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Thursday, May 31, 2018

'The 10th Kingdom' BD & DVD: Mini-Series Reverse Version of 'Once Upon a Time'

The Mill Creek Entertainment separate June 5, 2018 Blu-ray and DVD releases of the star-studded 2000 mini-series "The 10th Kingdom" provide fans of the recently concluded long-running ABC dramedy "Once Upon a Time" another bite of the poisoned apple regarding a fun melange of our world and that of fairy tales. It further has the same spirit as the 2007 Disney comedy "Enchanted" in which fairy tale folks experience Manhattan melodrama.

These releases provide everyone quality family entertainment that truly appeals to folks from 8 to 80. The bigger picture is that we have another reason to shout for joy regarding Mill Creek expanding well beyond its roots as a purveyor of compilations of public domain television series of the '50s and the '60s.

This epic and very colorful production filmed in a plethora of European countries additionally looks and sounds spectacular in Blu-ray.

The following YouTube clip of the Mill Creek trailer for "Kingdom" perfectly captures the beauty and the tone of the series.

The premise is that the titular realms are fairy tale monarchies that are tied to a specific fairy tale notable or creature. For example, the Fourth Kingdom where most of the action occurs is the Snow White realm and trolls rule the Fifth Kingdom. Red Riding Hood and Cinderella also have their own lands. Our reality is the 10th Kingdom, which is only accessible via a magic portal.

The other broad bit of lore is that the turmoil in the nine kingdoms 200 years ago is the stuff of which our fairy tales are made.

The action begins with Relish the Troll King (Ed O'Neill) breaking into the Snow White Memorial Prison to once again spring his three stooge-like offspring; this escape comes to extend to releasing Evil Queen (Dianne Wiest) from her own unfortunate incarceration.

Another lucky break for the queen allows her to implement the first steps of a plan to prevent arrogant grandson Prince Wendell from ascending to the throne of his kingdom. Comic mayhem begins to ensue when the prince (who is a victim of a "Freaky Friday" style transformation) flees into our world.

A destined encounter between the prince and New York 20-something waitress Virginia Lewis brings her and her deeply cynical building superintendent father Tony Lewis (John Larroquette) into the action. Former guest of the queen Wolf pursuing the prince into Central Park is the final element that allows the story to fully develop.

The Lewises, Wolf, and the prince then essentially travel through the looking glass on crusades with overlapping objectives. Wendell claiming his crown and the Lewises acquiring the necessary means to return home involves battling virtually every fairy tale baddie known to man.

The queen puts the trolls and a huntsman (Rutger Hauer) on the tail of our group. They also square off against other foes whom they meet in their travels.

The ticking clock is the impending coronation which will result in the ersatz prince getting the corner office unless Wendell can timely revert to his true self. Meanwhile, every effort of the Lewises to find a way home ends in amusing disaster. These stories strongly merge in the fifth of the six episodes when Virginia and Tony learn that their connection to the kingdoms is much closer than they ever imagined.

The copious fun of all this begins with the concept that one man's fairy tale is another dwarf's reality; this goes on to non-stop action as our main group essentially follows a long and winding yellow brick road effectively to the castle of the wizard. The third big element is having a perfect tone that reflects modern cynicism and conflict while keeping things adequately light for the kids.

The bonuses include a grand 45-minute "making-of" feature that looks as spectacular as the series. We also get the insights of cast and crew regarding this successful ambitious production.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

'Diminuendo' Theatrical: Final Richard Hatch Film Takes 'S1m0ne' To Next Level

The Flamboyance Films 2018 movie "Diminuendo" being a scifi psychological thriller featuring a gorgeous android who easily can pass for human makes it the ideal last film for late "Battlestar Galactica" legend Richard "Apollo" Hatch. The bigger picture is that this one builds on the concept of the 2002 Al Pacino film "S1m0ne" in which weird science creates a digital actress. One spoiler is that future cult classic "Dimineundo" lacks earlier-generation "toaster" models.

"Dimineundo" is making the festival rounds ahead of a broader theatrical rollout and DVD and VOD releases.

Hatch plays awesomely named alcoholic fallen-from-grace film director Haskell Edwards, who probably has never told anyone that he or she looks lovely. The action takes place nine years after the suicide of Cello Shea, who was a famous actress/arm candy of Haskell.

An even bigger nod to 21st century filmmaking comes via biotech company Lifeform simultaneously diversifying into show business and engaging in shameless product placement. This corporate giant is bankrolling a biopic of Shea and using a "living doll" (minus the claws) android who is her exact duplicate down to the carpets and the drapes matching as the star. They hire Edwards to direct.

The most fun of the film relates to the humor regarding Hollywood egos and or testicle assaulters. Edwards convinces ex-wife Adrianna (fellow "Galactic vet Leah "Racetrack" Cairns) to leave her gig running a hit TV series to poduce his film. The most awesome part of Adrianna is enforcing her policy of confiscating the cell phones of people who use them on set and reading the entire class their embarrassing texts.

More fun comes regarding arrogant womanizing actor Ballantyne who plays a younger Edwards in the film. Hatch channels Harrison Ford in quickly circumventing ego trips by telling this lout that Lifeform is not a studio and does not care if he is happy. Further highly relevant commentary comes regarding this actor having absolutely no boundaries regarding his co-star and not many more regarding the women on the production team. It seems that his victims are adequately numerous to form a Metoo group.

Another good scene comes during one of the many flashbacks; the flesh-and-blood Shea clearly expresses her opinion regarding the yellow journalism in the unauthorized biography on which the film is based.

The production presents Edwards with a trio of problems. The production is important to his career, Shea essentially coming back to life obviously stirs up deep feelings, and he must watch recreations of scenes from the worst part of his life.

The awesome twists at the end begin with reel- and real-life melding as Edwards determines that the small wonder is the next best thing to having the real McCoy. This leads to obvious therapy that provides a genuinely shocking "I did not see that coming" moment. This ends the film on the equally ideal moment.

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

'A Bucket of Blood' DVD: Roger Corman Statuesque Precursor to 'Little Shop of Horrors'

The Olive Films May 29, 2018 DVD release of the 1959 film "A Bucket of Blood" that Olive describes as a "black-comedy-beatnik-culture-horror film" by a man that Olive shares is known as "The Pop of Pop Culture" is a wonderfully perverse cult classic with great significance.

This film enhances the Corman films in the Olive catalog by joining "Gas-s-s-s," "The Wild Angels," and the recent (reviewed) Olive release of  "The Trip" starring Peter Fonda. The bigger picture is that "Bucket" is a precursor to the better known 1969 Corman black comedy "The Little Shop of Horrors."

Both "Bucket" and "Shop" feature a total nerd giving into an awesomely dark bloodlust in a bid to win the hot chick at work."Shop" florist employee Seymour Krelborn provides carnivorous plant Audrey II the desired sustenance in a bid to win the heart of the babe for whom he names the plant.

Walter Paisley is a used and abused busboy at The Yellow Door coffeehouse, which is a beatnik hangout, at the beginning of "Blood." The object of his affection is cool cat Carla.

The same type of accident that is happy for the born loser and unhappy from the perspective of society that sets Seymour on the path to success in "Shop" involves a sacrificial cat in "Bucket." The poor kitty who uses up his ninth life is the beloved pet of the landlady of Walter.

Walter stupidly but accidentally killing the pussy leads him to conclude that making art is the best course of action when life gives you a dead mouser. The very avant-garde sculpture "Dead Cat" brings Walter instant fame (and an unfair portion of fortune) at the coffee shop.

Undercover narc Lou Raby (Bert Convy) making the rookie mistake of bringing a gun to a skillet fight inspires the second (and more grotesque) work "Murdered Man." The neighborhood whore subsequent learns not to tease any repressed psycho even if he is not one in Mom's clothing. We further get a local resident paying for what he saw.

The overall beatnik culture contributes much of the fun in "Bucket." The king of the scene embracing Walter to the extent of literally placing him on a throne provides further good period-piece entertainment. This is not to mention seeing the extent to which greed and an equal lust for celebrity outweighs morality.

