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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

'The Birdman of Alcatraz' Blu-ray: True Tale of Jailbird Turned World-Class Orinthologist

A hilarious endorsement of the sound and picture quality of the Olive Films February 27, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1962 John Frankenheimer ("The Manchurian Candidate") biopic "The Birdman of Alcatraz" requires a brief diversion into blogland.

The cat of your not-so-humble reviewer became mesmerized during the scenes that depicted the beginning of the orinthology career of titular scientist Robert Stroud (Burt Lancster) with the decades-long unfortunate incarceration. This member of the feline family then ran to the television, puts his front paws on the television stand, and intently stared with his nose inches from the screen. The intended takeaway is that Olive does a great job remastering this highly stylized black-and-white classic, rather than that cats are dopes.

The second aside of this review is that "Birdman" is a companion release of the Olive Blu-ray of the (reviewed) 1965 Lancaster comic Western "The Hallelujah Trail."

The realism of this film on the life of Stroud begins with Edmond O'Brien starting it with narration in character as real-life Stroud biographer Thomas E. Gaddis. This exposition introduces us to our subject in the 1910s as he is on a train from Alaska to begin his prison sentence in Leavenworth for killing a man in defense of a prostitute. An incident on that journey quickly establishes that Stroud is an angry young man who does not work or play well with others.

The arrival of Stroud at what is intended to be his home for the rest of his life further establishes that he does not adhere to the philosophy of following the indisputably strict rules and not causing trouble. Almost Norman Bates level mommy issues exasperate an already not great situation.

The turning point of the film comes when a purely random event triggers the subsequent developments that lead to the outside world knowing Stroud by his nickname decades after this evolution and more than 50 years after the release of "Alcatraz."

The mix of substance and depth comes regarding Stroud using his third-grade education as the starting point to developing a medicine for birds and becoming a leading expert on them literally without leaving his small cell. A parallel development is his enhancing his people skills. A turning point regarding that is a confrontation by a guard who calls Stroud on his lack of gratitude for the kindnesses shown him.

The larger picture regarding this is the nature of the prison system, which is another area of study by Stroud. The underlying issue there is the balance between incarceration rehabilitating and punishing with the related analysis as to the extent to which a prisoner can reasonably expect to be treated with dignity. Much of this centers around the long-term interaction between Stroud and warden Harvey Shoemaker (Karl Malden), who takes great pride in his management of prisons.

Another more relatable issue is that "Alcatraz" provides an interesting perspective regarding institutional life. Anyone who has lived in a boarding school and/or psychiatric hospital can relate to the frustration of Stroud being denied privileges to which he believes that proving himself to be a model member of the community entitles him.

The aforementioned mommy issues are a focal point of a heavily Freudian aspect of "Alcatraz." Thelma Ritter receives a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her portrayal of loving mother Elizabeth Stroud, who viciously turns on her baby when Stella Johnson enters his life and enters the mother of all marriages of convenience with Robert.

As the nickname of Stroud indicates, he ultimately ends up on The Rock. This quickly provides him a strong sense that he is not in Kansas anymore. It further helps ease him into the modern world.

All of this leads to an ending that is as happy as possible considering the subject matter.

The DVD extras are the theatrical trailer and audio commentary by a Stroud biographer.

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

'The Hallelujah Trail: It's a Mad. Mad, Mad, Mad Wagon Train

The Olive Films February 27, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1965 Western-comedy "The Hallelujah Trail" is a forerunner of  the Mel Brooks classic "Blazing Saddles" in that it shows the great comic potential of horse operas.

This Burt Lancester film with the proverbial cast of 1,000s does not have quite as many stars are there are in the heavens but includes enough big names to warrant a comparison to the epic comedies of the era "The Great Race" and "It's a Mad. Mad, Mad, Mad World." "Trail" also makes a good double-feature with the (soon-to-be-reviewed) Olive February 27, 2018 BD release of the Lancaster film "The Birdman of Alcatraz."

The behind-the-camera star power includes director John Sturges of "The Great Escape" and "The Magnificent Seven." His wise contributions include having a narrator help the audience follow the multi-front action.

Lancaster plays peacetime career Calvary officer Colonel Thaddeus Gearhart in 1867, which follows the ends of the Civil War and the Indian (my people call them Native Americans) Wars. However, he does not miss the hostilities.

Throwing this by-the-book soldier in chaos related to unruly women, a trouble-making tribe (whose numbers include a comical chief whom Martin Landau plays), a prominent businessman on a mission, and miners desperate for that mission to succeed evokes thoughts of the (reviewed) recent Olive BD release of the Blake Edwards military comedy "Operation Petticoat."

"Trail" centers around the hard-working hard-drinking citizens of old West Denver facing the crisis of a dry winter during what is expected to be a particularly snowy several months. The predictions of hard-drinking sage Oracle Jones (Donald Pleasance of 234 IMDb credits) enhance their concerns.

This prospect (pun intended) prompts placing an order for 40 wagons filled with kegs of whiskey from Frank Wallingham (Brian Keith) 100s of miles away. The challenges facing Wallingham include a group of women assertively promoting temperance and several tribes of Indians with a thirst for this cargo. This is on top of maintaining labor relations with unionized Irish workers with a special mission on the wagon train.

The leader of the women is titanium-willed twice-widowed Cora Templeton Massingale (Lee Remick). Her troops include the daughter (Pamela Tiffin) of Gearhart. Handsome and charming second-in-command Captain Paul Slater (Jim Hutton) is the love interest of said offspring.

Gearhart ultimately ends up with the tasks of protecting the precious cargo, Team Wallingham, the women, and a contingency of Denverites against the indians and each other.

The first half of "Trail" concludes with a chaotic meeting of the groups; the post-intermission action begins with an effort to avoid further chaos and attacks. One group escalating the tension drives much of the action.

This leads to a mad dash that rivals the chariot scene in the Charlton Heston version of "Ben Hur" in complexity. However, a literal element of being mired down is one indication that things are not entirely calm once the dust literally settles.

All this shows that the Olive-worthy appeal of "Trail" extends well beyond the well-written and expertly choreographed comedy of the film. Setting it in the past helps it remain timeless; an additional sense of eternity relates to funny always being funny and the themes of greed, a craving for alcohol, folks who fanatically campaign against any consumption of that substance, and maintaining a (in this case literally uneasy truce) with a hostile enemy remain issues more than 50 years after the release of this comic tale.

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

'Hair' DVD: Infectious Musical Tale of Free Love in the Time of Vietnam

The Olive Films February 27, 2018 DVD of the 1979 film adaptation of the 1968 Broadway musical "Hair" is further proof that Olive reflects the criterion for DVD and Blu-ray releases of art house and cult films. This release coinciding with separate Blu-ray releases of the very different Burt Lancaster films (the soon-to-be-reviewed) "The Birdman of Alcatraz" and (the reviewed) "The Hallelujah Trail" further proves this.

As a first aside, the Lancaster releases follow simultaneous Olive Signature extras-laden Blu-ray releases of the Cary Grant films "Father Goose" and (the reviewed) "Operation Petticoat."

As a second aside, this remastered DVD presents the film in a scope with a sound that is better than seeing it in a theater in 1979 and is ALMOST as good as watching a live-stage production.

The third aside is that folks who are only familiar with the stage musical will notice several differences. Most of the alterations make sense, and all of them enhance the social conscience aspects of the production.

The awesomeness of "Hair" extends well beyond the iconic soundtrack (the title song, "Good Morning Starshine, "The Age of Aquarius," etc.) and the famed nude scene. This phenomenon has enough social commentary for three productions.

Director Milos Forman ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Amadeus") "Hair" opens with "Aquarius" accompanying aptly drab scenery of the Oklahoma countryside as local farmboy/draftee Claude Bukowski (John Savage) waits for the Trailways bus to take him to New York. His awkward goodbye with his father, who is torn between wanting his son to do his duty (and to not end up either in jail or Toronto) but knowing that he probably is going to die in Vietnam, perfectly represents that aspect of that era.

Bukowski arriving in bright, sunny, colorful Central Park is comparable to Chez Gale crashing down somewhere over the rainbow. He soon encounters a "tribe" of Broadway/Hollywood friendly hippies led by George Berger (Treat Williams). (One spoiler is that the film version of "Hair" excludes a look at the treat of Williams and everyone else.)

