separate trip to an ice cream parlor in which one of the boys cannot decide on which flavor that he wants and subsequently predictably drops his cone on the floor.

The fact that the humor of  "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which is another series of which Katz is a veteran, includes jokes regarding Gordy the Weather Man being black demonstrates that offensiveness and funny are not mutually exclusive; the issue is that many folks in 2018 simply lack a sense of humor regarding topics that strike a nerve with them.

An actual MTM joke regarding assuming that Gordy is a sportscaster because he is black (but that does not claim that he is not a qualified weatherman) is funny and appropriate for reasons that include making the person who makes that assumption seem foolish. A PURELY hypothetical joke that Gordy was late for work because he missed his bus stop because he was sitting in back and could not get to the front before the bus pulled away would not have been funny or appropriate. It also likely would have led to cancelling the series in 2018.

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

Monday, January 22, 2018

'In Search of Fellini' DVD Rory Goes to Rome

The joint Ambi Films-Samuel Goldwyn Company dramedy joint "In Search of Fellini" fills the gap regarding the lack of a woman in search of fulfillment travelogue this award films season. This film, which has a January 23 2018 DVD release date, also follows the tradition of Gidget and Benji (sadly) separately going to Rome in the '60s and the '70s respectively. For reasons that become apparent below, "Fellini" can be considered Rory Gilmore goes to Rome.

 It is especially cool that Bart Simpson voice-actor Nancy Cartwright bases her "Fellini" screenplay on her own experience travelling to Italy in hope of meeting the titular filmmaker. One spoiler is that this Italian adventure of Cartwright does not involve discovering that Sideshow Bob is the government head of an Italian village.

The very strong "Gilmore Girls" vibe of "Fellini" relates to high-school outcast Claire Cunningham (Maria Bello of "A History of Violence" and "Coyote Ugly") being social enough to become a single teen-age mother. She raises her daughter Lucy in relative isolation that includes shielding this offspring from every unpleasant aspect of life to the extent that pets do not die but do commence grand adventures from which they write postcards.

Claire facing the challenge of concealing her own terminal disease from her daughter prompts nudging Lucy into the real world in terms of a job and/or college. The first step regarding this is an amusing coaching session for a job interview for employment as a production assistant for an independent film company; folks who read between the lines of the ad for that position have their cynical thoughts confirmed.

Lucy taking her first tentative steps in the world lead to discovering the universe of Fellini; this inspires this girl whose prior travels likely do not exceed 10 miles from her home to travel by herself to Rome to meet the filmmaker.

This misadventures of this quasi-accidental tourist begin with finding herself in fair Verona and her luggage ending up in another EU country. Meeting a cute and charming Italian man leads to the flower of Lucy having a fate that is comparable to that of her suitcases.

Lucy ultimately finding herself in Rome provides an especially strong sense that she is no longer in Kansas and that any remaining virtue that she possesses faces mortal danger. The Fellini style surrealism regarding this leg of the journey is even more spectacular then the parallels between his work and the apparently star-crossed (sans "wacky misunderstanding" suicides) of the Verona romance of Lucy.

This quest to meet the Wizard concludes on Lucy finding herself at the door of his castle. The drama regarding this relates to whether Fellini is in, if he will grant her an audience, and if Lucy begins a journey home with the benefit of the wisdom of the Great and Powerful one of the Italian film world.

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

Sunday, January 21, 2018

'Spaceship' VOD: Alienated Teens Face Abduction

Breaking Glass Pictures boldly goes where few have gone before in releasing the British 2016 disaffected youth scifish drama "Spaceship" on VOD on December 12, 2017. This innovative flick tells the tale of cybergoth Lucidia, whose teen angst is enhanced by a history of her widowed distant archaeologist father Gabriel regularly uprooting her in her youth. The quantum of solace that Lucidia receives comes via her eclectic and mostly weird friends, who include a blue-haired quasi-vampire who leads her goth boyfriend around on an actual leash and delights in having him fetch dog toys.

The following YoutTube clip of a trailer for "Spaceship" highlights the psychedelic style surrealism of many scenes, the teen angst, and the scifi elements that writer-director Alex Taylor expertly blends.

The world of Lucidia is adequately weird before she dons a black cape and ascends to the roof of her school with an intent to defy gravity. She takes things further in mysteriously disappearing due to an apparent alien abduction.

