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Monday, April 30, 2018

'Static Shock' S4 DVD: Final Four Completes the Destiny of the Hero in the 'Hood

The Warner Archive April 16, 2018 DVD release of the fourth and final season of the WB animated series "Static Shock" is music to the ears of fanboys everywhere. These typically timely Archive releases of series always are a treat.

This program about middle-class black teen Virgil Hawkins (Phil LaMarr) turned the titular DCU electricity-channeling superhero both provides his real-life non-meta counterparts a positive role model and offers the rest of us good humor and action. The review of the recent S3 release includes a recap of the events that lead to S4.

The aptly titled S4 season premiere "Future Shock" almost achieves the fan ideal in this series that has many parallels with "The Flash" (and the coming-of-age series "Smallville.") We get the always popular team up with Batman and Robin in the form of Static being on a field trip from his home turf of Dakota to Gotham when the Dynamic Duo show up to help finish off the villain du jour; this leads to time travel in the form of a wonky device transporting Static 40 years in the future where he teams up with Batman-in-training Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) and an elderly Bruce Wayne. This caper for our caped team involves him rescuing his future self, who is being held hostage for an exchange for a very bad guy.

The icing on the cake is a two-part "Justice League Unlimited" episode that Archive adds as DVD special feature. This DCU take on the "Back to the Future" trilogy both closely ties in with the "Static" season premiere and offers a lesson regarding the well-known nature of karma.

The only missing element from "Static" S4 is a full team-up with the Justice League, such as the one that Static and best friend/guy in the chair/sidekick Richie/Gear (Jason Marsden) get in S3 when they tangle with Brainiac.

Another joining of forces is more of a pure team up in that it has Static and Gear work with their real-life basketball heroes/secret superheroes to defeat a supervillain. Fans of classic Saturday morning cartoons will note the parallels with the (reviewed) Hanna-Barbera series "The Super Globetrotters."

LaMarr does quadruple duty a few episodes later when JL member Green Lantern comes to town in an inadvertently timely episode. This outing involves this John Stewart apparently abandoning his superhero ways in favor of a life of crime. Watching this adventure coincides with receiving a notification of the conviction of a very hostile Bill Cosby on the infamous sex-based charges.

Virgil initially cannot accept that his hero has turned until he gets a painful reality check. Although a reason obviously exists for these events, "Static" being a modern series makes it possible that Stewart is not back in the fold at the end of the episode.

One S4 change is that "Static" largely abandons the early seasons practice of most episodes being "very special" ones that teach a lesson. One exception is an outing in which any viewers as young as eight should identify the general issue within the first few minutes of the beginning. Desperate times in terms of an imminent nuclear explosion lead to the desperate measure of a superhero facing his dyslexia. A highly amusing aspect of this is this literacy-challenged good guy and Static providing a thinly-disguised PSA as they converse while facing the camera.

The next outing (pun intended) is a largely disguised Gay Pride episode. The real reason that a meta-villain is targeting a high-profile friend of Static relates to that bad guy blackmailing this idol based on knowing his secret nature. This leads to a very public coming-out that leads to acceptance. This relates to a hope regarding four seasons and a movie that the latter involves Static and Gear admitting their true feelings for each other.

The final three episodes are so closely tied together and provide such a great end to "Static" that the wish here is that they were combined into an extended finale episode.

This adventure with strong overtones of "The X Men" begins with a scientist being on the brink of a cure for the cause of super-powered "Bang Babies," which include Static and Gear. The next episode features Wendie Mallick of "Just Shoot Me" and "Hot In Cleveland" fully embracing her voice-actor role as a mad in both senses of the word scientist who discovers the secret identity of our hero. The series finale hits a perfect note regarding Static struggling with deciding whether to keep up the good fight or return to being a regular teen.

As indicated above, "Static" is especially cool for all tweens and teens. These adolescents can see themselves in this nice kid who is not perfect and who faces the same challenges of trying to maintain a social life while keeping up with school, meeting responsibilities at home, and throwing in a grueling part-time job. The rest of us just enjoy the humor and the action and the adventure.

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

Sunday, April 29, 2018

'1:54' DVD: Indie Fact-based 'Love, Simon' Sets New Record for Breaking Glass Pictures

Previously highly gay-oriented Breaking Glass Pictures expanding into edgy content across the spectrum of film genres is a good thing. This broadening of the scope of the Breaking catalog increases the audience for horror films and other dramas with successful daring efforts to be different. The even better news is that this extended reach does not dull the Breaking instincts regarding gay-themed films that provide people all along the Kinsey Scale important messages.

The March 27, 2018 DVD release of the 2016 Canadian drama "1:54" from Oscar-winning filmmaker Van England is a prime example of Breaking remaining true to its roots. This movie, which Van states in a DVD bonus feature is based on events in the lives of different groups of people, expertly covers a full season worth of "After School Specials." The themes include being an outcast, gay teens, bullying, and rivalry among teammates.

The timing of the DVD evokes thoughts of the Disneyfied mainstream film "Love, Simon." That one also deals with a boy-next-door type contending with a blackmailer threatening to out him.

The title of the Breaking film refers to the "magic number" that represents the target time for completing a race; this goal is comparable to achieving the target weight for wrestling a champ in the '80s Matthew Modine coming-of-age film "Vision Quest."

The following YouTube clip of the Breaking trailer for "1:54" showcases the honesty and the related impact of the film.

In this case, the high school jock who comes of age is Tim. He is a former middle-school champ who quits running after his mother/coach dies. This leaving the team triggers a decline on the social ladder to a degree that Tim seemingly only is friends with fellow science geek Francis at the beginning of the film.

Current star runner Jeff delights in tormenting the boys apparently solely because they are easy pickings. This abuse includes flinging mashed potatoes at the lads in the school cafeteria and rapidly uploading the video of the incident for all to see.

More general abuse relates to Jeff repeatedly calling Tim and "Francine" fags purely as insults, rather than as commentary on their actual sexual orientation.

Subsequent events provide Tim an opportunity to regain at least a portion of his prior popularity. This widens an already growing rift with Francis and an incident in which Tim fails to support his former bestie.

The first truly intense drama relates to Francis cracking under the pressure of essentially being left alone to fend off the wolves. The response of Tim includes rejoining the track team and becoming what Jeff considers a serious threat.

This roughly coincides with Jeff making a video of Tim with his pants down and using that leverage in an effort to stop that boy from continuing to try to best Jeff on the track.

Tim gives into the pressure of his peer only to have his father and his coach (neither of whom know of the threat) coerce him into rejoining the team; this ultimately leads to Jeff making good on his threat and creating the predicted chaos.

Much of what follows is not very predictable but is not entirely out of the blue; it also ties in with both the "ripped from the headlines" aspects of "1:54" and with a seemingly increased rate of such incidents.

It is equally realistic that there is every indication that Jeff is never held accountable for his acts.

EVERY development in "1:54" reflects sad universal truths. Bullies of every age will take advantage of every perceived weakness and continue to enhance their abuse until effectively stopped or the target goes away. On the other side, the bullied either will continue to endure this torment or act out. Another fact is that the bullied recognize that reporting mistreatment to an authority figure is not the answer. Any disciplinary or corrective action only pokes the bear.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "1:54" is strongly encouraged to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

'Perfect Strangers' S3 DVD: Sitcom Version of Pulitzer-Prize Winning 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay'

The Warner Archive April 17, 2018 DVD release of the third season of the '80s sitcom "Perfect Strangers" provides Gen Xers cause for the dance of joy. This release comes a decade after the DVD release of the first two seasons of this series about 20-something bosom buddies odd couple cousins Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) and Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot) living and working together in Chicago. The other good news is that the S3 release creates reasonable hope for releases of future seasons over the next several months.

This release also provides an opportunity to address an 18 year-old issue. It is amusing that the 2000 Micheal Chabon Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is so highly praised as great literature despite essentially being a novelization of "Strangers." Kavalier tells the tale of the legendary comic book artists of the '30s through the '50s in the context of an 20-something New Yorker and his Czech cousin living, working, and (if memory correctly serves) dating together.

The core relationship is essentially the same in both the novel and the show. One difference is that Larry is a Midwesterner boy on his own until sweet and naive Balki knocks on his door almost literally fresh off the boat from the Mediterranean-adjacent island of Mypos. A broader perspective is that Larry and Balki can be considered the Lucy and the Ethel of the '80s. A narrower perspective is that "Strangers" has a significant role in the (reviewed) modern HBO series "The Leftovers," in which Linn-Baker plays himself.