The other fateful encounter at that time involves making extended eye contact with horseback riding debutante Sheila Franklin (Beverly D'Angelo). All three worlds collide with the hippie shenanigans/harassment of Franklin lead to Bukowski jumping on a horse and showing the entire group his mad riding skills.

In a manner that remains true to the vibe of two strange dogs literally and figuratively sniffing each other out during this entire portion of the film, Berger soon convinces Bukowski the Okie to abandon plans to visit the Empire State Building in favor of hanging out and smoking hash. Suffice it to say that our hero soon adapts to his new environment.

The next morning brings heavy symbolism as Berger defaces an image of Sheila in a highly meaningful way and then essentially whistles over a retreating Bukowski and convinces him to join the pack in crashing a party at Chez Franklin. Watching the long-haired tye-dye wearing interlopers and Bukowski in his ugly brown polyester suit from Sears among the impeccably dressed one-percenters cannot get any better until it does when a patriarch sends a wimpy preppy school boy over to confront the group.

The real fun begins when all assembled gather for a formal sit-down lunch and efforts to oust Berger leads to an elaborate "Coyote Ugly" style song-and-dance number. Seeing Charlotte Rae get into the spirit of things in full Edna Garrett fashion is the icing on the cake. (Another fun moment comes on recognizing the voice of Nell Carter ("Gimme A Break") emanating from a Central Park hippie.)

The aftermath involves a wonderfully enthusiastic "Chicago" style song-and-dance number involving the titular tune; this portion of the film also provides greater insight into Berger.

The hi-jinks continue until Bukowski and his fellow draftees undergo a purposefully humiliating induction procedure; this being "Hair," a hilarious raucous counter-culture song-and-dance number lightens the mood.

The film then moves in a different direction in every sense as Berger convinces his people (and a few tag-alongs) to take a road trip to the Nevada Army base where Bukowski is undergoing basic training. This leads to further counter-culture mischief with a surprise twist on the end that everyone knows is coming.

The ending is very true to the spirit of both the musical and the film. The genocide of boys-next-door in Vietnam was to benefit the people who stayed at home. Further, going over there was a rite-of-passage that sobered up boys who either were cruising around suburbs and small towns in their American cars or were smoking hash and taking acid in the big city.

Either way, their deaths destroyed their futures and devastated all who loved them. This is not to mention the guys who made it back but still are screwed up 50 years later.

The DVD extra is the extended theatrical trailer.

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

'The True Cost' DVD: Documentary Pulls Thread on Dirty Secrets of Fashion

Bullfrog Films continues its crusade to reveal inconvenient truths by releasing "The True Cost" on DVD. This documentary on the garment industry emphasizes the many negative impacts of providing consumers inexpensive garments. The more specific theme is that the enormous decreases in the costs of what we wear has catastrophic consequences of which we are unaware as we toss the latest irresistible bargain in the closet.

The most compelling aspect of this film is the stark contrast between seeing the glamour shots of models strutting about in the latest fashions alongside the images of the conditions in which those clothes are made. This does an excellent job providing perspective.

A highly related and deeply impactful aspect of the above occurs in Bangladesh; a factory owner there perfectly expresses the theme of "Cost" in explaining how the highly competitive nature of the industry requires regularly lowering what he charges for his goods; the "cost' associated with this is that he must make his workers absorb that lost revenue.

A subsequent segment on the horrific working conditions in these factories emphasizes its point by documenting a particularly bad incident and the regular occurrences of mass tragedies. The numerous interviewes with workers include a first-hand account of someone who survives the aforementioned high-profile disaster.

On this side of the world, we visit an enormous cotton field and learn of the hidden sides of growing that crop. We further see separate YouTube videos of teen girls who delight in having far more clothes than they need or even will wear.

We further see the incredible waste associated with this excess in much the way that the (reviewed) Bullfrog documentary "Just Eat It" makes us think about the tons of food that gets tossed. Comparable to the estimate in that film that more than 30 percent of edible food in the United States ends up getting thrown away, potentially just as large a percentage of clothes never get worn or at least are highly extraneous. One common culprit is an economic system that keeps prices artificially low and supply proportionately artificially high at the expense of the population of the world that is at the bottom of the food chain.

The DVD special features are a "making of" short and the theatrical trailer for the film.

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

Sunday, February 25, 2018

"Women of the House' DVD: Ms. Sugarbaker Goes to Washington

The recent Questar Entertainment DVD release of the 1995 CBS sitcom "Women of the House" provides a PERFECT example of a primary purpose of DVDs. This format is ideal for series such as this spin-off of the better-known CBS sitcom "Designing Women," which is about four sassy Southern women (and their long-suffering male associate) running an Atlanta interior design firm.

The perfect marriage between content and technology relates to DVDs providing a second bite of the apple regarding programs with little or no syndication history. On a related note, this release helps validate the Unreal TV belief that most sitcoms from every era have ongoing merit. The plethora of cable networks that air lesser-known series further support this conclusion.

"House" centers around one-percenter, oft-married former beauty queen Suzanne Sugarbaker (Delta Burke) of "Women." This outspoken (but not especially bright) woman revels in speaking her mind even when knowing that she surely will offend one and all. Her delusional senses of attractiveness and wealth prompt this lack of a verbal filter.

The pilot of the spin-off finds Suzanne newly appointed to complete the term of her recently deceased fifth husband in the House of Representatives. CBS golden couple of the '90s (and Friends of Bill) Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason provide former-bane-of-their-existence Burke a staff that will seem familiar to her.

Receptionist Jennifer Malone (Valerie Mahaffey and then Julie Hagerty) is the naive and gullible "Charlene" of the group until a flighty intern assumes that role. Although mother-of-two Malone being recently divorced from her high school sweetheart and dealing with dating for the first time in 20 years after having only dated one man in her life outwardly makes her a "Mary Jo," her rambling and her trusting nature are pure Charlene.

Outwardly cynical but vulnerable recovering alcoholic former Washington Post reporter/current press secretary Sissy Emerson fills the shoes of Mary Jo.

Administrative assistant who is much more legislative aide then coffee gofer Natalie Hollingsworth (Patricia Heaton) clearly is the Julia (i.e., Suzanne sibling) Sugarbaker of the group. She is equal parts strict mother and teacher who constantly struggles to get the "children" to focus on work. Her backstory is that she is the former staffer of a married disgraced former Congressman with whom she has a long-term affair that not even an unfortunate incarceration can end.

The plots combine typical sitcom elements with the politics of both that day and ours in which an outspoken one-percenter who loves the spotlight but lacks political experience occupies the White House. The pilot finds Suzanne making rookie mistakes that bring her to the brink of resigning and returning to Georgia before deciding to keep up the good fight.

The Thomasons follow up this one with a twofer that involves both the president coming for dinner and Suzanne causing chaos during a coveted night in the Lincoln bedroom. Having Jamie Farr of "M*A*S*H" appear adds the element of a "very special guest star."

We additionally get the women moving the action to the actual house of Suzanne to monitor television broadcasts for their jobs; the "com" related to this "sit" is that recent events make them moderately annoyed with each other at the time. A similar feminist "Designing" style outing has the women study the high incidence of violence against women in films.

"House" also channels "Women" in having the group go on vacation only to get involved in amusing misadventures with the local men with whom each of them are paired. The twist thus time is that the girls may be the bad guys.

"House" stands nicely on its own and passes the test of time. The one hoped-for element is a stronger connection with the (by then off-the-air) "Women." One can understand the desire to separate "House" from Women" and two friends from that universe do visit Suzanne, but the potential for more seems likely. Minimally one would expect a "House" scandal related to Suzanne accidentally burning down a design house and/or accepting a job to redecorate a brothel during her "Women" days.

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

Saturday, February 24, 2018

'Thirsty' DVD: Biopic of Female Impersonator Thirsty Burlington is Far From a Drag

The Breaking Glass Pictures February 13, 2018 biopic "Thirsty" provides fabulous camp fun by channeling (no pun intended) both the "issues-oriented "Afterschool Specials" of the '70s and '80s and Lifetime Movies of the '80s to the present. This relates to shifting the narrative between the '70s childhood of Scott Townsend and his adult life as drag queen Thirsty Burlington.