These events require that Gabriel delve into the universe of his daughter; this includes learning more about this strange new world with elements of the aforementioned extra-terrestrial kidnapping, creatures of the night, and other mythical and/or magical beings.

Meanwhile, the audience knows the fate of Lucinda and the associated baggage. This fully explains her desire to disappear and ties into a mysterious spotting of a boy in an equally intriguing cave that is a final resting place for a relatively unknown population.

Although the scenes of the fringe culture with which Lucidia associates herself are the most intriguing and visually stunning in "Spaceship," the most likable moments are those in which we see her and her friends be typical teens. The most charming moment involves a cute boy-next-door type shooting baskets and telling Lucidia about his ambitious professional goal. A more amusing scene has an equally cute but edgier boy regaling fellow party goers with the tale of his history (including lacked items) with body piercings. These few minutes elicit several laughs and shows that even alternative teen boys are like other male adolescents at heart.

On a larger level, "Spaceship" is reminiscent of one of the best films in the impressive Breaking catalog and takes its theme one level deeper. The reviewed "Sins of Our Youth" starring Lucas Till of "MacGyver" and "The X Men" franchise centers around feral Las Vegas teen boys whose lack of parental supervision plays a huge role in the massive blunder that drives the film and the adolescent manner in which the lads handle the matter. The "Spaceship" cadets lead similar lives, but the difference is that bringing Gabriel into their world adds the element of a parent better understanding where their kids are at 10:00 and why they choose that path.

The even bigger picture is that there seems to be a direct correlation between the extent to which our lives are miserable and the degree to which fantasy plays a role in that existence. Societal examples of this are the trend a few years ago of real people donning superhero attire and fighting actual crime and the more recent fad of cons becoming more numerous and elaborate. This is not to mention cosplay of the human and domestic and woodland animal varieties playing an increasingly large role in the sexual activity of some people.

A simpler way of stating this is that a harsher reality typically leads to a deeper immersion into non-reality. This supports the argument that a current shortage of "unreal TV" on cable and broadcast networks plays a role in more people donning German Shepherd costumes to do it doggie style.

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

Saturday, January 20, 2018

'Women Without Men' DVD: Iranian Girl Power in Revolutionary Period

Indiepix Films chooses wisely in including the 2009 drama "Women Without Men" in the three separate releases that comprise a December 12, 2017 "Indiepix Festival Favorites" series. The other two (to-be-reviewed) films are the coming-of drama "I Believe in Unicorns" and "White Shadow" from executive producer Ryan Gosling.

The basis for labeling this movie that the DVD back cover aptly describes as "the story of four disparate women whose lives converge in a mystical orchard on the outskirts of Tehran" during "the political turmoil of Iran's 1953 coup d'etat" as a festival favorite includes numerous awards at those events. These include several wins at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.

The following YouTube clip of the official trailer for "Women" does a good job introducing the era of the film and the backgrounds of the titular females. It further achieves its purpose of compelling the viewer to want to see more.

The leader of "the four disparate women" is middle-aged Fakhri, who buys the "mystical orchard" after a chance encounter with her ex on his return from American prompts her to re-evaluate her already not-so-happy marriage to an Iranian general. That military leader nastily criticizing the West in general and the arts specifically (and making vicious remarks related to his wife being 50) finally breaks the back of the camel.

The younger women in the film are equally sympathetic. Munis is a politically aware 30-something "spinster" living under the oppression of her violence-prone brother Amir Khan, who treats her like a servant. His mistreatment extends to forcing her to look pretty for an unwanted suitor.

Fazeeh is a friend of Munis and is much more outspoken then her. This assertiveness extends to going outside without anything covering her face. Amir Khan expressing a very creepy romantic interest in Fazeeh contributes further drama.

The final member of the quartet of women "Without Men" is young prostitute Zarin. Seeing her life in the brothel that requires that she come and have sex with the next man in line as if she is being called on to help someone purchase clothing is very distressing.

Fakhri throwing a large lavish party to introduce her friends from her old life to her wonderful new one begins as a wonderful celebration of freedom; reality crashing in in the form of a large military invasion increasingly ruins the mood. The saddest part of this is that it indicates that harsh reality always will invade Utopia.