S3 finds Larry starting a new job that brings him one step closer to his ideal career. He is a cub reporter at The Chicago Chronicle newspaper. Balki stopping by the office in the season premiere leads to him becoming the new mail boy at the Chronicle. The co-workers of the boys include sassy elevator operator Harriette Winslow, whose home life becomes the center of fellow TGIF series "Family Matters."

Business soon gets down to usual with fairly typical "sits" lead to "com." As is the case in all good and great shows, the distinction is in the quality of the writing and the talent of the actors. "Strangers" awesomely has shining moments in both regards.

The second episode of S3 finds Larry dealing with the shock of many of us on discovering a minor weight gain in our late 20s. This ultimately leads to Larry agreeing to go on a diet from Mypos only to lead to the typical conflict of his trying to get Balki to abandon his integrity only to ultimately learn that the high road is the better route. The hilarious physical comedy that is "Strangers" trademark revolves around Larry frantically trying to prevent Balki from discovering a delivery of a pizza.

The next outing is a special treat on many levels. Having Holland Taylor play a newspaper editor who is the virtual twin of the advertising executive Ruth Dunbar that Taylor portrays on the earlier '80scom "Bosom Buddies" (which shares creators with "Strangers" and "Matters") nicely ties that show in with "Strangers." "Buddies" costars Peter Scolari of "Newhart" and the father of Colin Hanks as childhood friends from Ohio now dressing in drag to live in an inexpensive New York apartment while they pursue professional and personal goals.

The next nice surprise relates to the nature of the "Strangers" plot about the character of Taylor trying to coerce Balki into having sex. Knowledge of several lesser shows leads the audience to reasonably predict that the "sit" will involve Larry trying to convince his cousin to give one for the team to help the career of our aspiring Clark Kent. "Strangers" does not disappoint regarding either the actual conflict or its resolution.

This pattern continues regarding an episode in which our boys engage in a three-minute dash around a grocery store. The physical comedy during that frantic effort is exceptional. More importantly, an audience expectation that greed results in the cousins only walking away with a can of Spam or an item of equal comedic value is unmet. The epilogue provides yet another good surprise.

The hilarity continues  with adventures such as Balki creating chaos by assuming that corporate America has integrity, Larry having his effort to present a false front to his successful brother face obstacles, and the boys breaking into their office to obtain an incriminating document.

Nitpickers may comment on the order of episodes in the Archive set not coinciding with the order on IMDb. The most probable explanation is that the Archive order reflects the intended running order. To paraphrase the trademark line of Balki, anyone whom this bothers is ridiculous.

Part of the joy of pure sitcoms such as "Strangers" is that not much occurs that requires watching episodes in any particular order. The journey is the joy regarding starting at the development of the "sit" and ending up at the heartfelt discussion of the learned lesson as the picture freezes, there is a flourish of the theme song, and the end credits begin appearing on the screen.

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

'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Concert' Blu-ray: Stories and Performances Honoring Actual American Idols

The spectacularly clear images and incredible audio of the Time-Life April 24, 2018 Blu-ray release "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert" requires watching it. The perfectly lit dark black background with the blue neon and the flawless enormous slides look fantastic, and the top-notch audio system could not sound better. This warrants inducting Time-Life in the Hall.

Stating that you feel as if you are in the front row is not hyperbole. The very user-friendly main menu easily allowing skipping ahead to a desired induction or specific song in a set (and then keeping the party going without forcing you back to the menu) is beyond awesome.

Two aspects of this set make it personally cool. The first is a link with the "friend from camp" sitcom plot. This storyline typically has a supporting character being unable to get a ticket for a rock concert only to have the lead share that a member of the band is a friend from camp.

The ensuing varying degrees of hilarity typically revolve around the lead being thwarted in efforts to get promised tickets and/or a backstage visit. The climax often involves the rock deity showing up to the intense delight of the starstruck character and equally excited studio audience or laugh track.

The relevancy of this is having shared a summer-camp cabin with former Hall "suit" Warren "Dave" Zanes, whose rock star cred. comes from being a member of the Del Fuegoes.

Current Z Rocker/former Del Fuego Dan "Ray" Zanes simultaneously worked in the camp kitchen and sang doo wop that summer. The Unreal TV archives include what may be the first recording of Dan singing.

Righteous dude Warren currently is literally opening the door to his Jersey home as part of online fundraising to get his latest album out. BTW, your not-so-humble reviewer can get all the tickets that you need when Warren plays Boston. :-)

The final aside regarding this experience is that learning about the copious sex, and drugs, and rock-and-roll among the camp staff required returning to work a decade later. Personal experience regarding that trifecta related to one of the three.

The wider relevance relates to a long-term hatred of "American Idol." The two major peeves regarding that program extend well beyond it being a reality show. One huge bone of contention is that the hard-luck stories are valid bases for sympathy but should be completely irrelevant in a singing contest.

The more relevant basis for loathing "Idol" is an equally long-held belief that winning a contest that lasts a few months does not warrant the title of "idol." Many friends have heard my manifesto about the singers and the bands that deserve that accolade spending years playing dive bars and traveling in broken-down vans before achieving comparable fame to the latest "Idols." The speeches in the Hall induction ceremonies verify this statement.

The "Hall" set contains the full induction ceremonies from 2014-2017. One can only hope that Time-Life does not make us wait four years to see the 2018 event. The inductees ranging from Cat Stevens to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band to Cheap Trick (which sadly disappoints regarding their set), to Nirvana, to Ringo Starr provides some sense of the range of the inductees. Honorees Joan Jett & The Blackhearts arguably deserve the award for the best set.

The first induction speech in the set also is the best one of all speeches. Chris Martin of Cold Play does an awesome job using good humor and fan admiration honoring Peter Garbiel. Hearing English boy Martin share the story of being blown away buying his first Gabriel cassette in Paris and then wandering The City of Light listening to it is relatable to every fan. A somewhat similar story is being a boarding school sophomore getting the twin thrills of seniors inviting me to sneak off campus and this covert adventure involving buying ice cream. An indelible memory is the driver putting in a cassette and telling us that it is a new band called "The Police."

Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 gets the best line of any ceremony. He spends much of his 2016 speech discussing the hard-rocking elements of "Chicago" to the extent of expertly imitating that new inductee. This leads to him telling the audience members who label "Chicago" as their mother's band that he wants to  (expletive deleted) party with their mother. An equally cool aspect of this is that 37,000,000 online votes is what get "Chicago" in the Hall. One can only hope that "Squeeze" fans demonstrate the same initiative.

Another highlight comes regarding Paul McCartney inducting Ringo Starr in 2015. His funny and heartfelt speech both supports the "Idol" theory and proves that time heals all wounds; whether it wounds all heels is another matter. Seeing McCartney perform with his former bandmate is the only way to end this ceremony; NOTHING could have followed that act.

The footnote to this discussion of the "Hall" set is that it includes music for virtually every taste, honors rockers who do not get money for nothing, and provides a chance to hear speeches that literally run from the sublime to the ridiculous. One challenge is to not hurl obscenities at Michael Stipe copiously bitching about playing in a band during his induction of "Nirvana."

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

'Joe' DVD & Blu-ray: That '70s Odd Couple with Social Commentary Film

The Olive Films separate April 24, 2018 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 1970 drama "Joe" is the latest example of Olive digging deep to provide cinephiles worthy of that distinction a chance to see rare films. In this case, Peter Boyle of "Everybody Loves Raymond" aptly plays the titular blue-collar guy from Astoria with bright-red politics in this Oscar nominee for Best Screenplay.

We meet this big-screen version of Archie Bunker typically ranting about welfare recipients, black people, and other individuals that he considers socially undesirable at his neighborhood bar. The incident that changes everything is Joe turning his attention to hippies at a time that one-percenter advertising executive Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick) is his audience fresh off of a rage killing of the junkie boyfriend of his 20-something daughter Melissa (Susan Sarandon in her first film role.) Bill commenting that he has just killed a hippie earns the admiration of Joe.

Joe subsequently befriends new idol Bill, and Bill plays along to keep Joe happy to prevent this unstable man from turning him into the police. "Rocky" director John G. Avildsen particularly shines regarding an awkward dinner at the home of Joe. A high point of that hilariously tense evening is Bill initially declining an offer of canned nuts as an appetizer and then subtly taking a handful on learning that take-out Chinese food is the evening fare.