The spirit of "Thirsty" is clear from the opening scenes of a very passable cross-dressing young Scott putting a teenage bully in his place on arriving home from elementary school. This public-housing residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts is the source of the "Afterschool" aspect of "Thirsty."

The father of Scott is an abusive alcoholic who makes The Great Santini look like Ward Cleaver. Mrs. Townsend (a.k.a. Doris) also heavily drinks and is equally dependent on prescription medication.

The camp moments from this portion of the film include a "Mommie Dearest" scene in which young Scott dumps out the vodka and flushes the pills; this prompts a response from Doris that is equally angry and frantic.

The bully later forcing his way into the Townsend home in search of money and drugs provides additional "Afterschool" style drama; his brutal treatment of young Scott is as melodramatic as his threat to make this boy watch the bully rape Doris when she returns home.

This period of the life of Scott also involves his starting his singing career that extends beyond entertaining his family and neighbors. His lounge-lizard uncle has the boy join the band in gigs that include a high-profile performance. A scene in which the family discusses the song that Scott will sing provides an early warning about the dangers of him presenting a feminine image.

The conception of Thirsty (whom Townsend portrays) aptly occurs on a dark city street when Scott spontaneously imitates Cher for a friend who suggests that he take his act to a Provincetown (a.k.a. P-Town) drag show. That leads to a tricky labor in a dressing room and the birth of Thirsty on stage where she is a big hit. No, she does not work pro bono or demonstrate any chastity.

Much of the Lifetime-style drama relates to the textbook rocky relationship with boyfriend Christopher. This man who loves the boy in the dress but not the dress has the second best line in the film in essentially stating that he would have sex with the real thing if he wanted to be with a woman. (The first best line occurs during the aforementioned home invasion.) This line comes during an awesomely melodramatic scene in which Christopher is the brute traumatizing his significant other.

The personal drama in the life of Thirsty adversely affects her career; her decision to evolve from portraying Cher to being her own woman creates further trauma.

The best scenes occur during a "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" road trip in which Townsend and two fellow performers visit the father of Townsend on the way to a gig. The acceptance of the boys by this not-so-enlightened man is terrific.

Other fun comes when Townsend Senior makes the arguably questionable decision to bring these "girly-boys" to a gun range. Hilarity does ensue.

There are many reasons that "Thirsty" works; the tale of someone who grows up rough and is subject to intense bullying remaining true to himself and achieving relative stardom always is good fodder for a docudrama. We also get solid insight into the psyche of drag queens and the practical aspects of their professional lives.

A personal experience provides the cautionary tale of NEVER mistaking a "Cher" for a "Fran Drescher" even if the performer looks EXACTLY like the latter.

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

Friday, February 23, 2018

'Echotone' DVD: Doc. Exploring High and Low Notes of Austin Music Scene

IndiePix Films chooses an interesting leitmotif for the three separate DVD releases in the January 23, 2018 "Indiepix Festival Favorites Volume 2." These documentaries focus on different types of music. "Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense" discusses the modern aspects of this genre. "Roaring Abyss" takes a comparable look at the music of Ethopia.

The third film in this trio, "Echotone" is the subject of this review. This documentary that explores several themes related to Austin being "The Live Music Capital of the World" stands out because it covers numerous topics that interest virtually everyone. The highly apt title refers to the clash that occurs when civilization encroaches on the natural world.

The following YouTube clip of the official "Echotone" trailer features every element of the film in a manner that demonstrates the fair and balanced presentation of the issues.

Filmmaker Nathan Christ has his camera literally follow local musicians on their daily routines and has them share their histories and their current struggles. We also get a look at an issue that many communities with a desirable culture face. That conflict relates to that "something special" attracting so many people that an area changes in an manner that threatens the culture that makes it desirable.

An early scene in "Echotone" shows a highly regarded musician who identifies himself as "Black Joe Lewis" doing his day job delivering fish. This theme of musicians who still must do McJobs despite achieving artistic success and building a solid fan base runs throughout the film. Another example is a member of the indie rock group Belaire having to get up at 8:00 a.m. to perform a day job for the "enemy" even if she rocks hard past midnight the day before.

Much of this aspect of "Echotone" fully merges regarding the profile of Bill Baird, formerly of the moderately successful group "Sound Team" and currently working on the next chapter of his life. The very likable Baird discusses the experience of almost overnight relative success and the same conflict between art and commerce that any artist faces.

The other piece of this is the rapid development that the music scene presumably is fueling but also is threatening that element that makes the city so cool. This occurs across the country, and the competing desires of music venues to both fill seats and to provide performers a venue and of home owners to reasonably have quiet peace and enjoyment is even more widespread.

A legal concept related to this form of echotone is "coming to the nuisance." The reasoning is that someone who buys a home near one or more music venues, railroad tracks, or a pig farm typically is assumed to know what to expect. A talking head expresses an element of this in stating that he agrees that new retail development near many bars makes sense but that housing does not.

Public hearing footage on the issue of residents v. bars provides the best humor in "Echotone." One can understand the feelings of folks who pay several pretty pennies for a shiny new home only to essentially have sound waves (which the law recognizes as an actionable nuisance) bounce them out of bed most nights. At the same time, the absurd statements of some of these folks greatly hinder their cause.

Proper zoning laws provide the simple in theory and difficult in execution solution. The timing of this is the oft-absent crucial element. The related greed of developers and politicians is the primary culprit regarding these laws often being too little too late. In the case of Austin, the areas around the bars should have been zoned as commercial and light residential years ago.

On the other side of the equation, restricting music to no later than those with a stake in the matter determine to be reasonable depending on the day of the week and to never allow the noise level to exceed a similar standard seems apt. The guitarist in "Echotone" who defiantly brings his amplified ax out in the street to rock particularly hard in the middle of the night does not do himself or anyone else any favors.

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

Thursday, February 22, 2018

'The Finger Points' DVD: Clark Gable Tells Crooked Reporter That He Does Give A Damn

The Warner Archive February 7, 2018 DVD release of the 1931 pre-Code pulp fiction crime drama "The Finger Points" shows that "King Kong" is not the only time that Fay Wray is caught in a celluloid jam. This time she plays Lois Lane style girl reporter Marcia Collins, who is the object of the affection of two male colleagues.

Breckinridge "Breck" Lee is a big fish in the small pond of Savannah whose work there nets (pun intended) him a job on a larger Chicago newspaper. He is pure mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent on arriving on a train probably with Georgia clay still on the bottom of his shoe. Richard Baethelmess who plays Lee adequately is Hollywood royalty to get above the title billing in "Finger" and other films that include "The Cabin in the Cotton" and "The Noose."

Veteran reporter Charlie "Breezy" Russell (Regis Toomey) takes the new kid under his wing and has him tag along as he pursues Collins.

The reality check for Lee begins when he suffers a back alley beating after refusing a payoff to not write a story that leads to a police raid of a speakeasy. His $35/week salary being inadequate to pay his medical bills and his employer refusing to pick up the tab for that work-related expense begins the seduction of Lee to the dark side.

Lee then starts working both sides of the street by beginning to accept money from gangsters in exchange for controlling how his paper covers reports of illegal activity.

Clark Gable literally and figuratively enters the picture as middle-man gangster Louis Blanco; he collects the hush money from his associates and passes along a percentage to Lee. It is not surprising that competing forms of greed play a role in the end of that not-so-beautiful friendship.

The climax (no pun intended) commences with Breck committed to leaving the evils of the big city behind and starting over with his girl. However, his extra-legal activities threaten that exit strategy.

The events of the final 15 minutes of "Finger" leads to a wonderfully cynical ending that can be described as "it was beauty killed the beast."

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

'The Glass Bottom Boat' DVD: Doris Day Cold War Romcom

The Warner Archive August 2016 DVD of the 1966 Doris Day romcom "The Glass Bottom Boat" offers a threefer in terms of combining a typical Doris Day comedy, a beach movie of the era, and an equally era-apt Cold War comedy.

The following YouTube clip of Day and co-star Arthur Godfrey singing the catchy theme from "Boat" provides a good sense of the fun of the film.

Day plays premature widow Jennifer Nelson, who is an entry-level public-relations worker at an aerospace research lab that roguish Elon Musk of the '60s Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor) owns and operates. The film title refers to the tourist vessel that the father (Godfrey) of Nelson owns and operates on Catalina Island. An element of "com" enters in the form of Nelson supporting the family business by swimming below the boat while dressed as a mermaid.