The more general message is that traditional values often clash with the rights of women; this still occurring (and promoting the exploitation of women) in every country shows that this story set 65 years ago in a repressive country still is highly relevant.

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

'Celling Your Soul: No App for Life' DVD: Very Timely Documentary on Only Communicating Digitally

[EDITOR'S NOTE: "Celling You Soul" currently only is available to educational markets but is being released to the general public in the not-to-distant future.]

The irony regarding abandoning the typical non-bloggy nature of reviews in this forum to get very bloggy regarding the Bullfrog Films production "Celling Your Soul: No App for Life" is that that film advocates inter-personal communication, rather than expressing yourself through digital forms that include online publications. More specifically, "Celling" writer/director Joni Siani (who is a Boston-area Media and Communication professor) instructs her students to conduct a digital cleanse that includes going cold turkey regarding online activity and texting. Candor requires being unable to not play online games, check Twitter, and conduct Google searches even while watching "Celling."

An amusing aspect of this is that the full-length version of "Celling" is 48 minutes, and the condensed version is 26 minutes. This reflects the text and vine-oriented short attention span of today. A two-hour movie is considered the general outer limit for length in the Nelson household; an agreement to watch a rare three-hour film often requires a pre-viewing agreement in which your not-so-humble reviewer consents to a mid-film break.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Celling" proves the adage about wisdom coming from the mouths of babes.

The root of this work by Siani is her realization that Millennials only know how to communicate via cell phones and the Internet. Her objectives include teaching the importance of face-to-face communication.

The spot-on analysis of Siani explains all this; the root of this evil largely relates to the need for community and for the instant gratification that online communication provides; I am confident that she will not "like" or "retweet" the 280-character online message related to this review and that her reason for doing is the pure one that she addresses in the film.

The next bloggy part of this post is a tale from roughly 2006. I had created a (subsequently deleted) Facebook account due to coercion by a techie friend. As he was inclined to do, this keyboard kid called my landline (which I still actively use) from his cell phone to say that he had posted an annual open-house style party that I attended every year and that he knew that I would attend that year. We went a few rounds of my telling him that I would attend and his demanding that I RSVP on Facebook. I ultimately relented but still believe that requiring that formal online response was absurd.

Of more relevance was hearing the college students of Siani and their literal or figurative high-school age siblings discuss texting being the highly dominant form of communication. An aspect of this was that making a call even on a cell phone was viewed as being limited to an emergency or other very rare circumstances.

Your not-so-humble reviewer feels that largely giving into the prohibition against making calls is losing one of the final battles to maintain civilization; the price of that was going from what once was a practice of short calls to what can be a seemingly endless round of "no, you hang up first" texts in which no one wants to be the rude dude who does not respond to a message.

A cautionary tale in "Celling" was one of the pure definitions of comedy in that it will forever be hilarious to every guy who sees the film and embarrassing to the one to whom it happened. This former high school soccer star/current college student started his story by stating that his former classmates would always know him as the guy who was expelled for sexting.

The brief story was that this guy was in high school when he sent his girlfriend an explicit photo of himself. The aforementioned humor related to the photo being sent to everyone, including under-age schoolmates, in his contact list. A hilarious aspect of this was this guy using the phone of his mother when the photo appeared on that device. The recipients also included his grandmother.

A more relateable story is of a guy who accidentally texted an unkind statement regarding someone to that person while in visual contact with that individual.

Happier stories include the success of the cleanse; being one who almost always succumbs to the temptation of going online on waking up at 3:00 a.m. envies the cleansers who report feeling more rested and having more free time than when tethered to their devices. The tragic story is that Siani will need to pry the Iphone from the cold dead hand of this online journalist.

Sorry Prof; folks who want to share thoughts regarding this review are strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. Sorry again, but "likes" and "retweets" are valued. :-)

'Street Sharks' CS DVD: Jawsome Adventures of Teenage Mutant Ninja Frat Boys

Mill Creek Entertainment sinks its teeth into the campaign to introduce Millennials and Gen Zers to the spectacularness that is Saturday morning (and after-school) cartoons with the January 16, 2018 DVD & Digital CS release of the 1994-96 animated series "Street Sharks." This "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" series for the older brothers of fans of those heroes on the half-shell are fintastic and should create a sharknado of excitement for fanboys everywhere.