Corman does even better presenting the truth literally beginning to reveal itself and the surface-thin cool composure of Walter melting away until the mob wants him in an undesirable manner. This leads to enacting the Corman form of justice.

The bigger Corman picture is that this genius fully embraces every element of the B-movies of which he is a master. This includes (such as in "Shop" and "Blood") shooting in black-and-white when not opting for lurid vivid color, using low-budget effects, and figuratively sticking to the script each time. He further is set apart from the makers of other guilty pleasures in that he sets out to create trashlicious garbage each time and greatly succeeds. This (along with the obvious drug influences) makes him the one-man Sid and Marty Krofft of the silver screen.

Anyone with any questions regarding any of the Corman films that this post mentions is strongly encouraged to email me; you alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, May 28, 2018

'A Place to Be' DVD: Trumping Gay Love

TLA Releasing both gets particularly politic and expertly melds traditional dramas and gay melodramas with the recent DVD release "A Place to Be." This tale of the impact of the Trump administration taking a tough stance on a 20-something gay couple is in line with modern gay-themed films that mirror mainstream fare. The Logo Channel style melodrama near the end adds an old school gay movie element.

Common gay and straight ground exist regarding hunky Mexican grease monkey Diego spilling coffee on B cup bro office worker Abel when the two literally bump into each other on a Chicago street. Diego hearing radio news reports about the increasing crackdown on illegal immigrants provides further foreshadowing.

Things do not go much better the second time that our star-crossed lovers cross paths. The figurative worlds of this odd couple further collide when Diego convinces Mr. Right Now to spend the night in his stereotypical basement bedroom in the house of the 'rents. A rude awakening the next morning reinforces the concerns of Abel.

The relationship of the boys deepens to the extent of each of them hanging out with the quirky best friend/sidekick of the other, This blissful ignorance lasts until Diego comes out to Abel.

A family crisis in Mexico prompts Diego to plan a trip back there despite knowing that leaving the United States precludes legally re-entering this country. Actual separation anxiety and a desire to stand by his man prompts Abel to insist on going on this trip.

All initially goes fairly well when Abel is introduced to the heritage and the family of his boyfriend. The trouble begins when it is time for the boys to make a run for the border.

The extent to which the experiences of the boys having a coyote guide them on an arduous and dangerous trip back to America is unknown. The long walks and night in a crowded dumpy motel room either are exaggerated or show what some people endure to come here.

The true melodrama occurs during the final leg of the trip. It seems highly unlikely that the depicted brutality is realistic; it is even more improbable that our boys would step in to the degree that they did and pay the price for their intervention.

All of this leads to an outcome that prompts mixed feelings. The relative Hollywood ending seems rather staged and highly unlikely to succeed. In other words, pure Logo. The better news is the ratio of quality indie cinema to basic cable garbage is 4-to-1.

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

'Swung' DVD: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Wife Swapping But Were Afraid to Ask

Film Movement gets especially intimate (and a little steamy) regarding the May 22, 2018 DVD release of the 2015 drama "Swung." This sexy and amusing tale of 30-something U.K. couple David and Alice seeking outside help when David experiences impotence artfully explores every aspect of the titular wife swapping.

The following YouTube clip of a "Swung" trailer awesomely highlights the humor and the eroticism that make this film good.

The angst of David includes being a divorced unemployed graphic artist with a loving young daughter and a domineering ex-wife. Live-in main squeeze Alice is a magazine reporter with performance anxiety in terms of facing her own unemployment if she does not adequately produce at work.

The couple loves each other to the extent that the spirit is willing even though the flesh of David is unable, At the same time, Alice feels the strain of David not bringing home the bacon in either sense of that word.

The related aspect of this that propels the action is a common Internet Age issue. The stimulation from online personals seeking casual encounters does the trick for David much better than the real thing. Alice catching him red handed with his pants down prompts an argument regarding both his engaging in activity that makes it more difficult to satisfy Alice and literally playing with himself when he should be looking for work.

The fruits of the cooling off period include the couple considering spicing things up by making their sex life a small group activity. This becoming a magazine article topic provides a further benefit regarding making new friends.

The first effort at expanding their horizons finds David and Alice having an enlightening dinner with experienced swingers. These folks seem nice, and we learn the surprising reason for their adopting that lifestyle. The largest related twists occur when things move very quickly, and the audience learns that the other man does not speak very softly and carries a really big stick that he seems to actually utilize.

The mixed results from this encounter encourage David and Alice to continue this form of marital therapy.

Things progress to David and Alice meeting old pro Dolly (Elizabeth McGovern) in every sense of the word. She tells them about a group that meets every month to fully let go to the extent of people not seeing who is attached to appendage with which they are interacting. The sound psychological principle behind this is that people benefit from shedding their inhibitions until they feel adequately purged to better deal with the civilized world.

The climax (no pun intended) comes when the big night arrives and David is less on board with the plan than Alice. Much of the appeal of "Swung" is a degree of ambiguity regarding the willingness of Alice to take one (or several) for the team.

This leads to an amusing variation of a frantic search for the one who at least temporarily got away. This, in turn, provides our couple clarity regarding their relationship.

The Movement worthy aspect of "Swung" extends beyond the strong performances of Owen McDonnell and Elena Anaya ("Wonder Woman.") The film reflect how the weak market for professional employment can exacerbate sexual problems related to age and a relationship getting a little stale. This is not to mention the Internet facilitating instant gratification on a solo and couple basis. This element of the matter shows that a seemingly easy fix is not always the best choice.

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

Sunday, May 27, 2018

'The Fabulous Allan Carr' VOD: The Fat Gay Kid Stays in the Picture

Documentarian Jeffrey Schwarz awesomely celebrates Gay Pride with the June 5, 2018 VOD release of the aptly titled "The Fabulous Allan Carr." This portly and flamboyant caftan-clad producer of camp classics "Grease" and the Village People faux biopic "Can't Stop the Music" truly was large and in charge. The pedigree of Schwarz includes films on two other gay role models; these documentaries are "I Am Divine" and the (reviewed) "Tab Hunter Confidential."

Like "Confidential," Schwarz bases "Carr" on a biography of his subject. In this case, it is Party Animals by "Carr" talking head Robert Hofler. "Carr" also warrants comparison to the 2002 documentary "The Kid Stays in the Picture" about "Godfather" and "Chinatown" producer Robert Evans in that both Carr and Evans deeply embraced both the films and every excess of the '70s.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Carr" provides an excellent overview of the subject and some sense of the terrific star power of the participants but sadly omits a clip of the Marlo Thomas segment.

Much of the fun of "Carr" relates to extended interviews with friends from his "before he was a star" days as the only son of a wealthy family in a Chicago suburb. Even back then, he was a likable fat kid with a desire to fit in with the popular kids.

The evolution of the career of "Carr" is equally interesting. This Orson Welles wannabe begins staging ambitious theater productions. He subsequently lands a talent coordinator job on a swinging series with guest stars that include Sammy Davis, Jr.

The professional development of Carr continues with being called in to use his Barnum-level promotional skills to market a "tough sell" movie in a manner that makes it one of the biggest commercial and artistic hits of the '70s. This campaign further leaves its mark by establishing the practice of releasing strong contenders for the Best Picture Oscar near the end of the calendar year.

Producing "Grease" represents the next big step in the career of Carr. This segment truly plays out as a "True Hollywood Story." Schwarz shows how the adolescent and post-adolescent experiences of Carr mold the film into the one that millions know and love today. We further directly hear from several stars and many behind-the-scenes folks. One of the more interesting stories relates to the origin of the Travolta song "Sandy."

The second of the three Carr productions that Schwarz prominently features is the 1980 Village People origin story musical "Can't Stop the Music." Like "Grease," we see how this one reflects a world that Carr considers ideal. We additionally learn of the extent to which "Grease" star Olivia Newton-John is hopelessly devoted to Carr.

A highly amusing aspect of the "Music" study from a 2018 perspective is a discussion of the involvement of Olympian Bruce Jenner. The narration speculates that Carr is infatuated with Jenner. This goes on to discuss how big macho Jenner looks bemused surrounded by more feminine gay men.