Nelson and Templeton meeting under embarrassing circumstances while engaged in their typical weekend activities introduces the "rom" element. Later meeting at their day jobs enhances this element. More '60slicious fun come in the form of Dick Martin of "Laugh-In" fame portraying the playboy business partner of Templeton.

The Cold War aspect relates to the degree to which Nelson and Templeton develop their "rom" coinciding with the increased espionage activity related to a government contract. This provides the context for Paul Lynde to play a comically overzealous security officer who ultimately finds his job to be a drag.

The real fun begins when Nelson gets wind of Mr. Right and his colleagues suspecting her of treason. This girl subsequently seeking to turn the tables on her bosses finds her embroiled in genuine life-threatening intrigue.

The beach movie vibe relates to the catchy theme that Day sings, Templeton almost literally learning about the quantity of fish in the sea, and a couple of scenes in which a boat runs amok in a busy harbor.

All of this makes "Boat" a perfect example of an escapist '60s comedy. Day sticks to the independent woman whom Mother would love for you to bring home if being scorned is not causing her to "Hulk" out. There also is ample good clean slapstick and holding up the military-industrial complex to gentle but well-deserved ridicule.

Archive does equally well regarding the DVD extras; we get three entertaining featurettes related to the film, the highly stylized Chuck Jones Oscar-winning cartoon "The Dot and the Line," and the theatrical trailer for "Boat."

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

'The Wrong Man' BD: Hitchcock Tale of Innocent Man Facing Hard Time Provides 'Me Too' Context

The Warner Archive January 2016 Blu-ray release of the Kafkaesque 1956 Hitchcock docudrama "The Wrong Man" continues a series of reviews of exceptional Archive releases from the not-too-distant past. Hitchcock forgoing his usual Stan Lee style tongue-in-cheek cameo for a highly-stylized introduction is the first indication that this largely shot on location one is different.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer (which the BD includes) for "Man" features the monolgue that is discussed below. It also highlights the suspense and (also mentioned below) soundtrack.

This opening monologue stating that The Master of Suspense is shifting his focus from tales of murder and mayhem to the real-life story of the titular "innocent" Stork Club musician Christopher Emmanuel "Manny" Balestero (Henry Fonda) is another indication of a deviation from the norm. "Psycho" co-star Vera Miles playing Balestero spouse Rose and composer of the peerless "Psycho" theme (and other music of that film) Bernard Herrmann doing his thing here provide a sense of business as usual.

A coincidental sense of continuity is that "Man" is one of three recently acquired Archive releases that includes a new DVD of the (soon-to-be-reviewed)1966 Doris Day romcom "The Glass Bottom Boat" in which Day sings her signature song "Que Sera Sera" that she premieres in the 1956 Hitchcock thriller "The Man Who Knew Too Much."

The larger theme is a combination of a concept that makes Hitchcock so great and a related "it could happen to you" element of the work of Franz Kafka that Hitchcock often emulates. The Hitchcock formula for success includes moving terrifying events from the creepy mansion on the hill to the house next door. The source of fear this time is being wrongfully accused of a crime getting you wrapped up in a legal system that often is defended on the basis that it is the best alternative out there.

Readers are asked to consider the following discussion of "Man" both in the context of imagining themselves in the shoes of Manny and regarding the larger issue of the "Me Too" movement. The SINCERE disclaimer regarding this is that the discussion of "Me" is not intended to suggest anything other than the harm IF an accusation is false. No opinion is being expressed regarding the validity of ANY "Me" claim.

Men and women in power often abuse their positions and most claims of abuse by Hollywood power brokers are undisputed. Further, determining the truth in disputed cases involving 30 year-old events can be very challenging; this is not to mention one man's innocent hug being another woman's sexual assault

The other side of the coin is that "Me" is subject to abuse by someone who wrongfully targets a person with a solid decades-long reputation that is worth millions of dollars and that allows him or her to walk the streets without being the subject of active scorn.

In typical Hitchcock style, "Man" begins depicting the then ordinary life of Manny before it spirals out of control. He is happily jamming in the New York landmark that employs him, takes the subway home, checks in on his peacefully sleeping young sons, and then goes into his marital bedroom to learn that the pain of four impacted wisdom teeth are keeping Rose awake.

The everymanny sense of the main character continues with him and Rose discussing their poor fiscal health and options for funding the dental procedure that she requires. Their fateful decision the next morning to borrow from the life insurance policy on Rose triggers their nightmare.

Manny goes to the insurance company office later that day thinking that inquiring about the value of the policy as collateral for a loan is going to be routine. The reality is that a woman who works there mistakenly recognizes him as the man who robbed the business months ago.

A subsequent police report puts NYPD Blue on the trail of Manny; being a nice guy and believing that his innocence is his get out of jail free card prompts our innocent to fully cooperate with the detectives who literally knock on his door.

The cringing by viewers begins with the detectives questioning Manny without reading him the well-known Miranda rights that the U.S. Supreme Court establishes 10 years later. Their criminally negligent behavior continues with conducting numerous blatantly suggestive witness identification procedures that include having Manny walk through robbed stores without informing him of the purpose for doing so.

This leads to arresting Manny without even telling him of his rights to an attorney and to remain silent as the cell door slams. The detectives additionally still are telling their suspect that he has no cause for concern if he is innocent.

Hitchcock and Kafka fully merge in this black-and-white film as the shadow of the cell bars falls across the face of a terrified Manny. This leads to a memorable scene as he sits still while the camera spins around him in a manner reminiscent of several "Psycho" shots.

Audience sympathy grows for Manny as defeat repeatedly is snatched from the jaws of victory. This includes the highly improbable thwarting of every effort to establish what should be a solid alibi. This likely raises the thought of many viewers in this age in which many of us live alone and that DVRs and/or On Demand video (not to mention highly portable cell phones) are in virtually that PROVING that we are "home watching television" on a "night in question" may be very difficult.

The additional element that attracts Hitchcock to the story is the toll on Rose. The overall experience and the related thoughts cause her great angst with effects that last well beyond the truth coming out.

Archive supplements the film with the making-of documentary "Guilt Trip: Hitchcock and the Wrong Man." Peerless film historian Robert Osborne and genuinely acclaimed film director Peter Bogdanovich are among the talking heads who provide insight regarding this compelling docudrama.

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

'Dare to Be Wild' VOD: Biopic of Acclaimed Irish Natural Garden Landscape Designer Mary Reynolds

Two recent VOD biopics from Canadian company LevelFILM provides more proof that the Great White North excels regarding indie films. The topic du jour is the January 9, 2018 release of "Dare to Be Wild." This docudrama tells the story of determined Irish landscape designer Mary Reynolds

This beautifully-shot film that screams for a Blu-ray release begins with the magical childhood of Reynolds in the Irish countryside. Her connection to the natural world is clear from the start and will make some folks believe in fairies and similar special creatures asserted to inhabit those woods.

Wanting a chance to create gardens that reflect the natural wold prompts a 20-something Reynolds to move to Dublin. Her first adventure there involves working for a celebrity landscaper who is a "The Devil Wears Prada" style boss from Hell.

The inevitable shabby treatment from the aforementioned She-Devil prompts Mary to campaign to compete in the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show. Prince Charles being an entrant provides a sense of the caliber of the event.

The desperate time crunches regarding meeting the application deadline and then creating a magical spot in the heart of London in a very short time leads to Reynolds begging dreamy Christy Collard and his fellow commune-style back to earth tree huggers to lend a hand and numerous other resources. There additionally is a strong suggestion of deflowering.

(As an aside, the Internet reports that Collard and Reynolds remain close friends and that he continues working with his family business Future Forests in Ireland.)

A highly amusing scene from the introduction of Reynolds to the highly enviro-friendly community from which she is seeking help involves a gathering at which a member requests a modern convenience. This alone provides entertainment; the manner in which the request is met is hilarious.

Proving her determination requires that Reynolds follow Collard to Ethopia where he is working on a variation of the terra forming of which many episodes in the "Star Trek" franchise are made. The amazing results show there is hope to put right what once went wrong.