The four titular shark-frat boys mutants are the Bolton Brothers, who are the sons of research scientist Dr. Bolton. These popular lads cover the gamut of post-adolescent males in having the studious genius, the jock, the slacker, and the skate rat.

The action-packed pilot begins with Bolton interrupting a nefarious genetic engineering experiment of university research colleague madman with an evil mind Dr. Paradigm. The ensuing confrontation leaves Bolton presumed dead only in the minds of folks unfamiliar with this scifi action-adventure super-hero animated series genre.

Paradigm then tricks our heroes into coming to his lab. He soon straps them down and continues his experiment with the goal of making them his super-powered henchsharks. Not adequately thinking things through results in these new mutants using their mad scientist given powers to break free and subsequently give Paradigm prolonged tremendous grief.

Following the scientific principle that each action has an equal and opposite reaction, Paradigm creates the first of two evil Seaviates to do his bidding. The third time is the charm in that the menacing Killamari (a squid hybrid who shoots lethal projectiles) soon joins his older brothers, who are a swordfish with a new-and-improved nose and a monster lobster. A late-comer to the party is more jawesome in that he is an eager volunteer with a grudge against our boys in sharkskin.

Although Paradigm/Moreau somewhat levels the playing field, he also learns that playing God involves a penalty. Unforeseen developments lead to his becoming the aptly named Dr. Piranoid.

Team Sharks also quickly gets some allies. Research assistant/double agent Lena continues working for Piranoid while secretly helping the boys. Honorary Bolton bro/valley boy genius Bends becomes the guy in the chair who invents the hi-tech gear (available in toy stores everywhere) that our heroes use in their quest to bring down their nemesis.

Future allies include a rocker who pays a high price for mooching and another pre-mutation Bolton chum who is the center of a cautionary whale of a tale about steroid use. Meanwhile, it becomes increasingly clear that Dr. Bolton still is in the game.

The appeal of "Sharks" extends well beyond the amped-up college bros reveling in their new powers, such as shark dives that allow going underground and speeding down roads as their fins rip up the pavement above them. Most episodes are part of extended story arcs that compel marathon viewings. The first of these revolves around a Piranoid plot to literally poison the well (and the Kool-Aid) to create an army of Seaciates that he can control.

The S2 season-finale has the Sharks discover fellow good-guy mutants and get more news regarding their father. This sets the stage for things to get weird in S3. Copious time-travel is only the tip of the iceberg.

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

'My Art' Theatrical: Real-Life Mother of Lena Dunham Plays A Golden Girl of the Art World

Global indie film god Film Movement goes to the movies to bring the feature-film debut of acclaimed artist/real-life Lena Dunham mother Laurie Simmons to general audiences. The semi-autobiographical "My Art," which also can be considered "How Ellie Got Her Groove Back," currently is playing at the Quad Cinema in New York and opens in Los Angeles on January 19. Folks who cannot see "Art" on the silver screen can purchase the DVD starting January 30, 2018. One spoiler is that Darth Emo literally and figuratively is nowhere in the picture.

Producer/director/writer/star Simmons plays 62 year-old almost has it all artist Ellie Shine. She is a well-respected and well-liked New York art professor, has numerous good friends in the art world, and enjoys a mutual strong bond with her adorable aging dog Bing. The absence of a prominent career as an artist bothers her far more than never having had a human child or anyone putting a ring on it.

An early scene with Dunham both is very true to the persona of that "girl" and central to the theme of art. Dunham plays a highly successful former student of Ellie who is meeting this professor near the end of the academic year. The Dunham character complaining about the toll of being the current "it" artist clearly evokes mixed feelings in Ellie. This educator is very happy for her former student/current friend but also feel envious regarding not achieving the same fame.

This conversation also provides the context for the exposition that Ellie is spending the summer at the country house of one of her aforementioned celebrity artist friends. Her goals include artistic inspiration that is designed to reignite her soul and hopefully to garner her the 15 minutes of fame that has eluded her since the Carter administration.

Events early in the new adventure of Old Ellie shape the rest of the summer (and the life of our lead.) Watching vintage movies, meeting landscapers/actors Frank and Tom, and an "its complicated" relationship with romance-challenged attorney John inspire Ellie to focus her artistic energy on recreating scenes from classic films. The most bizarre of these odd videos aptly is from the Kubrick film "A Clockwork Orange."