A fun aspect of the discussion of "Music" particularly ties into looks at the personal life of Carr. "Music" man Steve Guttenberg discusses being an ambitious 20 year-old actor agreeing to play along with a casting couch tactic of Carr. This interview includes Guttenberg speculating that his getting the role is a form of package deal.

Neither Schwarz nor the close friends and colleagues of Carr pull any punches regarding the wealth and power of Carr being behind his ability to attract men who are at least 10 years younger and 100 pound lighter than him. This activity includes the relatively common practice of the boys saving the real fun for after the straight and older guests leave the frequent pool/disco parties at the home with a "history" that Carr owns.

This "intimate portrait" includes a farmboy next door type discussing being a  gay 21 year-old new arrival in Los Angeles literally delivered to Carr. Subsequent promises of stardom keep this stud around.

Schwarz next discusses several factors that make the mid-80s a turning point for both Carr and "the scene." This leads to one of the more scandalous topics in the documentary.

The discussion of the infamous trainwreck that is the 1989 Academy Awards begins with noting the lack of excitement regarding the recent productions of the Oscars. This leads to the powers-that-be hiring Carr to produce the '89 show out of a belief that his promotional skills, ability to stage spectacular numbers, and overall love of both old and new Hollywood make him a good choice.

We next see how featuring Snow White in the opening number starts things out on the wrong foot. Reminders follow regarding how things snowball as to her poorly thought out entrance, a number that is designed to a star-studded extravaganza looking more like the night of the living dead, and the infamous duet with Rob Lowe virtually assuring that Carr never will never work in that town (or get even close friends to take his calls) again.

A happier note is a mention of a positive innovation that Carr brings to the Oscars. The 2018 perspective this time is an uncontrollable urge to yell "sometimes twice" at the screen.

The modern Hollywood ending that Schwarz provides (and to which Travolta can particularly relate) revolves around Carr slowly regaining some of his earlier glory.

The bottom line is that Carr provides more than ample fodder for a documentary. This bigger picture regarding this is that he represents the last of the breed of filmmakers who can create art that satisfies a desire for commerce. A related note is that the same thinking that only a gay man know how to cut hair supports the theory that only flamboyant gay men know how to stage elaborate musicals.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Carr" is encouraged to email me. You also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Saturday, May 26, 2018

'Cold Turkey' DVD & Blu-ray: That '70s Norman Lear Satire Takes on Big Tobacco

The Olive Films May 29,  2018 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 1971 Norman Lear comedy film "Cold Turkey" awesomely fills the void regarding an absence of witty character-driven fare summer fare at the cineplex. Sharing that "Turkey" costars Dick Van Dyke as a minister spearheading an effort to get his town to kick the habit and Bob Newhart as a corrupt PR man trying to thwart that effort should persuade folks regarding whom Lear is not an adequate draw to add this one to their collections.

A perspective to which Millennials can relate is to think of "Turkey" as an episode of the Amy Poehler sitcom "Parks and Recreation" in which Leslie Knope (Poehler) convinces her eccentric friends and neighbors in Pawnee, Indiana to stop smoking in order to get a big payoff.

The premise of "Turkey" is that Valiant Tobacco Company head Hiram C. Grayson (Edward Everett Horton) signs off on the PR idea of Merwin Wren (Newhart) to offer a $25 million award to any American town that quits smoking for 30 days. The obvious sales pitch by Wren is that the offer makes the company look good and will not cost a cent because no town will accept the challenge.

The second piece of the "sit" that paves the way for the "com" in this feature film is that the closing of an Air Force base has left Eagle Rock, Iowa in dire straits. The opening scenes that establish that this community essentially is a ghost town clearly establishes the extent of this desperation.

The same hope that the current bidding to be a headquarters site of an online Pacific Northwest retailer that shall remain shameless represents comes in the form of an Air Force general informing the powers-that-be in Eagle Rock that the town is a contender for a new plant. The catch is that the town first must improve itself to a level that makes it a desirable community.

Rev. Clayton Brooks (Van Dyke) convinces the aforementioned pillars of the community that the Valiant offer is the answer to the prayers of the community. Of course, this is the first nail in the coffin of Wren.

The figurative of cast of 1,000s of (mostly TV) stars comprise the great ensemble in "Turkey." We get Jean Stapleton of  "All in the Family" as a housewife who comically overeats on going cold turkey, Paul Benedict of "The Jeffersons" as a very '70s style hypnotherapist who provides a hilarious form of contrary therapy, television/film star Barnard "Doc" Hughes aptly as hilariously especially addicted smoker Dr. Proctor, hilariously feisty old lady character actress Judith Lowry (who has two one-shot appearances on "Maude") as a senior citizen right-wing nut, etc.

The confidence of Wren remains high when the month begins but wanes roughly halfway in; that prompts him to go to the town and engage in hilariously frantic efforts to get at least one Eagle Rockian to light up.

Twists and hilarity galore build to the climax as Wren faces a literal ticking clock; this prompts the most unexpected surprise in the film that offers memorable commentary on corporate politics of the '70s and today.

The outcome is equally special and reflect the related Lear cynicism and talent for breaking the rules.

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

Friday, May 25, 2018

'I Confess' Blu-ray: Hitchcock Drama of Priest Paying for the Sins of Others

Warner Archive combines its best elements in the Blu-ray release of the 1953 Hitchcock drama "I Confess." This Montgomery Clift-Anne Baxter tale of a priest who is a prime suspect of a murder for which the killer confesses to him is a lesser-known classic and ties into the more recent Archive release of the (reviewed) Hitchcock film "The Wrong Man" because Hitchcock identifies both as his favorites of his films. "Confess" additionally masterfully reproduces a beautifully shot black-and-white film. The typical cherry on the sundae is a few high-quality bonus features. In other words, Archive outshines an arrogant (and grossly overpriced) purveyor who releases films that meet the criterion of that company.

Justifiable arrogance regarding "Confess" starts with feeling that Hitchcock is adopting the style of the French New Wave filmmakers and then seeing a comment in the "making-of" special features sharing that that film is a favorite of those Europeans for that reason. The basis for this observation is the copious imagery and excellent use of the contrast between black and white (which looks perfect in Blu-ray). An example of this is Father Michael Logan (Clift) walking past sculptures of soldiers forcing a bent-over Christ to carry his cross to his crucifixion.

This technique (and the strong noir element of "Confess") is clear from the opening scenes. The film opens on a dark night and begins with a series of shots of one-way street signs in Quebec.

The audience quickly learns of the aforementioned killing, and we see a wolf in priest's clothing seemingly flee the scene. This leads to Logan investigating on seeing the man in black enter his church.

More terrific imagery and symbolism follows as WWII German refugee Otto Keller confesses both to his wife Alma Keller and to Logan. The insult that is added to the central injury relates to Logan having taken in the Kellers and allowed them to live with some dignity in the post-war period.

The rookie mistake of Logan that enhances the scrutiny of investigating officer Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden) is returning to the scene of the crime the next morning. The bigger picture is that this reflects the Hitchcock leitmotif of the scary ease with which an innocent man or woman can get caught up in the system.

The Hitchcock blonde this time is Anne Baxter of "All About Eve." Her innocent/femme fatale Ruth Grandfort is the former lover of Logan and the current wife of a prominent politician. The murder victim being a man who knew too much regarding this triangle contributes to putting a nail in the coffin of Logan.

The suspense escalates to the point of Logan being tried for the murder while Otto essentially sits knitting away in his catbird seat at the trial. Clift puts his method acting technique to good use depicting the Christ-like anguish of watching the evidence pile up against him while the nature of confession ties his hands.

While lesser filmmakers would end their projects with the reactions of the principals on the reading of verdict in the trial of Logan, Hitchcock validates the basis for his reputation as Hollywood royalty. Logan is subjected to a virtual stoning by the outraged masses and finds himself in a final confrontation that truly tests his faith.

The bigger picture (pun intended) is that Hitchcock greatly emulates his actual peer Orson Welles. This comparison extends beyond the New Wave style of filming in black-and-white in this CinemaScope era. Hitchcock and Welles share a similar sensibility of the nature of  post-war Germans. The related broad messages are that living under the rule of Hitler affects everyone and that the true nature of all of us ultimately emerges for better or worse. Throwing in commentary on the Catholic Church contributes more food for thought.