Back in England, Reynolds and her motley crew get to work and overcome almost constant setbacks. Suffice it to say that anything that can go wrong does; this continues to the 11th hour during which the genuine oasis becomes an apt setting for a Lawrence Welk performance. The looming threat throughout is that the highly arrogant and fussy head of the contest will disqualify Reynolds for the slightest infraction.

Reynolds being charmingly ejected from her Garden of Eden near the end of the film and reading the "where are they now" blurbs provide good payoffs at the end of this feel-good film that has a excellent sense of its subject. It also shows that there still is a call for cute biopics in this era of superhero epics and shock value comedies.

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

'Cern' DVD: Documentary on How Large Haldron Collider Studies Big Bang

The Icarus Films January 16, 2018 release of the 2013 documentary "CERN" provides those of us who do not know a proton from a neutron a chance to learn more about physics from the literally best and brightest in the field. An even cooler aspect of the film is that we get an extensive look at the ginormous Large Haldron Collider that the titular research organization operates on both sides of the French-Swiss border.

This film by director-writer Nikolaus Geryhalter begins with Blu-ray worthy images of this enormous facility; we see tons of fascinating equipment that most of us do not recognize in tunnels that seemingly go on forever. Similar footage throughout the film provides the same sense.

Geryhalter intersperses these looks at this massive machine and the infrastructure that keeps it literally humming with interviews with the physicists and other professionals at the facility. The scientists discuss using the collider to do related cool things that include the primary purpose of better understanding our universe, recreating the aforementioned totality of existence in the period just after it all starts with a big bang, and creating black holes.

"CERN" also discusses basics that include how the collider works, the enormous amount of power required to operate it, and allocating use of the machine among the four research projects at the facility. The only disappointment is no mention of pulling pranks with the gigantic magnet that is a crucial component of the star of the documentary.

The "Star Trek" vibe of the film continues with the spirit of international unity that is just as important as keeping the collider from running amok. The nature of the collaboration is apparent from the first interview in which a physicist explains that scientists from many countries work at the facility and speak the common langauge that she describes as "broken English." Her presentation and those of everyone else shows that she does not give them proper credit; each talking head speaks the mother tongue of Des Moines very well.

We also hear from a scientist whose husband works in a different area of the faciilty and whose daughter attends a nearby kindergarten. This woman additionally has a step-son and a brother-in-law who are on the payroll.

The elements described above make "CERN" a perfect film for our times. It both shows what international cooperation can accomplish and provides hope that the fruits of the experiments will improve the world.

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

Sunday, February 18, 2018

'Macgyver' '16 S1 DVD: Prime Angus Beefcake

Properly reviewing the Lionsgate February 20, 2018 DVD release of S1 of "MacGyver" requires the analytical thinking needed to be on the payroll of the Phoenix Foundation as a member of Team MacGyver.

The good news is that this entertaining reimagining of the '80s action-adventure series about the exploits of hunky 30-something science-whiz-secret agent Angus MacGyver stays very true to the original concept; it also has an abundance of fresh elements that prevent undue deja-vu regarding the original.

The following YouTube clip of the Lionsgate promo. for "MacGyver" S1 provides a good look at the new faces in this franchise and includes plenty of action shots.

Lucas Till, who aptly plays young Havok in the "The X-Men" prequel films, has the good looks and boy-next-door persona that filling the shoes of hunky original star Richard Dean Anderson requires.

The reimagining includes replacing middle-age desk jockey handler Pete Thornton with younger and more active Patricia Thornton, who does not seem to be related to her Mac Universe predecessor. Further, longtime friend-colossal flake Penny Parker keeps her name and relative age to MacGyver but is a more frequent presence and is much less flighty.

Producers Lee David Zlotoff and Henry "Fonzie" Winkler also alter Nikki Carpenter. Her background is less fleshed out this time, and we meet her after she is the spy who loves MacGyver.

Nikki also reflects an element that requires the aforementioned analysis regarding the '16 series. Her apparent departure from the series in the pilot sends our hero in a tail spin that is an element for many S1 episodes. However, folks who are familiar with this genre in general and with the OS specifically can predict the subsequent developments. The same is true regarding the general plot line regarding allegedly literary-loving arch-nemesis Murdoc.

Thoughts regarding the recasting of recurring character buddy/irritant Jack Dalton likely are more controversial. A purely objective opinion is that the (arguably skilled) portrayal of that character by Bruce McGill is so loathsome that there is a memory of avoiding episodes in which he appears.

The same bias reflects liking the new Dalton, who appears in every S1 episode. Zlotoff and Winkler properly rely on the fan base of George Eads from his 335 episodes on "CSI" in casting him as the permanent sidekick of MacGyver. This likable Dalton plays up his good ole boy persona to entertain Team McGyver, always looks out for MacGyver rather than tries to con him, and actively puts himself in a position in which he may take a bullet to protect his buddy. For his part, Dalton makes an amusing joke that he hates nerdy CSI (i.e., forensic science) stuff.

Similarly, the aforementioned loved Murdoc is a more constant presence than his roughly once a season OS appearances. He first shows up mid-season as an assassin with a contract that is very personal to our group.

We further see bounty hunters/proposed spin-off stars the Colton Family get a makeover.

The aspect that requires the aforementioned perspective regarding this fast-paced series (which provides at least three lessons in how to MacGyver household items in each episode) reflects the difference in the television landscape between 1985 and 2016.

The OS was a "guy" show competing with the Monday-night sitcom lineups of CBS and NBC. Additionally, the relatively few cable networks of that era mostly either aired very specialized content or obscure reruns.

Conversely, network broadcast series of 2016 compete with 100s of basic and premium cable channels that mostly show original content. This is not to mention the numerous streaming services that do the same. One need not be a rocket scientist to realize that this makes going with a sure bet much safer then being experimental.

One only need to look at the new "Fuller House" and "Will & Grace," both of which seem to SOLELY exist to amuse the stars, and the upcoming "Roseanne" that likely will be more of the same to see that content providers are looking to the past to put butts in front of a screen in the present.

The '16 "MacGyver" outshines the other reboots by being completely free of smirks as the star does things such as use a Mylar balloon to lift a foot print and utilize common kitchen items to transform a wine bottle into a potentially lethal projectile. We further do not get any lame insider jokes regarding the former incarnations of the characters.

(A side note is that your not-so-humble reviewer is proud of once using a coat hanger to retrieve a kitchen sink sprayer hose from a bend in a drain.)

What we get are well-crafted stories that (sometimes repeatedly) center around cliched plots; this reflects a statement by Roseanne before the premiere of her OS that there are only 10 sitcom plots. A hilarious aspect of that is her saying then that she never is going to resort to the lower middle-class Conners winning the lottery.

At the same time, Tom and Jerry chasing and battering each other have entertained us for more than 60 years, and the Scooby gang has done the same regarding their pursuits of bad guys who try to scare off meddling kids and others. This demonstrates that a properly executed concept can be eternal. One should remember as well that some shows are crave-worthy comfort food, rather than rare delicacies.

The reason for mentioning this is that the (again entertaining and well-produced) 21 episodes in S1 of the '16 series packs in several seasons' worth of fan-favorite concepts. This includes Murdoc appearing in four of the twenty-one offerings.

We also get two episodes in a row in which a good person does a really bad thing because the real villain is holding a family member, two separate episodes in which a sort of a homecoming for MacGyver embroils him in intrigue, MacGyver not allowing a contract on his head to prevent him from going out in the field, Team MacGyver having a dangerous mole, and a season finale in which the bad guys obtain control of the Phoenix headquarters.

We further get a cross-over episode in which MacGyver and Dalton team up with the finest from the new "Hawaii Five-O" to save the day. Folks who recall the excitement of seeing folks from "Cheers" and "Frasier" visiting each other, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel reuniting a few times, the "Star Trek" crews merging, and even "CSI" teams joining forces can relate to the appeal of this one.

Two other plot lines pay homage to the "CSI" past of Eads. One episode finds him buried alive. Another one in which a hunt for a serial killer is personal for a member of Team MacGyver and requires especially heavy use of forensic science is another awesome nod to the CBS classic procedural that precedes "MacGyver."

The debriefing regarding this mission to provide a sense of '16 S1 is that "MacGyver" is unique in having a strong ensemble with a lead who appeals to viewers from 8-to-80. Further, a barrage of familiar elements in S1 often is needed these days to help ensure an S2. This site will review the DVD of that season in a year.