Simmons puts her artistic talents and good film making instincts to good work in presenting this modified Midsummer Night's Dream in a positive light. Ellie brings a breath of fresh air to the small community and helps the repressed folks there greater enjoy their lives. This is especially true regarding the traditional euphoric end-of-the-summer blow-out before the real world invades.

"Art" deserves good credit for contributing to art returning to the movies; it is a character-driven story of a world populated by "real" people facing "real" issues. It also is thought-provoking in a positive sense regarding the role of older women in the art world and in general society. The main character seemingly following the philosophy that she needs a man as much as a fish needs a bicycle adds an interesting element.

This strong central woman and Simmons playing every major role on both sides of the camera further raises feminist issues. The fact that every woman in "Art" comes across better than every man (all of whom look foolish to a varying degree) may reflect the feminist viewpoint that women are the stronger sex or may be the response from watching "Art" from a male perspective. Of course, an alternate feminist perspective is that we all are equal. Either way, seeing "real" people on the silver (and 4K) screen is very nice.

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

'Teen Titans' S1 BD: Robin and His Merry Misfits

Warner Archive rewards fanboys who survived January 2018 super-villain level events in the forms of a Bombcyclone, record-smashing arctic blasts, and massive wildfires (not to mention a false missile alert) with the January 23, 2018 Blu-ray release of  the 2003 "Teen Titans" S1. As the awesome copious special features for this release illustrate, the best brains and the voice talent who bring this comic book about a quartet of adolescent super heroes to vivid life do it out of clear love for the characters. Voice actor god Greg Cipes IS beast boy.

The combination of putting fnaboys in charge and the concept of superheroes with stereotypical teen personalities is a recipe for success. Speaking as a clear Beast Boy who hates hurting feelings and who enjoys being the class clown, we see ourselves and our family and friends in the characters. This element and equally relatable incidents that include a prank war with collateral damage, arguments over losing the remote, squabbles regarding chores, etc. make "Titans" MUCH more than a show in which a super-villain hatches an evil scheme, the heroes spring into action, the tables turn in favor of the bad guy, and things work out in the end.

Former Batman sidekick/ward Robin leads this team that lives, loves, and squabbles in the T-shaped Titan Tower. He brings his leadership skills and mad martial arts skills to the table.

Star power having its privileges scores Robin the most prominent role regarding episodes that highlight our heroes. He is primary motive for a season-long campaign by (initially) mysterious super-villain Slade. This Vader goes as far as almost literally poisoning the well to get this young knight to embrace the dark side. A line in the epic two-parter "The Apprentice" in which Robin states while battling Slade that he already has a (apparently dead-beat) father says it all regarding these foes.

Alien princess Starfire fully reflects the Americanized anime style of "Titans." Her powers include flight and the ability to project harmful energy beams. Her squeaky-voice and innocent girl (including eyes that occasionally turn into hearts) persona evoke strong thoughts of Japanese cartoons. She offers good humor regarding limited understanding of English and even less comprehension of our expressions and mores. Her infectious glee at discovering that cotton candy is not made out of thread is a highlight.

Starfire gets her episode early on when the joy of her sister literally coming down to earth for a surprise visit turns out to not be a good thing. The "Brady Bunch" element of this is that Sis wins over the Titans at the apparent cost of their friendship with Starfire. The more serious threat is that the bad seed brings down literally cosmic justice on our naive group.

Aforementioned fave Beast Boy is the little brother of the group; this green guy who can transform at will into an land, aerial, or aquatic animal has the mentality and energy of a 13 year-old but the heart of a lion.

Beast Boy also gets a strong story in that a series of unfortunate circumstances leads to the group teaming up with dreamy Aqua Lad. This triggers intense jealousy by Boy, who considers himself the Prince of the Sea regarding his group.

Cyborg is the literal jock in the group. He is a former high school football star whose massive injury prompts (arguably misguided) paternal love to make him a super-powered half teen-half robot despite his futile resistance.

Cyborg putting the needs of his many friends above his individual need to literally recharge his batteries leads to him being rescued. The rub is that the well-meaning savior is intent on removing every human element of Cyborg. (A hint is that issuing the command "sleep" is not going to cut it this time.)