The other Blu-ray features are fun newsreel footage of the Quebec premiere of "Confess" and the theatrical trailer of the film.

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

'The Gay Bride' DVD: Gold Digger Carole Lombard Finds that Marrying for Mob Money Does Not Pay

The Warner Archive April 4, 2018 DVD release of the 1934 Carole Lombard screwball comedy "The Gay Bride" proves both that funny is eternally funny and that everyone has his or her price. The fairy tale relates to choosing the pauper over the loaded crime prince.

Lombard stars as the titular "doll" who marries speak easy owning "guy" William T. "Shootz" Magis in the wake of the repeal of Prohibition. His other challenges include a rival gang and an underling separately acting to move him six feet under the ground.

Mary does not meet Shootz on walking into his bathtub gin joint or while working as a waitress in a cocktail bar; she is a chorus girl in a theater that a friend of Shootz owns. This leads to her using her fatale wiles to snare the wiseguy of her dreams.

An amusing aspect of this variation of a shotgun wedding is that Tommy guns play a role in Mary becoming a runaway bride effectively straight to the bank. This flight throws her into the car (but not the arms) of bodyguard/accountant/aspiring grease monkey Jimmie "Office Boy" Burnham (Chester Morris). Our not-so-blushing bride immediately blatantly showing her true colors clearly demonstrates that Office Boy he is not the only one willing to screw his boss for the right price.

The next bit of hilarity occurs during the wedding night. Mary goes to great lengths to ensure that she has adequate protection before consummating her marriage. A spoiler is that she later learns that the devil is in the details.

The next portion of the film amusingly has Mary taking Shootz for more than he is worth; this fleecing includes a heavy sucker tax. For his part, Office Boy knows the score but an't sayin' nothin'.

Drama follows trauma regarding Mary getting a chance to trade up; at the same time, she feels an increasing desire to give at the office.

This leads to general mayhem as Mary tries to use ill-gotten gains to do good without trading in her designer footwear for cement shoes. This effort to go straight requires Office Boy to choose teams and to avoid becoming a soprano.

Of course, all works out relatively well for our made men and our woman on the make.

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

'Marx Reloaded' DVD: Red v. Blue

Icarus Films furthers its manifesto to make "innovative" documentaries available to the masses with the May 1, 2018 (a.k.a. May Day) DVD release of the 2011 documentary "Marx Reloaded." The significance of this date includes it being the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. This exploration of the theories of Marx and their relevance to our current economic crisis includes analysis of the viability of capitalism.

The further relevance of the "Reloaded" release is that it coincides with the Icarus epic 3-disc DVD release of "Capitalism." This look at that system extends from the present day to the era before 18th century economics god Adam Smith. The comprehensiveness of this series includes explaining the true nature of capitalism and its evolution.

"Reloaded" is almost pure cinema verite in that fillmmaker/literal voice of Marx Jason Barker turns his camera on the best brains in the world of economics and lets them have their say. These folks nicely dumb things down to the level of a high school class on the subject. The nifty animated segments that feature Marx as Alice of Wonderland fame help in that regard.

The crash course in Marxism includes his general tenet that capitalism relies on exploiting the working class. This relates to the ability of the fat cats to make money depending on profiting from paying people less than the full value of their labor. This, in turn, leads to a discussion on the tricky issue of determining the actual value of anything.

The study of value includes a fascinating discussion on commodities and their relationship with fetishism and prostitution. The bottled water industry is a provided modern example of this.

An especially fun segment has the aforementioned talking heads share their thoughts regarding their preference for capitalism or communism. As expected, their answers fall along party lines. It also relates to the best shot in "Reloaded" that has a 20-something man drinking Coke outside a shrine to communism.

Wonderful comeuppance is delivered via showing that many current Marxists only know a portion of the story. We additionally learn that a third philosophy is more crucial to economic and actual survival than either capitalism or Marxism.

A fun DVD bonus is a fast-paced animated six-minute short titled "Marx for Beginners." This equal homage to Marx and Monty Python explains the key principles that "Reloaded" analyzes in great depth.

The opportunities for capitalists to acquire "Reloaded" in DVD or digital form include the Icarus website.

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

'Thank God It's Friday' Blu-ray: That '70s Night at the Disco Classic Featuring Donna Summer Oscar-Winning Song

Groovy Mill Creek Entertainment celebrates prom season with the May 1, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1978 musical-comedy "Thank God It's Friday." This funky tale of the adventures of diverse characters during one night at The Zoo disco in California is a classic example of the 1976 film "Car Wash" style "day in the life" vignette comedies of the '70s. "Friday" starring celluloid heroes who range from some that you recognize to some that you hardly ever heard of is equally typical of this sub-genre of film. Jeff Goldblum appearing with Debra Winger and Valerie Landsburg reflects this casting.

Goldblum plays Zookeeper/owner Tony DeMarco who repeatedly gets the comeuppance that audiences love regarding outrageously arrogant egotists such as this playa. He begins his evening carefully parking and covering his prize Porsche. He then enters his domain in which he stocks his personal petting zoo with the disco bunnies who frequent the club.

The patrons that night include suburban types Sue (character actress Andrea Howard) and Dave (veteran character actor Mark Lonow), who are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary. Dave wants to end his evening with a cozy night at home, but Sue has a strong desire to experience the night life and to boogie. A hilarious scene in which an innocent bystander feels the brunt of their debate is a highlight of "Friday."

Of course, Sue wins out. Their initial hours being jostled and otherwise intruded on devolve to Sue catching the eye of a persistent DeMarco and Dave taking a trip with a Valley Girl of the Dolls. The underlying "Love Boat" style plot regarding this pair is the extent to which Sue will act on the her five-year itch and if Dave will be moving to a depressing divorced guy apartment building.

Landsburg, who is best known for her roles on the television series versions of "Fame" and "Hotel," plays one of a pair of high-school girls who sneak into the club. Landsburg's Frannie mostly is there to compete in the $200 dance contest for which The Commodores are providing live music.

Much of the comedy of the film revolves around The Commodores initially not showing up and then making the scene while their instruments are somewhere en route. This endangers the career of a radio DJ whose big break is consisting of broadcasting live from the club with the concert being the grande finale to the evening if it goes off and to the career of the DJ if it does not. The misadventures of the roadie trying to reach the club contributes further comic mayhem.

The final notable subplot has Disco Queen Donna Summer play aspiring singer Nicole, who sneaks her way to the boys in the band (and the booth) as her first step toward becoming an American Idol. The real life success of  Summer
 regarding "Friday" is that she wins an Oscar for performing "Last Dance."

Folks familiar with the entertaining formula know the aforementioned loverboys (and girls) who are working for the weekend and going off the deep end in pursuit of new romance and other pleasures have a night to remember that involves each other and their fellow sufferers (including two nerdy college boys out to get some) to various degrees. Even those are no happier when the lights come on at closing time when they can't stay there at least are a little wiser.

The bigger picture is that "Friday" is timeless both in clearly representing a unique era in American history and presenting issues that pre and post-date the film for centuries.

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

'Six L.A. Love Stories' DVD & VOD: Ghosts of Loves Past, Present, Future, and Future Past

The recent Gasoline Films DVD and VOD releases of the 2016 short stories dramedy "Six L.A. Love Stories" nicely resurrects the art house indie film genre of vignettes with a common theme or other connection. In this case, we get the titular sextet of tales about couples at various stages of relationships interacting in separate locations during the same afternoon in Los Angeles.

Producer/writer/director Michael Dunaway also is the producer of the exceptionally good (reviewed) documentary 21 Years: Richard Linklater.

Warranted praise for "Six" includes that each story has a strong live-stage vibe. More formal accolades include the awards for Best Feature, Best Actor, and Best Director at the 2016 Williamsburg Independent Film Festival.

The following YouTube clip of the official trailer for "Six" nicely conveys the spirit of this film about 21st century relationships in a city in which virtually everyone considers himself or herself God's gift to both sexes.

"Six" opens on a very L.A. note with Ross Partridge of "Stranger Things" harassing an uptight and stressed out fellow guest at a pool party. The entertainment extends beyond this pair being an odd couple to Partridge's Wes Ellis stating plausibly odd things about other people at the event.