The "Odd Couple"/"In-Laws" vibe becomes particularly strong when Joe coerces Bill into venturing into the nightlife of Greenwich Village in search of Melissa. The crawl through the anti-establishment establishments there lead to an eye-opening night with a group of the detested hippies.

The festivities prove the old adage that everyone has fun until someone loses a stash. The other lessons are that hippies may be onto something regarding free love and heavy drug use but that everyone reverts to form the morning after.

This love in leads to events that set the stage for the twist-laden climax. We learn that Joe is a scary cra cra guy who is not all talk, that Bill has his own breaking point, and that shooting first and asking questions later is a horrible policy.

The impact of this well-produced '70slicious social commentary is that it reminds us that the deep divides in American society are decades old. Intense political differences are only the tip of the iceberg. Class also is an issue in a society in which socioeconomic status allegedly lacks importance. Further, the "kids" and the "adults" continue to disagree with a common theme that the youngsters tend to hold liberal views that their elders believe to be based on an incomplete understanding of the world, and the kids consider the 'rents to be out of touch whether it relates to illicit substances or knowing how to build a website.

The more era-specific insight relates to the corporate culture of the '60s and '70s that several Jack Lemmon films from that period perfectly reflect. Many Depression-era babies work hard to achieve professional success and the associated lifestyle only to have midlife crises; these involve both intense pressure to keep earning enough to pay for things such as the country club membership and the new luxury sedan every year and the related constant degradation at the hands of clients, peers, and bosses. These guys sorely would love to live in a shack on a Caribbean island but feel a strong sense of duty to the natural objects of affection who rely on Daddy to continue providing the lifestyle to which they are accustomed.

This boils (pun intended) down to the legal and illegal forms of grass being greener on the other side of the gated community fence and all of us not realizing that every lawn provides some form of benefit.

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

'Dear Dictator' DVD: High School Outcast Gets Schooled in Toppling Mean Girls

The Cinedigm separate April 24, 2018 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2017 Michael Caine/Katie Holmes comedy "Dear Dictator" nicely reinforces the similarities between the governments of Banana Republic nations and the ruling class at high school. This film also will turn every viewer off ever eating at Red Lobster.

The central relationship in "Dictator" is between sullen teen Tatiana and her "pregnant-at-16" mother Darlene (Katie Holmes). They are a more realistic "Gilmore Girls" duo in that Darlene has chronic mild resentment regarding her life getting derailed before graduating high school and as to this family regularly arguing and never engaging in clever banter with copious pop culture references. Titular tyrant Anton Vincent (Michael Caine) enters the picture when Tatiana writes him in compliance with the stated requirements of (but contrary to the spirit of) a school assignment.

A U.S.-backed coup soon prompts Vincent to run for the border and seek covert asylum at the suburban home of Tatiana and Darlene. His initial payment for room-and-board consists of mentoring Tatiana in overtly and covertly toppling the power brokers at her school. Mom finding out that the boy whom her daughter is hiding is old enough to be her grandfather turns our shadow leader into a landscaper/handyman/chef.

Meanwhile, our technically challenged former head-of-state is learning about e-mail. He also begins to suspect that his supporters back home are moving on.

Hilarity ensues when the activity traced to the Internet account associated with Tatiana includes searches for surplus military hardware literally brings the feds to the door. The manner in which all this is resolved includes a nice surprise and provides justice for all.

The former child star roster of Holmes, Seth Green as the freaky dentist for home she works, and Jason Biggs portraying the high-school teacher who sets everything in motion enhance the tubular '80s teencom vibe of "Dictator." It is an amusing diversion with enough truth bombs to provide a little substance. Everyone learns a life lesson, and mother and daughter are better off for having hosted a man responsible for piles of corpses.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Dictator" is welcome either to e-mail me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'Hope and Glory' DVD & Blu-ray: John Boorman Tells What He Did in the War

Olive Films once more proves the eternal appeal of a well-produced period piece with the separate April 24, 2018 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 1987
multi-Oscar nominated drama "Hope and Glory." The better news regarding awards is that "Hope" scores several BAFTA awards and wins a Golden Globe. The creative cinematography (which looks great in Blu-ray) alone warrants those accolades.

This autobiographical film by writer-director-producer John Boorman about being a young lad in England during WWII has a good mix of angst, turmoil, and humor ala the similar Steven Spielberg film "Empire of the Sun" from the same year.

The aforementioned good mix of elements commences from the opening scenes. Roughly 10 year-old Bill Rohan and his roughly 8 year-old sister Sue are sitting in a movie theater while their fellow kiddie matinee attendees raise Hell while a newsreel announces the tension between the U.K. and Germany.

The tone is fully set a few minutes later when the narration in "Hope" comments on the dead silence that accompanies the declaration of war. Americans who are old enough to remember the shooting of JFK can relate to the statement in "Hope" that everyone remembers where they were when they learned that the U.K. was at war.

We then see daily life largely go on as usual with the exception of the back garden now sporting a largely make-shift bomb shelter and family head Clive joining the army. An interesting aspect of this is that Grace Rohan (Sarah Miles of "Ryan's Daughter") welcomes the excuse to get her husband out of the house.

Conflict between Grace and teen daughter Dawn regarding the latter sneaking out at night is another sign of normalcy. The motive for these nocturnal activities include a relationship with Canadian soldier Bruce Carrey, who amusingly outranks Dad. The young love provides further humor regarding alleged rookie mistakes.

The new romance also reflects the challenges associated with love during wartime. One of many memorable moments essentially involves Mom telling Dawn to get some while the getting is good.

Much of this is reminiscent of the period following the 911 attacks. Television schedules are back on track and New Yorkers are once again rude to each other roughly a month later. At the same time, we all view unattended backpacks a little differently and a large number of people join the army to do their part.

Bombs literally falling around the Rohans provide an equally literal wake-up call regarding the reality of war. Boorman and his cast do a superb job building tension as the huddled family realizes that the next bomb either will miss them or literally bring the house down around them.

Additional conflict and symbolism revolves around the relationship between Grace and her well-off parents; her father is very old school and still does not approve of middle-class Clive as a son-in-law. A related (pun intended) aspect of this is kids not getting to know their grandparents until those members of the greatest generation are unlikable old fogeys.

The bigger picture is that Boorman shows us that war does not affect nature; the seasons still change, Christmas still comes, and people still live and die. We also are reminded that not every loss of a home is attributable to world events.

The even larger perspective regarding this release coming in 2018 is that most of us have not experienced life in wartime that has affected our daily lives. The "characters" are compelling because they are true and reflect a typical middle-class family that must adapt to their times but still largely manage to stay calm and carry on.

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Former 'SGU' Last Star Fighter/Current 'Concessionaires' Star/Aspiring Drunk Celebrity Gaming Series Producer David Blue Tells Most

This post on a recent  telephone conversation with David Blue, who arguably is best known as gamer-turned-Last Starfighter Eli Wallace in the scifi series "Stargate: SGU" honors the spirit of that show by timejumping to the end of our chat and then going back to the beginning.

Blue stating "thanks for making it fun" perfectly captures this talk with a guy who clearly loves what he does. A bonus was speaking to someone who does not look at you funny when you comment that Atlantis is located at the bottom of San Francisco Bay.

The largely successful challenge in having the attention of Blue for 45 minutes was not talking "Stargate" at the complete expense of his current projects that reflect his fanboy nature as strongly as his place in the lore of a solid scifi franchise. Blue starring as aptly named Scott (presumably neither Tiberius nor Thomas) Frakes in the (reviewed) Stan Lee produced cult comedy "The Concessionaires Must Die" got him to the table.

Twin passion project Drunken Gaming, which is running a Kickstarter campaign, centers around Blue and his way-cool on-and-off the screen buds getting wasted and playing a wide variety of games. The prospect of watching Blue kick the ass of Robert Carlyle at Fortnite while both are one Jager Bomb away from hurling on their consoles should provide enough incentive to help make it so.

A desire to give "Concessionaires" the deserved focus is behind holding off sharing the scifilicious portion of the interview for a post of the "Gaming" effort. A tantalizing tidbit is that Blue is bi in that he loves both "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" but considers "Trek" his biggest fandom. His statement "I think everyone wants to be Wesley [Crusher]" also is a topic for another time. (A personal assessment is that young Mr. Crusher is the Jar Jar Binks of "TNG.")

Learning that Blue makes friends with co-stars and maintains relationships with them long after shooting ends reinforces that he is a nice guy. Hearing that he was up for the lead in the CW series "The Flash" but strongly praises the Grant Gustin portrayal of that titular Speedster proves that Blue is very gracious.