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

Saturday, February 17, 2018

'Dropping the Soap' DVD: Emmy-Winning Gay-Friendly Sitcom Shows Backstage Drama at Soaps Rivals Scripted Events

Gay-themed streaming service Dekko releasing the complete series of the 2015 online sitcom "Dropping the Soap" on February 20, 2016 provides a good chance to watch this homage to witty British television. The general similarity is that limiting the series to 10 episodes reflects the BBC philosophy of airing a few very good episodes, rather than 20-or-so mediocre or lousy ones.

The more obscure (but more direct) homage to the video fare from across the pond is "Soap" treading where a Britcom has boldly gone before. Each "Soap" episode begins with a cold open in the form of a scene from the daytime drama "Collided Lives" around which the series about producing that show revolves. The opening credits provide a transition to that backstage world.

The 2008 S1 of the Britcom "Moving Wallpaper" has the similar premise of the characters having production positions or roles on the soap "Echo Beach." Episodes of "Beach" that reflects the most recent events on "Wallpaper" would air right after that episode of that series.

The comparison extends to the term "moving wallpaper" referring to television series that are so bad that watching therm is like staring at wallpaper. "Lives" has all of the bad acting, dramatic close-ups, cheesy production, and cliched plots that mark unwatchable soaps.

The following YouTube clip of the official "Soap" trailer highlights all the comic drama from that series and from "Lives."

"Glee" star Jane Lynch, whose Emmy-winning portrayal of new "Lives" executive producer Olivia Vanderstein has all the gleeful (had to be said) ruthlessness of her cheerleading coach/high school administrator Sue Sylvester from her Fox series. Vanderstein is brought in to cure the many ills that are dragging down "Lives."

Character actor Paul Witten plays "Lives" star Julian Draker, who is an influential player both in front of and behind the camera. His primary concerns are to save his own job and to get rid of cast mate Kit Knockers, who gets her role via being the daughter of the now-vanished predecessor of Vanderstein. This nepotism extends to Kit sibling Donovan being the head writer.

The "Lives" drama include the character of Kit trying to wrest the character of Draker away from his on-screen wife. The backstage motivation is to give Kit, who has amusing leverage over Draker, more exposure on the series. Reel and real-life further collide as Draker orchestrates disabling storylines for the character of Kit.

Other backstage drama includes adding a young blonde stud to the cast as the son of the Draker character despite the two actors not having a significance age difference. We also get drama at a fan convention and learn that men are not the only ones with a casting couch.

Wonderfully quirky live and voice-actor Diedrich Bader shines in a few episodes as reporter Peter who has a past with Draker that Peter wants to bring into the future. The pair effectively being caught with their pants down prompts amusing damage control.

The appeal of all this can be considered the "Seinfeld" factor. "Lives" is so bad that (ala Jerry and his "friends") we get great joy watching what we dislike so much. The backstage aspects are more entertaining (and more Seinfeldian) in that the characters are so shamelessly amoral that the shock value is appealing and many of us wish that we had the guts to be so honest in our words and deeds. Setting this in the world of a television genre that appeals to every aspect of the lowest common denominator is a match made in Heaven.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

'The Star' Blu-ray/DVD: Oprah Among Those Bringing Animated Nativity Story to Life

The Sony Pictures Home Entertainment February 20, 2018 Blu-ray and DVD releases of the 2017 Sony Animation film "The Star" both allows a final dose of Christmas spirit and reminds some folks that their tree really needs to come down.

This retelling of the Nativity story from the perspective of a trio of animals is cute and widens the perspective of those of us who only know what happens from the time that Joseph faces the consequences of not making a hotel reservation.

Although possible presidential candidate Oprah provides the greatest star power in her VO role of Deborah the camel who is traveling with the three wise men, the film centers around Bo the "small but brave" donkey (VO veteran and "Walking Dead" fan fave Steven Yuan).

The following YouTube clip of a "Star" trailer shows the bright animation and family-friendly humor of the film. It also shows the "A List" caliber of the other VO actors.

Bo is an unhappy literal beast of burden of a miller at the beginning of the film. An escape attempt related to seeing the newly formed titular celestial object coincides with a "Christmas Carol" style event. An angel visits an unmarried (and surprisingly unfazed) Mary (Gina Rodriguez) to inform her that she is chosen one whom the Holy Spirit will visit and perform the immaculate conception that will make her pregnant with Jesus Christ. We then see that highly significant intercourse occur.

The action then moves ahead six months just as Mary is about to wed Joseph (Zachary "Chuck" Levi). The bases for the cold feet of the blushing bride include her never telling her soon-to-be husband that she has a holy bun in the oven.

The drama and the excitement for the very newly wed couple includes a surprisingly unfazed Joseph learning that he is step-father to be. Bo soon thereafter literally crashing into the honeymoon cottage of the couple further makes this a wedding day that neither Mary nor Joseph will ever forget.

Bo, along with Dave the dove (Keegan-Michael Kay) and Ruth the sheep (Aidy Bryant), soon take on the role of protecting Mary and Joseph on their well-known journey to Bethlehem.

The primary threat to Mary fulfilling her destiny is an agent of Herod tracking her for the purpose of preventing her from giving birth to Jesus. The disclaimer at the end of "Star" regarding the artistic license related to the film addresses the aspect of talking farm animals repeatedly preventing this soldier from completing his mission; this is especially true regarding a herd of sheep flocking him up.

The logical (and actual) conclusion of "Star" is new-born Jesus peacefully mellowing in his manager as his four-legged, two-legged, and feathered admirers surround him.

The plethora of DVD bonus features include sing-along and dance-along shorts and a cute "Faith All Year Round" short with "Spiritual Success Coach" DeVon Franklin and a group of adorable children.

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

'Jesus Meets the Gay Man' DVD: The Gospel According to St. Barts

Breaking Glass Pictures fills the need for a thought-provoking and entertaining documentary on the theological issue of how Jesus really feels about gay men with the January 9, 2018 DVD release of "Jesus Meets the Gay Man." The spoiler is that the son of God is much more chill than widely represented.

A central theme of this (of course) Canadian film by Jean-Claude Lafond is that no one knows what Jesus actually says regarding any topic; the Bible is the work of established religion and represents the views of that institution. The related concept is that Jesus wants the chance to let us hear the gospel truth directly from the guy who creates it.

The official synopsis of "Jessus" nicely explains its uniqueness. "A story of reconciliation, forgiveness and renewal wrapped in Mony Python-like sketches and a jazzy dance number, 'Jesus Meets the Gay Man' is a fun documentary that will have you see Jesus in a new light, while at the same time convincing you to work on your abs."

The following YouTube clip of the "Jesus" trailer expands on the above recap of the film.

As mentioned above, much of the material is presented as skits; one of the more entertaining and insightful presentations directly relates to the title of the film. It is a slant on the Biblical story of Jesus being asked to heal a slave boy with benefits of a Roman leader. The skit has a very nervous Roman soldier urging Jesus to remotely do his thing, and our savior fully knowing the score and repeatedly providing assurance that he is cool with the situation.

The talking heads include clergy and lay folks with a horse in the race; some of the most compelling footage is vintage video of a televangelist who does not share the views of the Jesus depicted in the film.

The happiest images are from a Toronto Pride festival in which gay men revel in the freedom to celebrate themselves.

The terrific DVD extras that are a Breaking trademark include additional interviews and skits.

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

'Wallflowers' DVD: 21st Century Web Series Version of 'Dear John'

The Dekkoo Films February 13, 2018 S1 & S2 DVD of the 2013- ? web series "Wallflowers" reflects a couple of modern television trends. The first is that most of the relationship-challenged characters in this show being straight follows the same broadening of the scope of the gay-oriented Dekko streaming service that virtually every basic cable network is undergoing. The second pattern is that the aforementioned characters belonging to a support group for New Yorkers with trouble finding and keeping a significant other being very reminiscent of the 1988-92 Judd Hirsch "must see" NBC sitcom "Dear John" reflects the increasing reboot of 20th century programs for the 21st century.

The accolades for "Wallflowers" include Best Web Series wins at the 2015 Indie Series Awards and the 2015 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards.

Being a Dekkoo series makes the choice to focus "Wallflowers" around openly gay former child star/now 30-something casting director Bryce Hunter predictable; his being the "straight" man among the central casting sitcom types is amusing. Although he is unlucky in love, Bryce asserts that supporting fellow group member/BFF since childhood/business partner Daisy Loeb is his motive for being in the group.