We next get Matthew Lillard (a.k.a. live-action Shaggy) as a character who comes home early to find his wife in bed with another man. This couple with issues spends their portion of the film hashing things out in the bedroom. Every man can relate to the Lillard character being concerned with whether his rival is bigger than him; the reveal near the end of the film provides an interesting twist.

A particularly fun story has always entertainingly quirky Stephen Tobolowsky play a professor having hostile exchanges with a tour guide (Beth Grant) at a Will Rogers historic site. He speaks for all of us who have ever experienced a rigidly conducted tour.

"And the rest" consists of a woman and her ex-husband revisiting old territory while deciding where to send their daughter to school, a successful woman calling her aspiring screenwriter ex-boyfriend on his unwarranted arrogance and related habit of being his own worst enemy, and a lesbian couple unexpectedly reuniting at an open mic afternoon in which the participants perform monologues.

At the heart of things, Dunaway presents believable stories that reflect the human condition. This includes old feelings that remain after love turns to at least indifference, a reluctance to give up on a long-term relationship, and the fact that you sometimes still must deal with your ex. The bigger truth is that we all have personality flaws that the enhanced egos of the majority of Los Angeles residents exacerbate with a proportional impact on the folks who bear the brunt of that 'tude.

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Norman Rockwell Museum Exhibit of Pulp Fiction Artist Gloria Stoll Karn Gives That Genre Royale Treatment

The most recent exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts goes back even further than the '60s and '70s animation of Saturday morning gods Joseph Hanna and William Barbera and the '50s through the '80s art of Pop Art deity Andy Warhol that has recently graced the walls of this shrine to Mr. Americana. "Gloria Stoll Karn: Pulp Romance" literally hangs the work of this dime-store magazine illustrator on the other sides of the walls of a exhibit of the 21st century art of Tony Diterlizzi of The Spiderwick Chronicles fame.

The common element of these exhibitions beyond all of them being worth a drive to the scenic Berkshires is that they are part of the Rockwell mission to promote the art of American illustrators. The ticking clock regarding the Karn exhibit is that it closes on June 10, 2018 to make way for the summer self-explanatory offering "Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell, and the Narrative Tradition" (OH MY!).

An tour of  the Karn presentation that is the work of Deputy Director/Chief Curator Stephanie Plunkett by charming and knowledgeable Rockwell curator/exhibitionist Jesse Kowalski was the focus of a recent trip to this very Vermonty region of The Bay State. Two nights at the nearby Red Lion Inn (read all about it) made this journey especially terrific.

Kowalski stated that the exhibit is doing very well and noted that a group from central New York visited the museum just to see it. Personally tagging along with a group of grade schoolers was great fun, but there is no need to share who among us did not meet the ideal of sitting entirely quiet and fully focusing on the member of the Rockwell education staff conducting the tour.

The vibrant reds and yellows that are Karn trademarks MUST be seen in person to be fully appreciated. The same is true regarding the incredible attention to detail that makes this work even more lifelike than the paintings of the dude for whom the building is named.

The below images provide an incomplete sense of this talent. Professional and aspiring artists will note that the rare ability of Karn to draw hands allows her to avoid the cheap trick of hiding them in pockets and otherwise out of the picture.

The follow up was a delightful hour-long telephone conversation with 94 year-old Karn, who is as sharp as she was back in the day.

Art Royalty From Queens

The Bromx tale of Karn begins with her being born in that borough before her parents move to the Sunnyside neighborhood of Queens. While living in Archie Bunker territory, Karn became one of the first ever students at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts of "Fame" fame. Her memories of those days include fellow students jamming on the otherwise empty subway when they left school at 3:00 p.m. each day.

Karn recalled seeing a photo of Jackie Kennedy and the kids by classmate Lawrence Schiller when Karn attended a concert at Carnegie Hall decades after they graduated. This proved the truth of the classic punchline that the way to get to Carnegie Hall is to practice.

One Day At A Time

The amazing story of Karn breaking into a man's world when she was in her '20s during the '40s began with literal housekeeping. Her mother agreeing with Oprah that clutter should not be allowed to accumulate prompted recent high school graduate/current insurance company file clerk Karn to attempt to burn the portfolio of her artwork. The portfolio not fitting in the chute that led to the incinerator prompted Karn to leave it on a pile of newspapers that were due to be directly placed in that inferno.

The building superintendent subsequently meddled in a fully Schneider manner by giving tenant/pulp cover artist Rafael DeSoto (for whom the superintendent modeled) the portfolio. The positive response of DeSoto brought the superintendent to the door of Karn with an introduction to meet DeSoto.

Karn recalled the pulp magazine publisher stating "I've seen worse" when first shown her work. This led to regular assignments during the rest of the career of the pulp cover art career of Karn.

Cover Girl

The first amusing aspect of her work that Karn discussed was that she and the other artists never were provided the stories for which they created the art. They merely received general guidance and would submit roughly three pieces for consideration. The related funny story is that Karn often would resubmit the rejected art until it was selected for another cover.

The divulged secrets of the trade were that each illustration would take roughly 3 days. Karn further described the work as "almost like a formula" that included "a pretty girl and a handsome guy." The shortcuts included changing hair color.

Rangeland Romance seemed to be the magazine for which Karn (who has a particular talent for drawing dreamy cowboys) seemed to most enjoy working. She recalled that the guidelines for covers for that publication included that it had to have something to do with horses.

Karn shared as well that she used the superintendent as a model. She described him as "very thin, wiry, tall and strong." She additionally stated that she once drew him holding a chair over her head. Kowalski stated that Karn would draw from live models in contrast to Rockwell photographing his models and using those images when painting.

Kowalski added that Karen based her work on either herself or her friends. He further explained that she used bright colors to help her covers stand out among the large numbers of magazines that newsstands and other outlets displayed.

One sad aspect of this important bit of Americana was Karn saying "we never signed out art work and never got credit."

Karn continued painting covers until she and her husband (more below) moved to her current home of Pittsburgh in 1949 when he got a job with a mining company; she noted that sending her art to New York in a manner that it arrived unharmed was more than a minor inconvenience.

Meeting Prince Charming

The immense appeal of Karn includes her lively sense of the "good old days." This related to liking that everyone was polite and dressed neatly and men wore fedoras in this era before the world went pop and the safety dance became popular. This awesomely related to her fairy tale marriage with her prince.

Karn told the story of her mother often telling her about the handsome well-dressed man in their building. This gallant gent always smiled and held the door open for Mrs. Stoll.

This led to DeSoto once again being a guardian angel for Karn. She and her mother were at a party in the apartment of that artist when her mother pointed out that the fedora-wearing dreamboat who had just entered was the man about whom she had been speaking. This led to actual love at first sight.

The adoration by Karn included her husband being "very handsome" and modest regarding his good looks.

Heeding the Call

The manner in which the Rockwell exhibit of Karn came to be further proves the value of being good and kind. Kowalski shared that a neighbor of Karn called to inquire about showing the pulp fiction art at the museum. Subsequently looking at that work, speaking with Karn, and then visiting with her prompted Plunkett to green light the exhibit.

Kowalski added that "the field of illustration in the early 20th century was dominated by men, especially in the pulp fiction magazine field, so it made sense to show the work of someone who stands out in the field."

Karn stated that she and Rockwell never directly spoke. She did attend a lecture that he gave at a Society of Illustrators event in New York. She noted that "he was wearing a well-worn tweed coat that was very typical of Norman Rockwell." She added that she did not know if he was wearing a hat because she did not see him arrive or leave.

Kowalski noted that one difference between the artists was that Karn got most of her art back and kept the bulk of it with the exception of her work for horror magazines, which was not her preferred genre. Conversely, Rockwell allowed The Saturday Evening Post to keep the covers that he drew for that publication.

The Deal of the Art 

The work of both Rockwell and Karn reflect an important era in an American history in a manner to which literally everyone can relate. This is the last time that we were not violently divided along age, gender, class, race, or ideological lines.

The Rockwell deserves tremendous credit and support for providing an opportunity to properly experience this art by seeing it in person. The way cool gift shop is a bonus.