A Fool for Shakespeare

The time-shifting nature of this article continues with discussing the most recent film of Blue before delving into "Concessionaires." This man of a 1,000 facets gets top billing in "Lear's Shadow," which is a modern take on a classic Shakespeare drama.

Sharing that I was the Cordelia absent the vampire slaying in my family prompted asking Blue about his status regarding his two siblings in his clan. He first stated he probably also was Cordelia (complete with vampire slaying?) but indicated that he identified mostly with the highly loyal Earl of Kent.

Blue stated as well that "Shadow" premiered at the 2018 Pasadena International Film Festival where is was greatly honored with numerous nominations that included on for Blue. The film currently is seeking a distributor.

Making 'Concessionaires'

Knowing the backstory of Frakes helps understand the dream casting regarding having Blue play that role. This 30-ish Peter Pan/ultimate fanboy is a roughly 15-year veteran popcorn jockey at an independent single-screen movie theater where he fully embraces the fare of his employer and the camaraderie of his co-workers. However, reuniting with a classmate who is living an adult life coinciding with the imminent sale of the theater to a Megaplex corporation prompts introspection.

Particular obsessions of Scott are the actual "Last Starfighter," who is a titular '80s video game wizard whose skills get him involved an actual outer-space war, and the theory that fussy Hawaiian estate overseer Higgins really is estate owner Robin Masters on the classic '80s detective show "Magnun, P.I." The "Starfighter" connection particularly warranted comment.

Blue responded "I always say that there is a certain percentage of yourself in a character." With respect to the casting choice, the witty comment regarding director America Young was "God Bless America for letting me know about the film." A related "Stargate" note was that former Moonlight" co-star and current friend Claudia Black, who is well-known for her role as a former thief and current do-gooder on Stargate: SG1" praising the "Stargate" production team was a factor regarding Blue pursuing his "SGU" role.

Partial personal synergy existed regarding "Concessionaires." The aforementioned review of that film compared it to both the '90s musical-comedy film "Empire Records" and to the '80s CBS failedcom "The Popcorn Kid." That sadly maligned series focused on high-school kids working at a theater very much like the one in "Concessionaires." The "Kid" lead easily could be "Concessionaires" projectionist/Yoda Jon (who essentially dies at the end) in his early days.

Blue responded that he promoted "Concessionaires" as "'Empire Records' in a movie theater" during the making of his film and shared that he still has the "Empire" soundtrack.  His more general comment was that he described "Concessionaires" as "a fun movie for nerds by nerds."

He expressed surprise that he did not know about "Kid" and added that he believed that "everything that I see is from the '80s." We can talk after he has watched "Danny and the Mermaid."

Location Location Location

Blue shared that much of the filming occurred on location at the Warnor Theater in Fresno, which surpisingly did not host a premiere. He also commented on the bonding element of filming on location and noted that "with 'Concessionaires,' we had a good group and had fun on and off the set." The outtakes that run during the closing credits reinforce that assertion of chemistry among the cast and the crew."

Marvel-ous Producer

The aforementioned love extends to executive producer Stan Lee, whose screen presence awesomely extends beyond a cameo. One feels for Blue, who understandably desired more facetime with Lee, regarding that pop culture god playing his one scene with a younger version of Scott. That performance fully reflected the dual loves of Lee for family and for comics.

Commenting that Lee was 95 and that his "Concessionaires" performance likely being the last one that he filmed provided a perfect end to this career prompted an awesomely unpredictable response from Blue. This fanboy speculated that Lee would live to be 300 and that we would learn that he was an alien. One can only hope.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

'Nicholas on Holiday' DVD: Delightful Diary of a Gallic Kid

The Icarus Films March 27, 2018 DVD release of the charming 2014 French family comedy "Nicholas on Holiday" provides equally strong (and entertaining) reminders that spring is on the way and that the blessings and the curses of family summer vacations are universal. The bigger picture is that "Nicholas" joins the ranks of films such as "Dirty Dancing" that provide a look at resorts that cater to long-term stays by families. One difference is that nobody tries to put Nicky in a corner.

"Nicholas" opens with the titular pre-adolescent narrator about to be sprung from his Parisian elementary school for the summer. He learns early in this vacation that his family is going to break with their tradition of going to the mountains and are headed to the sea for a few weeks. Part of the cuteness relates to this trip requiring a separation from the figurative girl-next-door.

Copious amounts of the kid-friendly humor relates to "Granny" being an Endora-level thorn in the side of her son-in-law.  One of the best scenes regarding this comes early in the film. "Mere" makes the argument regarding taking her mother on the trip that making an elderly person spend the summer in Paris is cruel; "Pere" responds that he is glad to take an old person with them, just not Granny. Mere winning by having Granny come along is predictable to anyone familiar with the relevant dynamics in the reel and real worlds.

More hilarity ensues when great frustration regarding a traffic jam en route to the resort prompts Pere to take an ultimately ill-advised shortcut. Incurring the wrath of the masses regarding his detour is only part of his problem.

On arriving, Nicholas joins a group of stock character young boys. These include the annoying know-it-all, the almost albino nerd, the kid who will eat anything, and the younger kid who is a cry baby.

The primary complication comes in the form of weird girl Isabelle. The threat of a pre-teen romance prompts Nicholas and his posse to implement several plans to deter her. The most amusing of these include a comically botched effort to present a bad boy image and a separate act of sabotage that is designed to send the girl and her clan packing.

For her part, Mere gets a taste of stardom that causes Pere great distress. This also requires balancing pursuing literal fame and fortune with being a housewife.

For his part, Pere hysterically obsesses about his relationship with his boss. This leads to sitcom staple of writing a letter in haste and repenting at leisure. The manner in which Pere resolves this is another highlight of "Nicholas."

One common element of all this is that Nicholas is an everykid whose efforts to influence anything that effects him epically fail. This, in turn, leads to a textbook example of something being tragic when it happens to us and hilarious when it befalls someone else.

In the end, our family returns to their everyday life. Like all real and reel tales such as theirs, the titular vacation influences some aspects of this but mostly is a fond memory.

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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

'Last Seen in Idaho' DVD: To Live and Die in Hooterville

The Breaking Glass Pictures April 24, 2018 DVD release of the 2018 scifi-action-adventure crime thriller "Last Seen in Idaho" provides more proof of the appeal of low-budget indie flicks and that genres can peacefully co-exist. One aspect of both is an interview with an actor n a 30-minute "making-of" DVD special feature. He expresses glee regarding the "threefer" aspect of his character.

The following YouTube clip of the Breaking trailer for "Idaho" nicely summarizes the concept of the film in a spoiler-light manner. It also highlights the suspense and the action of the film.

"Idaho" centers around 30-ish innocent with a past Summer (writer-producer Hallie Shepherd). Her fresh start centers around her job at am auto-repair shop in a rural community near the border of Washington State and the titular state. Witnessing nefarious after-hours activity throws a monkey wrench in this effort to become a respectable citizen. This involving her past returning to haunt her is the icing on the cake.

The malfeasors discovering that they are not alone prompts a hot pursuit that causes a fiery crash that puts girlfriend in a coma. Her awakening includes discovering that she now is the girl with something extra in that she has flashes regarding future peril to her.

The recovery period involves Summer trying to stay alive in the present, to make sense of the events on "the night of," and to put right what seems destined to go wrong. Her entering an apparently destined relationship with newly met Franco perhaps being a case of sleeping with the enemy contributes further drama. Ambiguity regarding whether this wise guy is a made man or is living a made-up existence enhances the mystery of "Idaho."

All of this culminates with a hostage exchange that leads to a rural equivalent of a drawing-room climax in a British murder mystery. This, in turn, leads to mayhem (complete with rolls in the hay) that would make Quentin Tarantino proud if the budget for blood capsules was larger.

Additional fun comes from casting Casper Van Dien of "Starship Troopers" as the unfriendly heavy. The other bonus comes courtesy of a small-town mayor who is an uncivil servant.

The bonus features that accompany the aforementioned "making-of" documentary include another behind-the-scenes short and a blooper reel.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

'Z-O-M-B-I-E-S' DVD: Delightful Disney Channel Take on Brown v. Board of Education

The Disney April 24, 2018 DVD release of the February 2018 Disney Channel movie "Z-O-M-B-I-E-S" is a terrific reminder that the Mouse Factory still makes 'em like that. (This also coincides with your not-so-humble reviewer getting a stack of titles ranging from "The Sword in the Stone" to "Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2" through a new membership in the Disney Movie Club; yes, this bounty includes both Disney Channel "Descendants" films.)