Much of the Bryce-related humor centers around his experiences in the gay dating world that are funny when they happen to someone else and horrendous when they happen to you. The best story line in the entire series relates to Bryce going on a blind date to appease over-bearing group leader/self-declared relationship expert Janice.

The date is with a Trust Fund Baby who trades comic books; that alone prompts great jokes that include Bryce predicting that that man yells "up. up, and away" during sex.

The real hilarity ensues when Bryce agrees to prolong the agony of their evening at a restaurant because of the potential for ecstasy in the apartment of this poster boy for the Peter Pan Syndrome. Despite Bryce going well above and beyond to be a good guest, the man does not respond. The climax of the evening comes after Bryce calls it a night, and a subsequent wardrobe malfunction requires that he endure one of the worst reel or real-life walks of shame ever.

Although the love life of Bryce dramatically improves in the second season, his deciding to post a profile on a fictional version of grind'r both creates more more embarrassment for him and laughs for us and forces the issue of when a relationship between two men should become monogamous.

For her part, Daisy becomes obsessed with an indie filmmaker whose intentions are unclear and whose schedule often takes him out of town. This brings Wallflowers" fully into "Will and Grace" territory with the highly emotional straight woman agonizing over every aspect of the current object of her affection and falling apart at every setback only to have her decades-long gay best friend offer compassion and sarcastic remarks.

Bryce reflects another sitcom cliche in that the character is recast three times; the series mines good fourth-wall breaking humor regarding the transition from Bryce #1 to Bryce#2.

Writer-director Kieran Turner also gets good gay-themed laughs regarding the group member who is an extreme fag hag; a scene in which several of her "boys" call right after each other to ask her to help with things such as being a wing hag is very amusing.

Middle-aged customer-service rep. Martin fills the lovable loser quota. He spends the first season pursuing a woman who breaks each of their dates. The second-season adventures of Martin revolve around increasingly bonding with a pregnant married co-worker.

On a larger level, Turner does a good job bringing the whole gang together in the S1 finale; intentional and inadvertent guests gather at Chez Hunter to discuss their lives while engaged in a mind-altering activity that will cause every viewer to see the '70scom "The Partridge Family" in an entirely new light. The S2 final scene is similar but is more "Facts of Life" than "Friends."

The final analysis of this show about people receiving peer counseling is that it honors the television shows of the '90s without looking dated.

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

'Static Shock' S3 DVD: The Hero in the 'Hood Fully Joins DCU

The Warner Archive January 30, 2018 DVD release of the third season of the 2000's WB Saturday morning cartoon awesomely brings us 3/4 of the way toward making the entire series available to eager fanboys. The pattern of "Static" releases suggests that we will see the S4 DVD the week before Memorial Day.

This urban variation of "The Flash" and "Spider-Man" has a "big bang" grant black teen Virgil Hawkins the ability to absorb and manipulate electricity; his primary foes consists of other (mostly teen) "bang babies" who become meta because of the same incident but use their great powers greatly irresponsibly.

The review of the S1 DVD release includes a primer on both the lore and the big-name voice-over actors of "Static;" the S2 review discusses the further adventures of this boy wonder, including his teaming up with Batman and Robin to battle The Joker.

The first adventure in this set reunites our hero with the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder; it also continues the "Static" tradition of relatively subtle teen-oriented fables. A troubled bang baby who is catfished into going to Gotham City in search of a cure for her affliction finds herself the reluctant partner-in-crime of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. This leads to Static teaming up with his aforementioned hero to save the day.

The epic two-part "A League of Their Own" does not include a reference to there not being any crying in superheroing but does introduce Static to several more DCU heavy hitters. The Justice League requiring the special talent of Static prompts them to visit him and sidekick/tech. guy Richie on their home turf of Dakota and bring them to the Watch Tower base in orbit over earth.

Our homeboys in outer space soon learn after being left unsupervised in the coolest space station ever that Brainiac is behind the technical difficulties that bring Static there. This super-genius making the rookie villain mistake of revealing his plans to his captives plays a role in his awesomely low-techish style defeat.

Part-two of "League" brings the action down to earth as Static must battle a Brainiac-washed Justice League.

Static continues his DCU integration with a joint adventure with Superman that involves a high-school teacher who is a living doll. The good folks at Archive awesomely add context to this episode by including the "Superman: The Animated Series" episode "Toys in the Hood" as a DVD bonus. This episode is a prequel to the "Static" offering.

The bigger picture is that "Superman" and "Static" are the product of Warner animation god Alan Burnett, who produces virtually all of the modern series and films from that division of Warner Prime. One can only hope for a "Krypto" movie.

A direct "Flash" homage occurs in an episode in which Static time travels back to the date of the death of his mother in an effort to put right what once went wrong. The episode also fills in missing pieces from the lore of the series.

The S3 evolution of Static as a superhero builds off of earlier season tension with Richie; this wannabe finally gets his wish to be a "real live boy" when an early-season development allows him to adopt the persona of sidekick Gear. His jet-powered skates and other tech. allows him to literally keep up with big boys.

"Static" also builds on tradition by following up an S2 appearance by AJ McLean of "The Backstreet Boys" with a hyped guest shot by teen rapper Lil Romeo; Lil Romeo becoming Lil Static leads to his actually saving the day.

Black power takes center stage in two episodes; the Hawkins family travelling to Africa both gives a Virgil a chance to not be "the black kid" and provides him a role model in the form of an African superhero. The season finale is a two-fer both in terms of discussing the civil rights movement and in providing the moral that there being snow on the roof does not prevent someone from being a superhero.

These episodes illustrate (pun intended) that S3 proves that the third time is the charm. S1 and S2 are very good, but S3 really shows that a black teen from a single-parent household can have a solid friendship with a white kid and can be just as big of a hero as any other "meta."

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

'the Kids in the Hall: The Complete Collection' DVD + Digital: Best Dark and Cross-Dressing Humor Money Can Buy

Mill Creek Entertainment stays true to its word in describing the February 13, 2108 DVD and Digital release of "The Kids in the Hall" as "the complete collection." This set includes every UNCENSORED episode from this 1989-95 five-season CBC/HBO Canadian sketch-comedy show, the 1988 HBO pilot, AND the entire 2010 reunion series "Death Comes to Town." The uncensored aspect is very clear from the foul language in many pilot skits and the nudity in a "Naked for Jesus" skit.

The accolades for the "Kids" include numerous Emmy nominations and several Gemini Awards (a.k.a. Canadian Emmys) wins.

The following YouTube clip of the Mill Creek promo. for "Collection" strikes a perfect balance between offering a look at the uniqueness of the series without unduly spoiling the fun within.

Mill Creek releasing this edgy series on the same day as a (reviewed) Blu-ray release of the 1974 family film "Benji" and a (reviewed) collection of film and television appearances of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis during their era as a comedy team and the period following their break-up provides some sense of the depth of the Creek catalog.

"Kids" consists of real troupers (and future mainstream stars) Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson. These boys regularly dressing as a wide variety of women, portraying the most bizarre characters to come out of any sketch-comedy series, and baring all on stage in front of an audience results in their shamelessness being our bonanza.

The good news is that the Creek set allows getting all the goodness in one package and fills a gap left by previous "Kids" DVD sets being discontinued. It also provides current cool kids in their teens, 20s, and 30s a chance to discover this awesome alternative show. The bad news is that a traditional review ruins much of the impact of this discovery.

Much of the fun of watching edgy late-night television comedy, which can be considered forbidden fruit to a pre-adolescent, is coming across it on your own. Readers who are old enough to at least vaguely recall the Carter presidency likely remember the excitement of being up way past their bed times on the Saturday night that they discover classic SNL with jokes about sex and the television commercials that dare mock beloved household items; simply reminding this generation of the eternal line "Jane, you ignorant slut" should bring it all back.

This leads to discovering SCTV, which largely is a kinder and gentler version of the early SNL days. One exception is the "Happy Days" era Ron Howard monologue in which he chugs a brew and jokes about rumors of his being killed in Viet Nam.

Just as too much advance knowledge of these shows impairs the impact of seeing them for the first time, too many specifics about "Kids" ruins it for the "virgins" who have yet to see this program.