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

'Entre Nos' DVD: Standing by Man Lands Colombian Woman Abandoned in NYC With Children

Aptly named Indiepix Films continues its fine tradition of monthly film festivals centered around a leitmotif with three April 17, 2018 DVD releases of art house movies centered around recent immigrants experiencing challenging new lives in their strange new world.

The previously reviewed "That Girl in Yellow Boots" chronicles the trauma of an English-born 20-something woman working at a sleazy massage parlor in India to finance her search for her father. The Indonesian film "Jermal" finds a 12 year-old boy stuck living on a floating fishing platform with his unloving father.

The 2009 U.S. drama "Entre Nos" brings things closer to home on a few levels. Writer-director-star Paola Mendoza plays mother Mariana in this fictionalized account of Mendoza moving to New York City as a young girl.

The following YouTube video of the dialog-free trailer for "Entre Nos" provides a strong sense of the life of the family.

"Entre" opens with the central Colombian family living a modest but generally happy life in a small but decent apartment in New York a few months after Mariana moves her roughly six year-old daughter Andrea and approximately 10 year-old son Gabriel (a very charming Sebastian Villada) from Colombia to join husband Antonio. Antonio is in New York because of a seemingly incurable wanderlust.

The catalyst for the primary action of "Entre" is Antonio announcing out of the blue that he is moving to Miami; the rest of the story is that he is leaving his family behind but allegedly is going send for them once he gets settled and saves some money.

Things turn dire as Mariana soon discovers that she is left with very little money to support her and her children and that Antonio seems to have fully abandoned his family. An added insult to this injury is that Mariana leaves a good life in Colombia behind to move to New York to literally and figuratively stand by her man.

As is the typically so in real and reel stories of this nature, Mariana initially has hope of maintaining a decent standard of living only to have that dissolve. Her efforts to sell her tasty homemade empanadas fail, she finds herself unemployable even for illegal labor at a sweatshop, and the family finds itself literally living on the street without any warning. The consequences of a bundle that Antonio leaves behind does not help matters.

"Entre" expertly putting a very human face on the intertwined numerous timely issues of the struggles of recent immigrants in the U.S., of husbands abandoning their families, and of homelessness earns the many festival awards that it has to its name. Virtually all of us who always have had a comfortable home and have never faced the prospect of sleeping on a park bench never think about the folks pushing grocery carts full of cans or assertively selling street food sans a truck.

This impact includes the feelings that particularly Mariana and Gabriel prompt genuine interest in the "where are they now" portion of "Entre." Mendoza supplements this with information on the plight of folks like this family and provides a website for folks who want to know more.

The DVD includes the documentary "Still Standing" by Mendoza. This one shows her coming to help after Hurricane Katrina literally flattens the home of her grandmother. Like "Entre," family and a place to call home are primary themes.

Other special features include a lesson on how to make empanadas and a separate presentation that is a PSA on immigration reform.

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

Saturday, May 19, 2018

'House of Evil' DVD: The Amityville Adjacent Horror

The Breaking Glass Pictures May 8, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 indie horror film "House of Evil" provides a good chance to see one of the most nostalgically retro movies to come along in a while.

This fact-based tale of a young couple moving into into a bargain-priced house with a history being straight out of '70s sensation "The Amityville Horror" is only the tip of the iceberg. "House" also channels a 1968 horror classic, and the retro look of the film extends to a VW van of the type that knockin' is unwelcome when it is rockin'. For the fun of it, we will call the couple Sonny and Cher.

"Evil" also borrows from the more modern horror classic "The Sixth Sense" in having eerie figures dart around in a creepy dark house. This is not to mention the things that literally go bump in the night.

All of these films owe Alfred Hitchcock an ENORMOUS debt. This genius is credited with realizing that horror is more terrifying if the setting is from our daily lives, rather than the creepy mansion on the outskirts of town.

Sonny is a photographer and Cher is a painter; their reasons for buying a large country house include a desire to start a family. The roach infestation that they discover on moving in is the least creepy indication that something is amiss.

Much of the terror is psychological in that the spirit of the house and of the former occupants seems to occupy our couple. This is particularly true regarding Sonny, whose time in his basement darkroom seems to increase in direct proportion to his mood becoming dark.

Both the hold of the house and the nature of a master plan become very apparent near the end of the film. The positive way of looking at this is that the general idea of having a role in an important undertaking can be flattering.

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

Friday, May 18, 2018

'Drama 4 in 1 Collection-John Travolta' Blu-ray: Diverse Films Are The Ones That You Want

Mill Creek Entertainment further shows its increasing cult-oriented diversity with the 2-disc May 1, 2018 Blu-ray release of "Drama 4 in 1 Collection-John Travolta." These films mostly from the early 2000s resurrection of the career of the star of "Saturday Night Fever," Grease," and "Pulp Fiction" include marathon-worthy quirky films.

"A Love Song For Bobby Long" (2004) is a good starting point because it arguably is the least-known of the four films and inarguably is the most entertainingly bizarre. Jersey boy Travolta stars in this character study of the titular stereotypical grey-haired Southern Gothic alcoholic washed-up womanizing former acclaimed literature professor. His current disgrace includes living in a squalor in a crumbling New Orleans house with former worshiping student/current cranky nursemaid Lawson Pines. Former castmate of fresh-off-the-boat royal Meghan Markle Garbriel Macht plays Pines.

Much of the action revolves around young free-spirit/future trainwreck Pursy Will (Scarlett Johansson) moving in with the boys on inheriting a share of their home. Her not-so-surprising history with Long that is revealed near the end of the film makes his behavior on her joining the group really creepy.

Seeing Travolta play both his true age and a Southern is unintentionally amusing. The bigger picture is that this imitation of a Tennessee Williams plays offers a fun change of pace regarding both the Creek collection and most films in general.

The period piece noir film "Lonely Hearts" (2006) is the second most odd movie in the collection. Travolta plays truer to form in his role as washed-up New York homicide detective Elmer Robinson. Seeing famous wiseguy portrayor James Gandolfini cross over to the other side of law enforcement to play past and future Robinson partner Charles Hilberbrandt is even more terrifically unusual.

This moderatelyboiled tale has Hilberbrandt recruiting Robinson back into the game from his voluntary exile to a desk job in the wake of significant trauma. The impetus for this rebirth is the apparent suicide of a single woman who lacks any clear motive for ending her life.

The evidence soon points the boys in plainclothes in the direction of awesomely tortured psychotic Ray Fernandez (Jared Leto), who is one of the "Lonely Hearts Killers." His partner in breaking hearts and skulls is equally twisted "sister" Martha Beck (Selma Hayek), who stands by her man and eliminates any competition for his affection with extreme prejudice. Watching them prey on the lonely provides awesome perverse fun.

The recommended third film in this Travoltafest is the better-known "Basic" (2003). The washed-up alcoholic whom Travolta plays this time is former Army ranger/current disgraced DEA agent Thomas Hardy. He is living in squalor in Panama awaiting the outcome of a DEA bribery investigation when Army buddy Styles (Tim Daly) calls him in to help with a ticking clock investigation of the mayhem and bloodshed related to an incident during a jungle training exercise in the middle of a hurricane.

The drama includes the death of a hated sergeant, the conflicting stories of soldiers who do not adhere to the "Band of Brothers" mentality (or to no man left behind), illegal activity, and a gay soldier whom Hardy aptly notes does not receive the benefit of the "don't ask don't tell" policy of the day.

"Basic" does not have a dull moment and includes mostly sublime reveals with great surprises at the end.

"Perfect" (1985) aptly is the ideal choice for the last film in this marathon. Initially, it wonderfully represents the Travolta films of the '80s that include "Urban Cowboy" and "Two of a Kind." It additionally allows Millennials a good chance to see what they missed by not living through the "Me" decade. A fun aspect of this is having a soft rock star being so vain as to play herself in a cameo.

Travolta plays hard-news "Rolling Stones" reporter Adam, whose current priority is a story on a criminal trial of a reclusive computer company owner. Part of the deal for traveling from New York to Los Angeles for that story is simultaneously writing a softer story on how health clubs are the single bars of the '80s. One spoiler is that the men are even blonder, buffer, tanner, and have better hair than the women. The one surprise is that all of these Adonises have no interest in each other beyond gangbanging "the most used piece of equipment in the club."