Disney Channel fare presenting an idealized version of even lower-income teen life and sometimes being a little heavy-handed regarding "very special episodes" does not diminish the fun of watching enthusiastic young actors perform their hearts out before evolving to a stage that they are very naughty to prove that they are all grown up.

The final diversion into Blogland is that Disney Channel tweencoms are the fare of choice while making Sunday brunch and during (reviewed) stays at the incredible Wentworth by the Sea Hotel. At the same time, the overall concept of "Liv and Maddie" still evades your not-so-humble reviewer; they just seem to be high schoolers going about their daily business without any "hook."

The aforementioned elan is very apparent in the audition footage of Milo Manheim, who plays lead zombie Zed. This segment is one of the scads o' DVD extras and shows Manheim bounding around the room like a puppy on coke as he delivers the expository narration that opens "Z-O-M-B-I-E-S." He is the boy that anyone would love to have live next door.

The scene-stealing/thin white dude/sidekick this time is Bonzo. This excitable boy staying true to his heritage includes refusing to speak the language of his oppressors. Zombie/hacker Eliza more strongly advocates actively fighting for equality.

The aforemtionted narration explains that a freak accident at a nuclear power plant in the community of Seabrook, which is a real New Hampshire city with a nuke facility, releases a cloud of toxic gas that creates the titular brain-craving walking dead. The better news is that scientific advancements in the 50 years since that incident have led to the zombies and their offspring having relatively normal lives thanks to wrist bands that suppress their feral nature.

The segregation at the beginning of "Z-O-M-B-I-E-S" extends to a literal wall dividing the uberDisneyfied pristine world of the "normals" and shabby chic Zombietown. The catalyst for the film is a decision to have the zombie teens attend Seabrook High with the kids whose natural food cravings are less cerebral than their new classmates.

The Juliet to the zombie Romeo is perky unnaturally blonde freshman Addison, whose greatest desire is to join megaperky queen bee head cheerleader/cousin Bucky on the championship Seabrook High cheer squad. The audience quickly learns of her "flaw" that we also know will lead to a dramatic coming out near the end of the film.

Our "Maria" threatening to inflict a "low kick" to our "Tony" during their introduction to each other indicates that Disney acknowledges that we are in the 21st century.

The highly segregated integration of the teens from both sides of the wall initially prevents Zed from pursuing his dream of playing football. This changes when his demonstrating his mad gridiron skills earns him a spot on the team. The kicker (pun intended) is that being a star jock requires unleashing the inner beast.

All this leads to a more peaceful co-existence at Seabrook High until the inevitable reminder that the dark side of the neutered team mascot is near the surface. This, of course, leads to Addison standing by her man. He, in turn, proves his willingness to take one for the team.

A related message in all this is that evil comes in all shapes and forms.

The aforementioned gaggle of bonus features are all must see; they include hilarious outtakes, deleted scenes, additional audition footage, a music video, and a separate sing-along version of said video.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Z-O-M-B-I-E-S" is strongly encouraged to email me; you alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

'The Concessionaires Must Die!" VOD: Stan Lee Fanboy Film Is 'Empire Records' Meets 'The Popcorn Kid'

[EDITOR'S NOTE: A post on an Unreal TV interview with "Concessionaires" star David Blue will run the week of April 23, 2017.]

The April 17, 2018  Dauntless Studios VOD premiere (ahead of a DVD release) of the 2017 Stan Lee produced comedy "The Concessionaires Must Die!" shows the love of Lee for all things comic and pop culture a week ahead of a similar film with which he is associated. One difference is that this one relies more on story than on stunt casting.

The biggest homage to all things retro in "Concessionaires" is that this direct-to-VOD movie evokes strong memories of the direct-to-VHS and made-for-cable movies of the '80s. Our film is like the not-so-rare find from these venues that tells a fun story, benefits from a likable cast with good comic chops, and has good production values.

The following YouTube clip of the official trailer highlights the indie, pop culture, Millennial vibe that represents the best of fare that bypasses the multiplex.

The overall theme (ala the '90s musical-comedy "Empire Records") is of the small businessperson v. the "suits." One aspect is that this time it is really personal in a manner that is relatable to the people on both sides of comparble disputes. A very cool element is that the young cast being a closely bonded group at a dying historic single-screen movie theater is reminiscent of the unfairly maligned '80s CBS Monday Night failedcom "The Popcorn Kid."

A slimmed-down David "Eli" Blue ("Stargate SGU") stars as veteran snack bar jockey Scott Frakes. The theater is the site of his coming-of-age and projectionist Jon Dorn is a surrogate big brother if not father. The other significant relationship in the life of Scott was with his grandfather (Lee), who infected him with his love of comics and provided the legacy of a collection of highly sought-after editions.

Scott additionally is obsessed with all things pop culture to the extent of annoying one and all by repeatedly sharing a theory regarding "Magnum, P.I." A "Psych" vibe comes in via co-worker/best friend/sidekick RJ being a black guy with a shaved head and a geeky anxious nature.

The rest of the crew includes former child star/current drug addict Ashley and theater owner/cool boss Gabby. She inherits the theater and wants to honor the independent spirit of her father but also is tired of the struggles related to running that dying business.

Self-proclaimed nemesis of Scott/token bad guy Derek is leading the effort to purchase the theater while also trying to fully frakes up the life of Scott. The reveal regarding the offense that triggers that hatred reflects the incidents in our lives in which someone inadvertently seriously wrongs another to the extent of prompting a long-term grudge that remains a mystery to the offender.

Much of the ensuing wackiness relates to the antics of our 20-somethings and the malfeasance of the customers. We get the nerds who violate the no costume rule, the couple who cannot keep their hands or their lips off each other, and the tweens who repeatedly attempt to sneak into the theater. The manner in which the projectionist handles the kids is one of the best scenes and makes a case for naming "Concessionaires" "Jon Dies at the End."

Another good scene is a flashback between Lee and a young teen version of Scott. Lee seems to really be playing himself, and it is nice to see such a supportive parental figure play it straight in a comedy.

Much of the last half of the film centers around Scott taking steps to evolve as a person and to determine what really is important in his life. This involves making a large sacrifice that he does not consider as big of a deal as his friends and co-workers.

The final confrontation is nicely understated and includes a good twist. It further is nice to see a relatively believable happy ending. Even more joy comes regarding the hilarious outtakes that indicate that the cast is friends in reel and real life.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

'Hotel Berlin' DVD: Germans Scrambling During Final Days of WWII Effectively 'Grand Hotel II'

The Warner Archive March 6, 2018 DVD release of the 1945 drama "Hotel Berlin" offers fascinating character studies of a broad range of Germans as their city literally crumbles around them. The bigger picture is that this film is a quality example of movies, such as the "Suite" movies of Neil Simon and the 1932 Berlin-set classic "Grand Hotel," that tell the (oft-connecting) stories of folks staying at grand and not-so-luxurious lodging establishments.

One reason that "Berlin" and "Grand" seem so similar is that they both are based on novels by the same author.

The blessing and the curse of "Berlin" is that this excellent drama lacks most of the anticipated camp associated with many movies that tell the tales of the Nazis. The only straying into over-dramatic territory is an official telling a woman that he has unpleasant ways of making her talk.

The compelling aspect of "Berlin" is that the depth that it adds to the stock characters makes the film compelling. We get a strong sense of who these people are behind their public faces, the reasons for their life choices, and how they respond when the chips are down. Strong elements of this are the survival instinct and the ambiguity regarding the actual team of many characters.

The central character is enemy of the state Dr. Martin Richter, who initially is cleverly hiding in the hotel before being flushed out into the main areas of the building. All of this occurs in the wake of his escaping after being a guest of the Fuhrer under horrific conditions. His allies include his former colleague Dr. Johannes Koenig (Peter Lorre), who is playing his own dangerous game.

Hotel "hostess" Tillie Weiller (Faye Emerson) is the most interesting character, who seems to be the one with the most connections to the rest of the ensemble. She is on hand to entertain the brass and only asks for things such as a pair of shoes (and presumably chocolates and nylons) in return for her bestowed favors. Her origin story that the second half of the film reveals provides some of the strongest surprises.

The other woman in the story is stage actress Lisa Dorn, who is under scrutiny because of her relationship with a general who participates in a Fuhrercide attempt. For his part, this man faces the choices of making a run for the border or facing an effectively back alley death. Both options are contrary to the court martial proceeding to which he asserts that he is entitled.