Raven is a goth who also literally is a demon; being a team player by using her black magic powers for good does not prevent her from being sullen or becoming particularly annoyed at the exuberance of Beast Boy.

Raven gets the most surreal "Heavy Metal" episode in that a spat with Beast Boy leads our emo boy to enter the forbidden territory of her room. This leads to learning much more about her than Boy ever imagined that he would and getting a sense of the wide scope of daddy issues.

The arguably best S1 episode incorporates the most entertaining elements of "Titans." "Mad Mod" finds the gang trapped in a psychedelic fantasy world in which the titular big bad is Hell-bent on brainwashing them. The numerous chase scenes (complete with music by theme singers Puffy Ami Yumi) through doors, halls, and stairways is a groovy homage to "Scooby-Doo." Having the cure to the brainwashing of Beast Boy involve wonderfully silly immature humor is spectacular.

On a larger level, "Mod" makes perfect use of what the behind-the-scenes folks describe as the the bugged-out eyes, greatly exaggerated expressions in response to stimuli, etc that reflect the classic style of Tex Avery.

Proving that imitation is the highest form of flattery, "Titans" sets the stage for Marvel to produce "Ultimate Spider-Man" in 2012. The same bickering and co-habitation issues face Spidey and his posse; even the Tex Avery style survives.

The aforementioned copious extras include discussions of casting the voice actors and directly hearing from the mouths of those equines. We further get Robin interviewing Puffy Ami Yumi and a separate feature of the music video for "Titans" by that duo. Archive ends this with the two-part pilot of the anime series "The Hiros" about a crime-fighting couple. The all-star cast in this one includes Grey "Daphne" DeLisle, Phil "Hermes" (and "Static")  LaMarr, and Tom "Spongebob" Kenny.

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

'All Yours' DVD: Rent Boy Becomes Indentured Sex Servant at Bakery

This entry in an ongoing series of reviews on vintage DVD releases from Breaking Glass Pictures hits the Breaking trifecta. The May 2015 release of the 2014 Belgian drama "All Yours" is edgy, tackles a controversial subject well, and shows that the gay experience is no different than that of the remaining roughly 90 percent of the general population.

The Breaking legacy of this film about 20-something Argentinian hustler Lucas using his mancam activity in his native land to seduce grossly overweight "daddy" Belgian baker Henry to pay his way to Belgium begins with the similarly themed (Unreal TV reviewed) "Bwoy" starring current "Star Trek: Discovery" lead Anthony Rapp; this commonality goes on to center around topics that are just as controversial as the loving gay brotherly incest in the (also reviewed) Breaking film "Godless."

The numerous accolades for "Yours" include best picture awards at the 2014 Cheries-Cheris festival and the 2015 Milan International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

The primary relatable element this time is not sexual; it reflects the reality of families inviting feral 18-22 year olds into their homes to work as au pairs or support staff for a year in exchange for an opportunity to live for free in another country. The almost inevitable conflict quickly erupts when the student realizes the extent of the expected work and the family realizes that foreign post-adolescents are not any more responsible or hard working than their domestic peers. In other words, both sides soon discover their incompatible mutual goals of getting the largest possible benefit for the smallest possible investment of financial or sweat equity.

The central conflict in "Yours" is that Henry reasonably thinks that buying Lucas a plane ticket and pledging to provide him room and board purchases a partner in bed and a bakery apprentice. For his part, Lucas seems to think that he is adequately young and cute to get away with doing minimal work and occasionally having sex with Henry.

The figurative rude awakening for our boys comes on Lucas freaking out on discovering that he does not have his own bedroom as apparently promised. His first literal rude awakening comes in the middle of the night when Henry humiliating begs him just to sleep together; another rude awakening comes very early the next morning when Henry and Lucas must begin work in the bakery,

Reality once again sets when Lucas has a series of mishaps at the bakery; the most discouraging one for him to experience and for the audience to watch is to see him struggle with a huge mass of bread dough that may outweigh him. However, the award for best scene set at the bakery goes to a sequence in which a gleeful Henry sings about his love for military men while pirouetting around in a manner very reminiscent of the ballet dancing hippos in the Disney film "Fantasia."