Jamie Lee Curtis fills in for Olivia Newton John as former champion swimmer/current aerobics instructor/love interest Jessie. Her conflict with Adam relates to trust regarding his story not making her and her co-workers look bad. Of course, there are wacky misunderstandings that lead to traumatic confrontations that awesomely relate to true lies and anything but love.

The common thread that makes these films great is the camp factor related not only to Travolta perfectly playing a meathead but both character and actor seemingly being unaware of that aspect of reel and real life.

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

'The Last Horsemen of New York' Theatrical & VOD: Mr. Edifying Documentary on Battle Over Horse-drawn Carriages in Central Park

The Freestyle Digital Media May 11, 2018 theatrical release (and more recent VOD release) of the Mary Haverstick documentary "The Last Horsemen of New York" sheds light on the ongoing efforts of New York City mayor Bill deBlasio to fulfill his vehement campaign promise to ban horse-drawn carriages in Central Park.

The notes regarding this review relate to the nature of any documentary. It is important to remember that even propaganda that supports your side still is propaganda. It is equally important to remember that there is your view, the view of the other guy, and the truth.

The following YouTube clip of the "Horsemen" trailer terrifically capture the passion associated with the controversy.

The groups with known horses in the race are the owners and operators of the carriages and the group called NYClass that is organizing the effort to get the city council to pass the ban. The asserted basis for this campaign is that the horses are abused and work in an industry that is dangerous for them. An element of this is that it is highly probable that the involvement of at least the rank-and-file members reflects a sincere concern for the horses.

"Horsemen" showing that real estate developer/NYClass founder Steve Nislick has a horse in the race provides the main basis for the thesis of the film. This assertion is that Nislick is using the animal cruelty argument as a pretense for closing down the stables on prime Manhattan real estate that Nislick could greatly profit from developing. Neither Nislick nor any other representative of NYClass provides an interview for "Horsemen." The probable reasons are either that they were not invited or declined to participate out of a concern that Haverstick would inaccurately portray their statements.

The "straight from the horse's mouth" information comes from carriage operators Christina Hansen and Stephen Malone. Their denials of any mistreatment of the animals seem credible. Further, the horses seem content and in stable condition.

The star power comes via Liam Neeson, who is on the side of the operators. We see that his support extends to requesting that interviews on late-night talk shows include that topic.

The bigger and more dramatic picture relates to the apparent connection between the carriage trade and the 2013 mayoral election. Then-candidate Christine Quinn provides Haverstick her side of the story and produces an apparent smoking gun that shows that Nislick conditions his support of a candidate in that race on supporting the ban. de Blasio running on an (as yet unfulfilled) promise to ban the carriages on entering the office suggest that he succumbed to the nagging by the developer.

A strong indication of the propaganda aspect of "Horsemen" comes via footage of a New York City Council session in which that group hears testimony related to the ban. We see members of the staff of deBlasio unable to satisfactorily answer questions related to the issue. At the same time, we do not see proponents of the ban score any points. The nature of these proceedings is such that they almost never are as one-sided as indicated in this scene.

The objective viewpoint regarding all this is that NYClass is making apparently adequately credible assetrtions of animal abuse to have a legion of impassioned followers, and the carriage operators are just as vehemently denying these claims. Haverstick not presenting any tangible proof of horses being harmed either is attributable to there not being any or to her not presenting that side of the story. As in all things, folks who remain on the fence are best served further investigating the matter.

The even bigger picture reflects the value of "Horsemen." Presenting the topic in an interesting and compelling manner shines a spotlight on it and encourages right-thinking folks to conduct the aforementioned research.

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

'I Am the Blues' DVD: Documentary Exploring Origins of Roots Music

Indie foreign and domestic movie deity Film Movement awesomely inadvertently takes a page from the Unreal TV playbook regarding the Movement DVD release of the 2015 documentary "I Am the Blues." Just as Unreal TV strives to help keep "TV Land" shows alive in the public consciousness, "Blues" documents the music and the stories of the members (who are in their 80s) of the genuine blue men groups before they pass away.

One of the many, many, many, musicians who participate in this labor of love by writer/director Daniel Cross hits the nail on the head in commenting that the hardships of the young guys of today do not compare to the experiences of the old-timers whose experiences come through in the titular form of music. A prime example of this is a lyric that begins on the happy note of a doctor slapping a newborn to get the infant to breathe and transitions to the baby dying soon after.

The above sentiment comes through loud and clear in the following YouTube clip of a festival trailer for "Blues."

The star of this film is Bobby Rush, who provides a tour of the juke joints and other venues for the blues. This region in the South is nicknamed the Chitlin' Circuit in recognition of the food-based payment that many musicians received. One man discussing his payment beginning with a hamburger each for him and his band, increasing to a surplus of burgers, and ultimately reaching $2/night shows both the variation of this payment-in-kind and two ways of increasing the compensation.

Greater historical context comes in the form of the widespread open segregation of the South during the first-half of the 20th century. One story that involves a venue requiring the band to play behind a curtain is a concrete example of the well-known attitude of many white people of the day that they want to hear the blues but do not want to see the musicians who play them.

Aspects of the related poverty of most black people during this era include tales of working in the cotton field and also of one musician making his first instruments largely out of discarded junk. This reinforces the theme of the blues that with great deprivation comes great soulful expression.

We also hear from a couple of blueswomen, who include Barbara Lynn. Her best story is of her fellow musicians beginning to call her mother by the same term of endearment that Lynn calls the woman who brought her into the world. The ladies also regale us with a song that is based on what is known to be a one-night stand before the night ends.

As stated above, the story of these true American idols and their music is an important (and oft-overlooked) part of American heritage. Rock and other popular forms of music would be far different without the blues. Cross helps keep that alive through his film in the same manner that Unreal TV does what it can to remind folks that television has much more to offer than reality shows.

The DVD bonus feature is 30 minutes of additional footage.

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

'that girl in yellow Boots' DVD: 20-something Immigrant Masseuse Provides 'Handshake' in Search of Happy Ending

The timely leitmotif of the Indiepix Festival Favorites Volume 5 from Indiepix Films is the plight of downtrodden immigrants. The first of these three separate April 17, 2018 DVD releases is the 2010 drama "that girl in yellow Boots." The other two (to-be-reviewed) films are "Entre Nos" (2009) about a Colombian woman facing desperation in New York, and "Jermal" about a boy struggling with his tough life in a new environment.

"Boots" centers around hardened 20-something English woman Ruth Edscer, whose search for the Indian father who abandons her at a tender age results in living an impoverished existence in Mumbai. Giving massages in an unlicensed parlor pays the rent; offering customers a "handshake" for an additional fee provides the funds needed to locate the man who deserts his family after a tragedy.

This highly feminist film is realistic in depicting every man in the life of Ruth as a villain and/or weak and is less realistic in not showing anyone whose reproductive organs are on the outside as having any positive characteristics. Conversely, every woman is a sympathetic character.

The most toxic man in the life of Ruth is her boyfriend Prashant, who is a weak-willed drug addict. His begging for sex and whining when provided a "handshake" initially establish him as a not-so-great catch.

A scheme of Prashant going awry creates further problems for Ruth in that it brings very rough trade to her door looking for a few forms of compensation. This prompts Prashant to attempt a form of rehab that robs him of the little dignity that he possesses.

Other interaction with a customer triggers a childhood memory that creates workplace turmoil that (of course) makes the man look foolish. Fairness requires stating that this scene depicts how many men view casual sexual interaction.

The worlds of Ruth further collide when learning more about her father shows that he is what can only be described as a sick fuck. This understandably sends this girl on a quest into a tailspin.

This being neither a Hollywood nor a Bollywood film results in the end being a far cry from a tearful family reunion in which father and daughter board a plane to reunite with mother. Rather than trying to make the audience feel good, "Boots" is wonderful cautionary tale about a mother facilitating a man being a father figure.

The bonus feature include a Q & A with director Anurag Kashyap and the theatrical trailer.

