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Monday, July 30, 2018

'The Men Who Built America: Frontiersman' DVD: Compelling Leo DiCaprio Produced Historic Figure Based Recap of 1775 - 1836

The Lionsgate July 31, 2018 DVD release of the History Channel docuseries "The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen," which is a prequel of the series "The Men Who Built America," aptly honors the spirit of summer school.

This Leonardo DiCaprio produced program communicates the material in an entertainingly informal manner. Much of this is attributable to the academics and numerous other talking heads who share their knowledge. The most recognizable contributors are former CIA Director David Petraeus and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. 

The opening scenes of fur trapper Daniel Boone being chased by native Americans in the region beyond the Appalachian Mountains that serve as a border of 1770s America strikes a good balance between exposition and getting right down to action. This sets the stage for Boone returning to civilization after saving his hide by leaving those of the animals that he had captured behind.

This leads to forming the type of unlikely (and often uneasy) collaboration that is a theme of "Frontiersmen." Boone avoids debtors prison by heading back into the wilderness to figuratively pave the way for further American expansion. This leads to establishing Boonesborough.

This episode of  "Frontiersmen" also introduces the "before they were stars" element of the series. This extends beyond Boone not yet being a legend to discussing the early career of future President William Henry Harrison. Fellow future POTUS Andrew Jackson similarly shows up early in the series.

The third regular element of "Frontiersmen" that dates back to the first episode is the aspect of showing how the portrayed incidents have an important role in more prominent events of the day. In this case, it is the strategic and symbolic importance of this particular wilderness to the British army during the American Revolution.

The next focus is on the events leading to the Louisiana Purchase that leads to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Cool aspects of this portion of "Frontiersmen" include copious personal information about the expedition leaders and their preparations for the trip, the full impact of their heading into literally uncharted territory, how they come to discover that there are no shortcuts regarding their venture, and the "True Hollywood Story" of native American guide Sacagawea. The bigger picture this time relates to the Brits still trying to restrain the Americans.

The strongest conflict comes during the final portion of "Frontiersmen," which focuses on "King of the Wild Frontier" Davy Crocket. We see how he literally holds his ground on learning that his views regarding the native American "problem" greatly differ from those of his masters. This leads to an even more heated confrontation with his former leader. 

This dispute also provides context for the early days of the ugly political races that seem perpetual. 

History fully repeats itself when Crocket joins the 1,000s of other Americans who move to Mexico-owned Texas for a combination of cheap land and freedom from what they consider the oppressive rule of the American government. Discovering that the new boss is the same old as the old boss prompts a mission statement in the form of the preparations to defend the Alamo that provide the final moments of "Frontiersmen." 

One can only hope that History does not makes us wait long for episodes that bridge the gap between "Frontiersmen" and "Built." Eagerness to learn more about the exploits of Wilton Parmenter alone creates great expectations. 

'Counterpart' S1 Blu-ray and DVD: Cold War Drama Version of 'Patty Duke Show' and 'Fringe'

The Lionsgate July 31, 2018 separate DVD and enhanced Blu-ray releases of the first season of the Starz original series "Counterpart" provides a good chance to see the best current show that you have never seen. An initial endorsement is planning to subscribe to Starz when S2 episodes premiere in early 2019; an initial note is that the Dolby HD Blu-ray looks spectacular using a 4K player to watch it on a Sony 4K set.

The exceptional special features include a video for each of the 10 S1 episodes in which creator/writer/producer Justin Marks ("The Jungle Book") shares his insider perspective on that offering. His enthusiasm and insight prove his great love and regard for his creation. 

The following YouTube clip of the official "Counterpart" S1 trailer introduces the lore of the show and awesomely proves that sadistic Schillinger of the 1997 - 2003 HBO prison drama "Oz" still lives in J.K. Simmons. A different fanbase knows Simmons from numerous roles that include his Oscar-winning performance in "Whiplash."

Sunday, July 29, 2018

ABSOLUTELY No Cause to Fear Cape Stay at Long Dell Inn

The awesomeness of the seven-room Long Dell Inn B & B in Centerville, Mass. on Cape Cod extends beyond its perfection. The nature of that home run reflects the principles of the Inn Credible New England section of this website that determine if such a place hits one out of the park or is a swing and a miss. 