The paths of Dorn and Richter crossing creates much of the aforementioned ambiguity. The assistance that she provides him reflects several possible motives; the same is true regarding her apparent betrayal. The obvious message here is that desperate times can call for desperate measures that include sleeping with the enemy.

The bigger picture is that "Berlin" puts a human face on the enemy. The Nazis are responsible for some of the worst events in history and those who support them have culpability. However, the film reminds us that not every bad act stems from an evil intent.

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

'Alexander Hamilton' DVD: Period Piece Focused on First Treasury Secretary Is Not All About the Benjamins

The Warner Archive April 10, 2018 DVD release of the 1931 period-piece drama "Alexander Hamilton" is at least the second recent addition to the Archive catalog that coincides with new takes on classic stories. The reviewed "The  Original Nancy Drew Movie Mystery Collection" roughly parallels with a new Drew series that should see the light of day no later than September.

To borrow (and paraphrase) a quote from the first "Lethal Weapon" film, personal satisfaction comes from Archive sharing that "Hamilton" star George Arliss brings the story of the first Treasury Secretary to life before the father of Lin-Manuel Miranda was an itch in the pants of his grandfather. In other words, creators of good works often get undue credit for being innovative.

Archive indicates as well that the film stays true to the production of Arliss and co-playwright Mary Hamlin.

"Hamilton" opens with the famous speech in which reluctant future president George Washington bids his troops farewell. This speech writing a check that the states (nee colonies) may be unwilling to cash is a primary catalyst for the rest of the film.

The action soon fast forwards several years and finds Washington ensconced in a non-oval office and Hamilton being an 18th century version of a telecommuter in his role managing the public fisc. The issues of the day include a debate that ultimately results in draining a swamp to build the permanent national capitol.

Hamilton is more preoccupied with getting Senator Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues to support a bill that requires divvying up the expense of making good on the promise in the speech by Washington. Reasonable arguments include that one state should not have to shell out dough to the soldiers of other states and that the federal government generally should not be too heavy-handed in running things.

Two events in the life of Hamilton come to have significant impact on his influence regarding this effort to spread the financial burden. Fired Treasury worker James Reynolds may have the distinction of being the first federal employee to be called out for being lazy and for putting his hand in the cookie jar.

The second development is that Hamilton spouse Betsy (Doris Kenyon) takes an extended trip to England. This departure literally and figuratively opens the door for allegedly estranged Reynolds spouse Mariah (a.k.a. Black Mariah) to arrive at Chez Hamilton late at night with a sob story and an extended hand.

Ambiguity exists regarding whether Mariah is in cahoots with James and the degree of the benefit that Alexander derives from giving her money. It is known that the presumable act of charity repeatedly comes back to bite this cabinet member in the drawers.

The threat of inquiring minds getting to know what is occurring behind the closed door of this public servant requires that Betsy, Jefferson, and the folks who determine whether the duty to pay the Revolutionary soldiers will cross state lines determine the extent to which they will stand by their man.

The cynical messages behind this are that the truly public minded often pay unduly high prices for their noble deeds and that even men (and women) of integrity have their prices.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

'The Original Nancy Drew Movie Mystery Collection' DVD: Ersatz Judy and Mickey Solve Mysteries

Purveyor of Golden and Silver Age classics Warner Archive is particularly timely regarding the March 14, 2018 2-disc DVD release "The Original Nancy Drew Movie Mystery Collection." This bringing these films from 1938 and 1939 back to life coincides with a new "Drew" series that likely will come to life either on NBC or Netflix.

Of course, future "Dynasty" star Pamela Sue Martin of the '70s "Drew" series always will be the only girl detective of that name for Gen Xers. Those of us who remain young-at-heart and the Millennials who follow us consider Veronica Mars of the CW series of that name the modern  equivalent of Nancy Drew.

The recent (review pending) Archive DVD release of the 1931 (non-musical) drama "Alexander Hamilton" is equally timely for obvious reasons. This one glosses over the humble beginnings of out first Secretary of the Treasury but provides insight regarding his scandal and related battle to get the states (nee colonies) to pay what he considers their fair share of the money promised the soldiers who fought in the Revolution.

One bit of trivia regarding the "Drew" novels is that "author" Carolyn Keene is the pen name of a handful of writers. There is conflicting evidence regarding one of those scribes also writing the companion "Hardy Boys" novels under the name Franklin W. Dixon.

The "Drew" movies can be considered a mix between the "Thin Man" series and Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney films. The titular roughly 16 year-old girl (Bonita Granville) is the adored daughter of respected attorney Carson Drew. Her sidekick is adorkable and clumsy literal bot-next-door Ted Nickerson (Frankie Thomas), whom Drew hilariously manipulates and/or dupes into doing her bidding even when it leads to him donning drag or drop trou.

Nancy demanding "push harder Ted" in on one of the four films provides modern audiences a glimpse of the adult life of this current sidekick/future husband with a special male friend on the side.

"Nancy Drew: Detective" begins with our American sweetheart and her fellow students at her private high school celebrating a dowager announcing that she is giving that institution of learning a princely sum. The game is afoot when the lady vanishes.

Of course, Drew (and her personal Ron Stoppable) outsmarts her father and the po po regarding tracking down the bad guys. This film also establishes the pattern of one bad guy who is involved in the underlying conspiracy catching Nancy and Ted in the act of obtaining the figurative smoking gun; this leads to said malfeasor effectively putting the meddling kids on ice until he can permanently silence them.

Being trapped leads to Nancy, Ted, or a combination of the two devising a clever successful escape that typically has them see the light of day just as the Calvary arrives. This often involves a Wa Wa moment that involves humiliating Ted, who is appropriately dressed to nurse a grudge at the end of "Detective."

"Nancy Drew: Reporter" is up next. This one starts with out plucky teen competing to win a prize for writing the best story for the local newspaper. This leads to her trying to prove the innocence of a woman who is accused of killing her surrogate mother in order to collect an inheritance.

This one has surprising violence and peril for a B movie intended for younger audiences. The other distinguishing factor is that the obnoxious kid sister of Ted and her own boy sidekick torment our heroes throughout the film.

"Nancy Drew: Troubleshooter" has Drew father and daughter travelling to the country to help clear an old friend of Carson of a murder charge. This one deserves special credit for involving a clever plot point regarding a variation of the deceased pushing up daisies. "Troubleshooter" additionally expends extra expense and effort regarding the effects in the extended (but nor boring) escape sequence.

Things return to normal in every sense to wrap up things with "Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase," which is a well-known title of a Drew novel. This one has shades of "Detective" in that it involves a plot to prevent a pair of elderly sisters from fulfilling a charitable intent regarding which Nancy has a horse in the race.

The title of "Staircase" facilitates discovering how someone seemingly is coming and going from the home of the aforementioned intended donors.

No mystery exists regarding the appeal of these films; they have the aforementioned fun of the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney films with the bonus of centering around a beloved literary character. One solved puzzle is that boys of all ages can enjoy these movies as much as the targeted audience of tween girls.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

'Romeu & Romeu' P2 DVD: Conclusion of Shakespeare-style Story of Star-Crossed Brazilian Boys

The Dekkoo Films January 21, 2018 DVD release of Part 2 of the gay-themed web series "Romeu & Romeu" wraps up the Shakespeare-style saga of two post-adolescent Brazilian boys in love. The Unreal TV review of "Romeu" P1 discusses how these boys from battling families meet and come to make the beast with two backs.

The primary appeal of this saga is seeing nice and cute guys overcome internal and external obstacles to starting and maintaining a gay relationship even in this era of "don't ask don't tell" and marriage equality.

The "Romeo and Juliet" element contributes additional entertainment. Even parents who accept that their son is gay often have trouble having the object of his affection sitting at the family table. Throwing in that boy being from a family that is a hated enemy contributes additional drama.

Part 2 begins our young lovers officially being a couple; things are easier for early Parkinsons patient Romulo, who already is out and has a mother who laments a relationship with a handsome young (but not Jewish) doctor not working out. This PFLAG poster child additionally is cool with her offspring sharing a bed with the member of a family with whom her clan has a long-standing feud.

Aspiring actor Ramon has a much rougher time of it; he already knows that his father is homophobic before coming out. The relationship with a member of a despised family adds further fuel to the fire.