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

'The Black Scorpion' BD: Mexican Standoff With Killer Arachnids

The Warner Archive March 20, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1957 horror film "The Black Scorpion" offers great nostalgic fun for folks who (depending on their age) spent Saturday afternoons watching these creature movies either in the theater or on television. One difference is that the crystal-clear Blu-ray version looks far better than either of the earlier formats.

"Scorpion" hits all the genre highlights of an absurd premise, cheesy stop-motion animation and laughable models, and community theater grade acting. Of course, all that is what makes these films so fun. Further, they truly do not make 'em like that anymore.

A more cerebral perspective is that this Atomic Age production reflects the paranoia of the era regarding radiation. We do not know when the big one will hit or the catastrophic effects of such a detonation. A cool twist this time is that scorpions are worthy of fear even n their typical state.

The premise this time is that Mexico experiencing the greatest earthquake ever known initially has a realized consequence of seismic proportions and precedes mysterious cattle (and human) mutilations of an unknown cause. This is not to mention an eerie sound that may be crickets on steroids.

The aforementioned tremor brings local geologist Artur Ramos and his north-of-the-border colleague to rural Mexico to investigate. Their efforts leading to a very cool "Jurassic Park" style discovery is a highlight of "Scorpion." The boys also soon team up with a pretty ranch owner with whom at least one of them would like to get his rocks off.

The Short Round of "Scorpion" is an annoying cheerful and spunky Mexican boy named Juanito. His constant chatter and refusal to literally and figuratively wait in the car makes you wish that he becomes scorpion chow.

One epic scene has our scientists battle the scorpions at the bottom of the volcano so that they do not have to battle them here. This action has all of the aforementioned elements that make these movies such great guilty pleasures.

As also is typical, it seems that things are better until the mother of all scorpions travels to Mexico City for a reason other than buying inexpensive prescription drugs. Discovering whether it is beauty that kills the beast requires watching the film.

The BD special features consist of presentations on stop-motion animation. The most fun one is of dinosaurs from the 1956 Irwin Allen film "The Animal World."

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

Sunday, May 13, 2018

'Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story" DVD: Catherine Zeta-Jones Lifetime Channel Biopic of Queen of Miami Vice

The May 15, 2018 Lionsgate DVD release of the 2017 Lifetime Channel Original Movie "Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story" provides a good chance to see this smash hit with a strong pedigree without commercials. Oscar and Tony winner Mrs. Michael Douglas Catherine Zeta-Jones stars as the titular underworld legend.

"Godmother" effectively hits the trifecta of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll in this film that is surprisingly ambitious for a basic cable channel that is well-known for low-budget films about damsels in distress with a moderate to strong sexual element. One of many drug aspects of the film is DEA agent Jimmy (Warren Christie) narrating the film.

Sex enters the picture early on as we see a roughly seven year-old Griselda being the pimp for her mother in Colombia. This toddler initially allowing a trick to leave without paying his two bits only to soon collect with extreme prejudice conveys the don't fuck with me boys attitude of this future cocaine queenpin.

The action then moves ahead roughly 20 years to Griselda living a modest existence with her three sons and her abusive first husband in 1970s Miami. This man moving out triggers Griselda beginning to move on up by connecting with future second husband Alberto Blanco. Much of the fun of this portion of the film is watching Griselda teach her not-so-old dog new tricks and proving that the girls can play even more roughly than the boys.

This also is the period in which mistress Carolina enters the life and the bed of Griselda. She largely is eye candy even after indulging in rock candy.

The indisputably best element of this portion of the film is eldest son Uber being a good and respectable boy to the extreme of having a pretty blonde girlfriend from a wealthy family, spending his days playing tennis at a country club, and being on track to go to college and pursue a truly respectable career.

Conversely, the two younger boys are wild children who clearly take after their mother to her moderate distress. They ultimately join the family business and live a rock star lifestyle to the ultimate disadvantage of their mother.

The destiny of Uber dramatically changes when a casual comment prompts Griselda to have her future in-laws silenced with extreme prejudice. This prompts the future son-in-law to rebel by joining the family business in what can be considered an Uber sensitive manner. One spoiler is that he does not take anyone for a ride in any part of "Godmother."

Griselda going on to make a name for herself on the distribution end of the cocaine business leads to a partnership with "supply side" king Pablo Escobar. That relationship also proves relevant regarding Griselda once again finding herself on the market. This in turns leads to a couple of additions to the family.

This boost in the business activities of Griselda fully brings her on the radar of the DEA in this era in which busting heads in an effort to take down names is tolerated much more than in modern times.

Things build to a climax as the DEA turning up the heat prompts Griselda and the boys to make a run closer to the border; this in turn leads to a sort of a homecoming, which turns to Griselda paying the price for being innovative.

As mentioned above, the tone of "Godmother" is grittier and much less campy than typical Lifetime Movie fare. It also provides an interesting and personal perspective on the rise of the cocaine trade in Miami in the '70s and '80s.

The bigger picture is that this is a Lifetime portrait of a intelligent, clever, and driven woman who uses a convenient outlet to provide for her family and to assert her ambitious nature.

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

Saturday, May 12, 2018

'fastlane' CS DVD: The Millennial Mod Squad

The unparalleled scope of the Warner Archive catalog is to blame for this site frequently referring to the diversity of Archive releases. The May 1, 2018 complete-series DVD set of the 2002-03 action-adventure series "faastlane" from the same source as releases from the genesis of the Golden Age is the latest example of this range.

This update of the 1968-73 television series "The Mod Squad" is the creation of McG of the "Charlie's Angels" movies and John McNamara, whose numerous credits include the Syfy series "Magicians." The central concept is that tough tomboy LAPD cop Wilhelmina "Billie" Chambers (former Kelly girl Tiffani Thiessen) runs the "candy shop," which is a base of operations that uses confiscated property such as fast cars and obscene amounts of cash as part of an undercover operation to take down high-level drug dealers and other criminals who live large. Billie being a former addict of a substance much stronger than caffeine pills should get "Saved By the Bell" fans so excited that they just can't hide it.

TV dramas veteran Peter Facinelli stars as Donovan "Van" Ray. His past includes a childhood that puts him a step ahead of most fellow cops. His scruffy good looks and habit of showing off his chiseled torso by going shirtless while wearing long pants makes him look like a West Hollywood street-corner rent boy.

Deaqon "Deaq" Hayes (Bill Bellamy) rounds out the group. He is a recent transplant both from New York and less recently to the enforcement side of police activity.

The pilot follows a fairly standard course in that it involves Billie recruiting Van after his partner/BFF is killed in an undercover operation gone bad. Deaq being the estranged brother of that partner contributes additional drama.

Many of the ensuing cases involve a personal element. A cool aspect of this is that an episode with a heavy element of the aforementioned wonder years of Van provides perspective regarding him often bonding with the female assassin, jewel thief, etc. whom he is assigned to collect evidence on before giving her a pair of bracelets.

One of the best episodes has the case requiring Van and Deaq to pair up with an ATF agent who may have been spending too much time deep undercover. The fun of this one is watching the repeated sadistic torture of our heroes allegedly for their own good. One of many examples is outing them as cops in a roomful of Russian mobsters.

A "very special" episode has the team join forces with an undercover agent regarding whom Billie feels very protective. Hilarity ensues when one of the boys would have been caught with his pants down if the interruptus had occurred a few minutes later.

Good drama ensues when the special guest star finds herself in serious danger and the team frantically rushes to save her. This alone shows the human side of our group.

An especially fun episode has Van and Deaq teaming up with "connected" series regular Aquarius (Big Boy) to open a night club to nail a drug dealer and to locate his well-hidden manufacturing facility. Highlights include the boys bickering about the name of their club and using amusing trickery to create the desired image.

The fun continues with episodes that put the "fastlane" spin on plots that include a "Midnight Run" escorting a fugitive who has hitmen after her, a tight deadline to avert a gang war, and the team being coerced into using their skills and resources for evil.

The copious DVD special features include unaired and deleted scenes from the pilot, a documentary on the evolution of "fastlane," and separate features on the stars and the stunts. Archive wraps up these extras with a fun set of bloopers and outtakes.

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