The scene with the bread dough become particularly symbolic later in the film. Lucas finds himself massaging the mounds of fat on the back of Henry in an effort to appease that sugar daddy.

The many complications that strain this personal relationship based on money extend well beyond Henry lacking the sensitivity required to deal with a young prostitute who essentially finds himself imprisoned far from home. Lucas developing a friendship (and hoping for more) with young bakery cashier/single mother Audrey greatly complicates things.

Writer/director David Lambert truly shines regarding this triangle in a series of scenes set at an arcade. Henry rebuffing a request from Lucas for a nominal sum requires that this young man whom the audience already knows does not suck dick for the fun of it literally take a (very ugly) one for the team under exceptionally humiliating circumstances. This leads to Lucas making an even larger sacrifice to fund an evening out with Audrey.

The copious additional drama that ensues also affects the Henry/Lucas relationship in manners that often lead to one of the men being desperate enough to make a grand gesture to the other one. This culminates in a development that changes everything in a completely unexpected manner.

The impact of all this stems from the characters largely being real. Middle-aged people all along the sexual spectrum find themselves alone, and many of them crave the company of someone younger and cuter than them. For their part, these younger and cuter folk are willing to doing things to varying extents to get the benefits that older less cute people provide. Somewhere in the middle are folks who simply strive to provide their kids a good home and who feel that they must be careful about whom they let in their lives.

Breaking further stays true to form in including an apt short film with "Yours." The 2009 Lambert short film "Live a Bit Longer" opens with a cute young gay couple in bed only to have one of he boys have to get up to help his father downstairs in the family bakery. That leads to a scene in which the father walks in on the boyfriend at that worst possible time that is hilarious to the audience because it happens to someone else.

This rude awakening leads to the father and the boyfriend awkwardly bonding in a scene that involves very symbolic use of a scale.

Both films having strong live-stage vibes reinforces the skill of Lambert at communicating his vision to both his cast and the audience.

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

'Pump Up the Volume' Christian Slater Shows He Knows Jack About Pirate Radio

Warner Archive proves that it knows its fan-tastic audience regarding the November 7, 2017 DVD release of the 1990 Christian Slater drama "Pump Up the Volume." The same Gen Xers whose love of the Golden and Silver Ages classics that comprise a large portion of the Archive catalog comes from watching these gems on PBS and independent stations during the weekends in the '70s and the '80s loves discovering the outsider/Jack Nicholson persona of Slater in "Heathers" in 1988 that he repeats in "Volume."

This dark version of "The Breakfast Club" centers around transplanted New Yorker new boy in town Mark Hunter, who has a very unhappy existence in the obviously planned Arizona community where his father moves his family to take a job as the school superintendent. Picturing Jack Nicholson living in an neighborhood in which there is no divorce, every lawn is perfect, and a picket fence borders every identical lot provides good insight in to the psyche of Mark.

Bespectacled mild-mannered loner student Mark gets his outlet in a manner very consistent with the paranoia-inducing propaganda "Its 10:00 o'clock; do you know where your children are?" This Clark Kent by day and capeless crusader Hard Harry Hardon by night chooses this time to remove his glasses and fire up his shortwave radio set. (Harry does symbolically keep his glasses on for one broadcast.)  He then uses his illegal pirate radio signal to become the voice of his peers.

This free-wheeling show discusses the unhappiness of Harry in his new surroundings, standard topics of teen angst, and the sins of the administrations at Hubert H. Humphrey High where he quickly becomes a Triple H threat.

Additional entertainment value comes from playing music guaranteed to give Tipper Gore a fit and providing narration of frantic masturbation session by this announcer who chokes his lizard.

Teen idol Harry increasingly inspiring graffiti, questioning of authority, and other rebellious acts at school proportionately pumps up the campaign to pull his plug.

A somber aspect of this involves a tragedy regarding which Harry plays a role. This incident aptly sobers Harry but does not stop the signal for very long.

All of this escalates to a frantic chase between a then mobile Harry and FCC tracking vehicles. Seeing James Hampton of "F Troop" play aptly named overwhelmed FCC executive Arthur Watts is a fun aspect.

The appeal of all this extends beyond seeing Slater utilize the persona that best suits him to the film raising timeless issues and prompting thought. Further, the end is a mixed bag of successes in that not everyone gets a happy ending but some justice is achieved.

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