The bloodshed that the P1 review predicts comes early in P2. A battle that is pure Montagues and Capulets (or Jets and Sharks) leaves Romulo sibling Thales badly injured and Ramon brother Samuel hurt even worse.

Our young lovers then flee to the sanctuary of the loving and supportive home of Ramon's gay uncle in Sao Paulo. Seeing our boys being adorable and happy is very nice.

Reality fairly literally crashing in on the bliss of the lads sets up the drama for the second half of the season; it further proves the adage about people who do not grow up in a loving and accepting family ultimately finding one that provides that support.

The melodrama that amps up in roughly the final third of "Romeu" makes it seem that series creators Arthur Chermont and Faell Vasconcelos are going to end their program on a note that is at least partially true to the source material. This commences with a distraught and missing Ramon absconding with high-grade pharmaceutical drugs after a traumatic confrontation with his father.

This leads to our potentially tragic figure fleeing to a site of great significance both to "Romeu" and the general lore of fiction. The fact that there is a clever surprise is fine; having the film resort to an ending that is straight (sorry boys) out of a Logo movie is mildly bothersome.

The better news is that we live in an era in which Dekko (and TLA Releasing) fare is readily available and generally accepted. This reflects our more enlightened times and provides teen and young 20s guys who are coming to terms with wanting to come out a good resource. Unfortunately society is not at the the point that most high school boys can comfortably sit down with Dad to discuss liking other guys, let alone sharing impure feelings about the boy next door.

Another sad truth is that boys who love boys often do not end up with "the one." The lucky minority who do very rarely get celebrated in the manner that lesser films employ. It is admitted that a grand show of love and support is more theatrical than a scene of two guys unpacking in their new apartment.

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

'Romeu & Romeu' P1 DVD: Star-Crossed Brazilian Gay Lovers

Gay-themed streaming service Dekko Films awesomely fully brings Shakespeare into the 21st century with the addictive Brazilian soap "Romeu & Romeu." The November 21, 2017 S1 DVD is the topic du jour; a review of the January 21, 2018 S2 DVD follows soon.

The modern touches extend beyond the star-crossed lovers of Verona, Brazil being two 20-something guys from families that have battled since a 1950 gay romance between young men from each family prompted murder and other mayhem. The Greek chorus consists of fierce drag queens, and the confidante of the boys is a highly outspoken maid.

The following YouTube clip of the "Romeu" trailer provides an entertaining primer on the series.

Romulo Campelo overall is an ordinary 20-something guy with the exception of being an early victim of a form of a Parkinson's Disease. Other drama relates to his intrusive mother Valeria aggressively trying to get him to reunite with handsome young (but not Jewish) doctor Patrick whom he used to date and who still has feelings for him.

On the other side of the equation is Ramon Monteiro; the challenges of this closeted gay boy extend beyond having a highly homophobic father to desiring an acting career despite his father having no regard for that profession.

Our boys meet when Ramon crashes a masquerade party for the birthday of Veleria. This also sets the stage for Patrick to connect with Maurcio from Team Monteiro. Ramon ex-girlfriend Luana hooking up with Romulo brother Thales is not the end of the crossing of lines among the post-adolescents around whom this series centers.

More drama centers around the conflicting views of our main boys regarding homosexuality than does around the probability of actual bloodshed if their families learn about their youngest generation sleeping with the enemy.

A scene in a late S1 episode has two of our secret lovers run into each other under highly compromising circumstances.

The theme to which many young (and not-so-young) gay men can relate is that not every boy who likes other boys is ready to let the whole world know about that aspect of his life. The broader theme in both "Romeu" and the real world is the range in significance of a man having sex with another man and whether both guys have the same feelings regarding that activity.

Mostly straight boys who only hook up with other guys are at one end of the spectrum; the next general level consists of men who feel an urge to act on an attraction to a specific man; this leads to a gay man who only desires sex with men but acts more out of lust than love; this leads to a gay man for whom sex with another man is an expression of love.

All of this shows that not much has changed since the debut of "Romeo" at the Globe Theater.

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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

'Apprentice' DVD: Son of Convicted Murderer Leans Ropes of Executing Prisoners

This belated review of the Film Movement May 2017 DVD release of the 2016 Asian drama "Apprentice" is more timely than it seems. This DVD is part of a December 2017 Movement three-film release to promote the fantastic Film of the Month Club of that distributor of international indie flicks. The other two DVDs are the particularly good (reviewed) "Bad Lucky Goat" and SPECTACULAR (also reviewed) "Glory."

The following YouTube clip of the official U.S. trailer for "Apprentice" highlights the drama and the character study elements of the film.

The titular trainee is 20-something prison guard Aiman. His starts the film guarding prisoners in a prison workshop. A chance encounter with resident executioner Rahim leads to Aiman beginning the titular trainee program.

The home life of Aiman consists of a stressful co-habitation with his sister Suhaila; we soon learn that Aiman cannot even go to the bathroom in peace. For her part, Suhaila has a serious boyfriend with strong ties to Australia.

The other piece of the equation is that the father of the siblings is a convicted murderer who still casts a shadow over them roughly 20 years after his execution.

The portion of "Apprentice" that focuses on Aiman helping prepare for the execution of a prisoner has several fascinating aspects. The most general element is providing both insight into this procedure and putting a human face on everyone involved. The more specific part of this is Aiman trying to learn more about the experience of his father leading up to his execution and related to the actual hanging.

This character study of this young man takes a dramatic turn when the past threatens to completely destroy his future. Although the resolution of this is not unduly surprising, it comes about in a very tense manner.

Although the story of Aiman alone provides good fodder for a film, the ambiguity that runs throughout "Apprentice" is what makes it Film Movement worthy. Examples include not knowing much about the dynamic between Aiman and Suhaila and also not being sure about every reason that Aiman wants to learn about conducting an execution.

As always is the case regarding Club selections, Movement pairs "Apprentice" with a well-matched short film. "The Casuarina Cove" is a serious-toned mockumentary that is based on actual events. The central character is a former military officer who is making a documentary about his experience (including the impact of his relationships with the father and his grandmother) being arrested after connecting with a man in a well-known gay cruising area. The impact of this incident includes media coverage of it.

Both films are prime examples of all fictional Movement offerings in that they easily can be remade word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the United States and still make perfect sense. These offerings having a live-stage vibe is another Movement trademark.

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

'For the Love of Benji' BD+DVD+Digital: Shaggy Dog Rick Steeves Does Athens

Mill Creek Entertainment does fans of '70s superdog star Benji a pawtastic solid in releasing the 1977 family film "For the Love of Benji" less than two months after the February 13, 2018 (reviewed) release of the 1974 film "Benji." Both releases looking great and coming out in DVD and Blu-ray with a code for a digital download eliminates any excuse for not buying both.

The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN "Love" trailer provides a good sense of the themes and the setting of the film.

Stating much about the underlying concept of "Love"also risks spoiling "Benji," which centers around the efforts of the titular lovable mutt to reunite kidnapped children with their father, "Love" opens with Benji being temporarily Shanghaied from a luggage conveyor belt on his way to board an Athens-bound plane.

The mission that this agent is not provided the option of refusing is to smuggle information to Crete. The ensuing mayhem commences on his missing his connection in Athens.

Benji making a break for it at the Athens airport sets the stage for the primary theme of "Love." Roughly 75-percent of this film that looks and sounds great in Blu-ray consists of Benji traveling the sites of Athens (including the Parthenon) in this modified "Lassie Come Home." The charm of the star and the beauty of the setting keep things interesting despite the relatively limited dialog and involvement of two-legged characters.

The good guys, the bad guys, and the guys with ambiguous intentions regarding Benji engaging in various degrees of pursuit break up our hero seeing the sites and making friends with a dog who hangs out at the Parthenon. This interaction shows that Benji is good boy and that he understands how to make friends and influence canines.

All of this leads to particularly exciting final 15 minutes. Both Benji and those near-and-dear to him are endangered. This sets the stage for this television and film star to once again save the day. This in turn leads to an expository epilogue that involves the happy ending that both family films and Hollywood require in the '70s.

Mill Creek also does Benji just as proud regarding the bonus features on "Love" as it does regarding the release of his first film. The earlier film includes two Benj television specials; "Love" has one special and the (sadly sans Benji) feature film "The Double McGuffin" by "Benji" and "Love" writer/director Joe Camp.

The wonderfully bizarre 1981 ABC special "Benji Takes a at Marineland" has marionettes that resemble the Krofft puppets of the era narrate the buildup to Benji preparing to be the first SCUBA-diving dog. The setting for this historic feat is Marineland in Florida.