"Kids" is the glorious bastard child of SNL and SCTV. This CBC and HBO series outshines SNL in terms of frequent use of the seven dirty words that you could not say on broadcast television for many years and in terms of the unrepressed Canadian-style silliness of SCTV. As an aside, SNL once aired a hilarious skit to celebrate the word "penis" becoming acceptable for late-night television.

A perfect example of "Kids" humor occurs in the series finale at the end of the fifth season. In jokingly introducing scenes from skits that fail even loose broadcast standards, Foley and McDonald mention one titled "Hitler F**ks A Donkey." This cuts to a skit in which McCulloch is dressed as the German leader and mimics the titular act of beastiality.

The big picture is that the "Kids" have highly infectious fun. It is as if they are the mot inventive 13 year-olds ever and have a warehouse of costumes, make-up, and wigs available to act out the products of their fertile imaginations. In this regard, the "darnedst things" that those "Kids" say are the best part of the show.

Other good humor comes in the form of the "Kids" portraying stereotypical characters of all ages and genders to mine humor from the various flaws of people. These include secretaries crabbing about the grind of office work, flamboyant gay men, obnoxious teen boys, abusive husbands and their meek wives, etc.

The strong desire to minimize spoilers is behind offering what is believed to be a hypothetical example of a "Kids" skit but is so perverse that it might be one. Such a skit may be one of the many set at a table in the kitchen of a middle-class home. One cast member is playing the part of a young boy, and another "Kid" is fully in drag as his mother and is feeding him dinner.

This hypothetical skit begins with the boy asking why his classmates live in nicer houses than his and his mother responding that that is because his father is a worthless bum who cares more about paying whores for sex than buying the boy a bicycle.

The mother then goes on to tell her son that her husband has never provided for her material or sexual needs. The climax comes when the mother states that she has found a way for her husband to put food on the table, and the boy asks how. This leads to the mother picking a half-eaten piece of meat off the plate of the son and stating that it looks like that is off the leg of his father.

The "closing monologue" regarding all this is the "Kids" are more than alright and prove that good non-topical humor never goes out of date. It is almost certain that the herds of Helens who form a regular focus group throughout the series agree.

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

'Home From the Hill' DVD: Mitchum, Peppard, and Hamilton Do 'Dallas'

The Warner Archive January 16, 2018 DVD release of the 1960 Southwestern Gothic drama "Home From the Hill" is a perfect example of the bounty from the the Ted Turner era at Warner prime.

This MGM film is part of the catalog that Turner recognizes as Golden and Silver Age ore, and that he begins making readily available to watch at home. This treasures also remind us that that great films are not limited to the oft-broadcast ones during the prehistoric era of getting a television signal from an antenna on your roof.

Vincent Minnelli directs this movie that wins two National Board of Review, USA awards and that that organization deems to be one of the top 10 films of the year.

"Home" gets its title from an apt literary reference that generally refers to a man returning from a test of his masculinity. As the below shows, the film also has a coming-of-age element.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Home" provides a strong sense of the scope and the drama of the film.

The common elements of "Home" and the classic prime-time soap "Dallas" are obvious from the opening moments of the former. Family patriarch/local millionaire Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) does not return from a hunting trip with a shotgun marriage to a hillbilly wife but does follow the Ewing tradition of getting shot during that outing. The lone gunman does so out of revenge for Wade making a loved one of that shooter the latest notch in his bedpost. This shooting and seducing as well as a desire to pass down the family dynasty to son Theron (George Hamilton) makes Wade the J.R. of the Hunnicutt clan.

Hunting companion/underling Raphae (George Peppard) soon comes to the rescue; both the bond between the men that is clear from the start and subsequent developments make the reveal, which the DVD back cover spoils, that Raphae is the illegitimate son of Wade not very surprising. This makes stoic Raphae the Ray Krebbs of the group in that he is the bastard son who has a relatively good job and otherwise is treated well so long as he understands his status.

Seventeen-year-old Theron is the "good son" with some edge Bobby of the group. This ultimate rebel with a righteous cause starts out quiet and well-mannered is this film that largely is his coming-of-age story. His literally being taken on a middle-of-the-night snipe hunt provides a wake-up call that prompts him on his road to manhood.

Wade helps this quest by assigning Raphae to be a big brother to a (then unsuspecting) Theron. This includes shooting lessons that involve the most humorous moment in "Home."

Additional foreshadowing comes in the form of an early reference to an area of quicksand from which no one ever emerges; of course, the primary test of manhood for Theron requires that he enters that forbidden zone.

Matriarch Hannah Hunnicutt (Eleanor Parker of the highly entertaining (reviewed) broads-behind-bars melodrama "Caged") is a combination of Miss Ellie and Sue Ellen. She largely stands by her man throughout his philandering but has limits regarding the embarrassment that she will endure; she also has relatively good emotional stability but has limits regarding that as well.

Girl-next-door Libby Halstead (a.k.a. Pamela Barnes-Ewing) provides the final piece of this puzzle. She catches the eye of Theron, who initially is so shy that he convinces Raphae to do his courting for him with ultimately (largely) predictable results. The father of Libby holding Theron responsible for the sins of the father provides additional drama.

Theron strutting home at 2:00 a.m. with his open shirt revealing his (of course) perfectly tanned chest leaves little doubt regarding the night that Libby fully makes a man out of him.

"Home" remains true both to epicish films of this type and to "Dallas" in having the drama amp up in a manner encompassing every major element of the film in the final 15 minutes. An adulthood of adultery catches up to Wade, Theron resolves his daddy issues, and the role of Raphae is resolved. For her part, Hannah shows that that he is just as tough as all of her "boys."

The DVD extras include the epic-long four-minute theatrical trailer for "Home."

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

Saturday, February 10, 2018

'Babes with Blades: The Flower of Sarnia' DVD: Amazon Woman on the Moon

The Breaking Glass Pictures January 2, 2018 DVD release of the 2018 sci-fi thriller "Babes with Blades: The Flower of Sarnia" shows fans of this purveyor of some of the best gay-themed indie films out there that we are not in West Hollywood anymore. The surprising quality of this low-low-low-budget "Xena" clone shows that we should trust the rich instincts of the Breaking boys.

The following YouTube clip of a "Babes" trailer provides a good primer on the lore of the film and includes plenty of butt whomping scenes.

The obvious shot-on-video quality and the opening scene in which the big bad Visray Empire fights and captures Sarnian warrior princess Azura (producer-director-writer Cecily Fay) provides a strong sense that we are in for as big of a world of hurt as the opponents of our super girl. Azura being forced into gladiator-style combat and having ice princess Visray Section Commander Sorrentine as her foe does not help matters.

The back story provides the first glimmer of hope. The Visrays conquering the Sarnian home world involves an almost complete genocide and fully devastates that once-thriving planet. That planet far from Hoolywood being uninhabitable prompts moving the action to the Draiga mining colony.

The challenges that Sorrentine faces includes quashing a human-led rebellion; like all good dictators, Sorrentine chooses punishing the general populace as the means of the empire striking back.

The titular flora contributes a "Beauty and the Beast" element in that is is a glowing adornment that is of great value to Sorrentine as the last living thing (other than Azura and any other "straggelers") from the Sarnian world.

Meanwhile back in the dungeon, Azura is bonding with a cute human who is a rebel mole. This contrasts with the less cute but still good-looking lad who has a past with Azura but seems to currently play for the other team.

For their part, the rebels are stepping up their game from raiding supply depots to planning a Death Star destruction level game-changer that is designed to end the tyranny of the Visrays at least until the sequel that one REALLY hopes is called "Chicks with Sticks."

This plan includes breaking out Azura and getting her to help them; this leads to the inevitable confrontation between the principals and learning the actual principles of the aforementioned guy who easily can either be friend or foe.

This battle royale causes the death of a person but importance, but death is not necessarily permanent in scfi. An additional giveaway regarding this is that Fay apparently is a Zac Snyder fan beyond creating a Wonder Woman style heroine.

The final payoff is a good one in that the universe is a better place thanks to the kids who take a stand. It further shows that with great power comes great responsibility to make more films reminiscent of the SyFy channel cheddar of the past.

The extras include footage of a vigorous fight rehearsal. We additionally get "Babes with Blades - Real Action Heroines' Showreel."

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