The era-apt kookiness of this includes a puppet named Boris Todeath plotting to thwart the effort of Benji to make history. The nefarious scheme involves Boris stealing the specially-designed gear so that he can be the first to take this particular plunge.

This plethora of Benji is a great treat and shows that the purpose of a dog always has been and always will be to set a good example for us allegedly superior beings.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

'Lucan' CS DVD: I Was a Post-Adolescent Wolf Boy The Series

Warner Archive gladdens the hearts of fanboys everywhere with the April 10, 2018 DVD release of the 1977-78 ABC action-adventure anthology series "Lucan." More personal satisfaction comes regarding this set (as well as the reviewed recent Archive release of  S1 of "The  Mask" animated series) coming out in the wake of "Lucan" (and "Mask") apparently no longer being available on a streaming service.

Unreal TV always is pro DVD and generally is con streaming. Only having time to watch four streaming episodes of "Lucan" (and none of "Mask"), but now getting to pull DVDs of both series off the shelf anytime supports the philosophy of this site. The bonus is that DVDs are especially helpful regarding series such as "Lucan" that have limited (if any) life as syndicated reruns.

"Lucan," which stars hunky teen idol Kevin Brophy, represents the most fun aspects of mid-70s and early '80s television.

At the outset, a 20 year-old stud being a former wolf boy let loose in the "civilized" world after a decade of being taught how to act human is a prime example of the wonderfully outlandish bases for some action-adventure series of the era. Other examples are "Manimal," which centers around an amateur sleuth who can transform into any feral or domestic beast at will, and the young mutants of "The Misfits of Science."

Other '70slicious fun regarding this anthology series is that our titular hero aptly is a lone wolf who helps innocents whom he encounters on his series-long quest. In this case, the objective is to locate his parents so they might somehow form a family and he can learn how he comes to be the leader of the pack on going into the woods. This warrants comparisons to "The Incredible Hulk" and the "Starman" series of that era. Of course, all these follow '60s classic "The Fugitive."

"The Fugitive" vibe is especially strong in the second half of the "Lucan" run (no pun intended). A false accusation of a crime as a pretense gets our dogged hero on the scent of a two-armed man who can prove his innocence.

Vague memories from a tender age are that "Lucan" lacked a fighting chance to establish itself because it ran in the 8:00 p.m. Monday night time against a solid CBS comedy lineup and "Little House on the Prairie" on NBC. The folks at ABC further don't show "Lucan" no respect in airing the pilot as a TV movie in May 1977, airing the season premiere in September 1977, and airing the next episode the day after Christmas 1977 in this even pre-household VCR era.

The scheduling of "Lucan" also reflects that it is ahead of its time. Even five years later, either a basic cable network or a first-run syndication company almost certainly would have provided this series a home after ABC dropping it.

The pilot achieves a good balance between exposition and action by opening with researcher/father figure Dr. Don Hoagland (John Randolph) and his pet boy watching footage of the evolution of Lucan. Our boy with the charming smile bemusedly watches as he transforms from a feral beast, to a semi-civilized kid who is catching on, to a fully normal adolescent.

The catalyst for the series is a result of the squabbling that characterizes the leadership at every university. Hoagland advocates setting Lucan free in the wilds of southern California, but other academics assert that the risk of this lad wolfing out requires continuing to keep him effectively caged at the research center. A relatable element of this is all the good boys (and girls) with spotless records who are denied reasonable privileges during their senior year of high school.

Subsequent events prompt Hoagland to aid and abet Lucan moving to the urban jungle. This both is a step toward this all-American wolf boy becoming integrated into society and allows him to begin his search for his birth parents.

The typical element of being hunted comes courtesy of the university having hired-gun Prentiss (Don Gordon) become the bane of our wolf's existence by obsessively tracking him. This relates to the aforementioned stated concern regarding this dreamy stud being a threat to himself or others. His tendency to slightly revert to his feral nature when threatened somewhat justifies this action.

The initial transition to the real world includes a job at a construction site where our hero immediately learns that an alpha male who continues preying on weaker members of the pack even after proving superiority is not confined to the forest. Other drama relates Ned Beatty playing the construction company owner whom the district attorney has squealing in terror regarding liability for a collapsed building.

Lucan gets another lesson in human nature in the next episode in which a pre "Remington Steele" Stepahnie Zimbalist plays a Soviet gymnast whom our hero saves. This one can be considered pre "ripped from the headlines" in that it involves a Tonya Harding style plot by the husband of a fellow competitor. The motive for the knee-capping this time is more Cold War oriented then merely eliminating the competition. The general idea is that good citizens of Mother Russia should be willing to take one for the team.

The most exciting guest stars are in an episode in which Robert Reed of "Brady Bunch" fame plays the father of a character whom Robbie "Cousin Oliver" Rist portrays. An amusing aspect of this is that the boy is a jinx. Other memorable guest stars are Leslie Nielsen playing it straight as a corrupt sheriff with a conscience and Regis Philbin as someone who hopes to have good prospects.

Many subsequent episodes focus more closely on the search for Mr. and Mrs. Lucan. These include a particularly notable one in which Prentiss nets his prey, our wolf in grunge clothing once more becomes a guinea pig, and it seems that he is getting the mother and child reunion for which he longs. The bonus is that the element that Mom and Dad will need to skip town leaves the door open for the series to continue by having Lucan resume his tracking of them.

One amusing aspect of the final few episodes is that the apparent bid for a second season includes finding pretenses to have Brophy appear shirtless. These include frolicking on the beach and becoming a boxer. We additionally get an "Angels in Chains" episode in which Lucan purposefully incurs an unfortunate incarceration at a shady prison work camp in order to spring a wrongly convicted innocent in a story that has elements of both "not without my baby" and the black market for infants.

The pure camp fun of all this makes "Lucan" a genuine delight. Much of this joy relates to Brophy (who even has a slight unibrow) fully embracing his role.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection 4 CD: All of the Best Sung by the Best

The Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) March 16, 2018 4-CD release of "Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection" aptly celebrates the 70th birthday of a good friend of friends of Dorothy (and the rest of the world) by being of a scale that almost equals the tremendous (in both senses of the word) body of work by this living legend of both Broadway and the West End. It is equally cool that "Unmasked" comes to life at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.

One cannot imagine any other compilation to be diverse enough to include a cast of 100s that ranges from Beyonce and the cast of "Glee" to Donny Osmond and Elvis. This is not to mention early soft-rockers The Everly Brothers, hard rocker Alice Cooper, and virtually every Broadway notable in even not-so-recent memory.

A sin of omission that warrants a slap on the wrist reflects the curse of these grand undertakings. Any effort to provide a "best of" inevitably bothers some by excluding a favorite. That offense in this case is seemingly not including ANY recordings that put star of stage, film, and television Betty Buckley in the spotlight. Her work arguably merits inclusion more than that of the "Glee" kids.

Not only is recent "Split" star Buckley a tremendous musical theater talent, she is a real trouper. The story of her Broadway stardom involves flying from Los Angeles to New York  auditions on weekends during her tenure filming the family dramcom "Eight is Enough." Only having Tommy and the Action backing her up would have enhanced this story.

Turning the tables, this obvious labor of love by UMe does a much better job honoring Webber than this review can hope to regarding this release. The apt total of 70 compositions is too overwhelmingly for meaningful discussion but deserve a decent effort.

At the outset, the scope of the shows runs from "Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (mostly featuring Osmond) to the more recent creation "The School of Rock." The treatment of "Evita" arguably is the most cool in that it includes selections from the stage play, the Madonna film, the album, and a segment on the the Fox dramedy "Glee."

Disc One starts things well with a strong blend of opening numbers and many other popular songs from classics that include "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Evita," "Phantom of the Opera," "Cats,"  and (personal fave) "Sunset Boulevard." This aptly opens with "Superstar" from "Superstar," produces the aforementioned solid melange, and concludes with classic fan fave "I Don't Know How to Love Him" also from "Superstar."

Disc 4 can be considered a bonus in that it largely consists of overtures and orchestrations of other music from Webber musicals.

All of this comes in a sturdy hardcover book with a gracious note from Webber, detailed liner notes for every song, and written tributes from some of the aforementioned musical greats.

The bigger picture that makes the shows and "Unmasked" succeed is that Webber has fantastic visions that he successfully conveys to his casts and others who sing his compositions; these folks in turn do a great job getting the audience swept up in the spirit of these epics. Very few composers in any genre have comparable talent.

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