Inn Credible Hosts

Innkeepers Marc and Donna are the rare breed that makes getting things right look easy, pass the test of vacation friends with flying colors, and manage to run the business together without tears or recriminations. Being there on their 15th wedding anniversary made things a little more special.

Former financial industry compliance guy Marc shares that the secret of the success of his partnership with former defense attorney with a heart of platinum Donna (who has a history of  almost literally giving clients suits off of the back of Marc) is that each has individual areas of responsibility. Having their own on-site living space on the property is another cited basis for the personal and professional tranquility. 

The story of how this couple comes to own this mid-century house with a roughly 120-year history of hosting guests is somewhat typical. A Goldilocks-style search for the right second-career after years of a bridge and/or tunnel commute from New Jersey to Manhattan ends with discovering this place that is just right for this couple and all those who discover it. This leads to the desired fairy tale endings.

Their hospitality begins with the telephone call inquiring about the inn. This includes ensuring that all dietary requirements and preferences will be met and that the breakfast that the rate includes will be to the liking of the guest. Marc bending over backward to please a particularly persnickety guest during our stay further illustrates this incredible service, 

Finding what is behind the lime-green door on arriving reinforces the choice of hotel. Marc provides a brief welcome that includes an offer of the snacks and hot and cold beverages that are available 24/7. Fortunate guests get face time with shy puppy-mill rescue inn dog Lucky the coton de Tulear. 

Marc next provides the best of both worlds that addresses the gripes of rookies who do not realize that virtually no B & B has someone to carry bags to your room. He politely insists on helping with the luggage and taking the heaviest items. He may rethink the latter offer after carrying the perpetually packed Inn Credible New England duffel. The "just in case" items in it include a power strip, snacks, toiletries, and surf shoes. 

Inn Credible Rooms

The "just right" theme includes the Long Dell guestrooms. The nicest thing about the beachy chic Cape Cod vibe of the individually decorated rooms (all of which have private bathrooms) is that it lacks the cookie-cutter feel of large hotels. A personal peeve is staying in a room that looks as if it is as likely to be in any other city as the one in which you are staying.

On the other end of the spectrum, each room is so meticulously decorated yet homey, immaculate, and sunny that you need not fear the bait-and-switch that some B&Bs pull. Paying $200/night or more for a shabby broom closet when you have an expectation of a charming quaint room that does not require one person to jump on the bed to allow the other to pass (been there, done that) is worse than feeling that you are staying in the bedroom department of a mid-price furniture store.

The highly individualized art and other special touches by Donna in each room further enhance the warmth of the Long Dell.

Marc and Donna further provide the best of both world regarding bathroom amenities. Their desire to do their part for Mother Earth prompts having sparkling clean spa-quality body wash, shampoo, and conditioner dispensers. The cucumber body wash is a highlight.

This system supports the efforts of environmentally-conscious folks and allows the rest of us to avoid "please. sir, I want some more" moments. This relates to the desire to either rinse off the dust of the road or remove yeti-caliber stench on arriving at a hotel often requiring requesting a second bar of soap for the next morning. Of course, the aforementioned duffel bag has two bars of soap. 

Inn Credible Happy Days

Having seen every room at the Long Dell allows ensuring readers that none of them remotely resemble a shabby broom closet. This includes the especially well-appointed Tradewinds Room, which was the reserved accommodation. Fortune smiled on us in the form of a last-minute cancellation for the coveted and particularly aptly named "The Nest." The following photos (which includes the oft-mentioned duffel) do not come close to doing this oasis justice.

The partner of your not-so-humble reviewer describing this suite (which includes a private deck) as an upscale Fonzie apartment nicely provides a sense of this room. The private entrance to this spacious option over two guestrooms in an addition at the back of the inn is one of many senses of isolation. Having a small refrigerator, counter-top microwave, and kitchen sink is further conducive to private relaxation. 

This easily is the quietest room at a very peaceful property, and the sitting area is a great spot to relax after a busy day in the area. 

Inn Credible Area

Speaking of the area, this Centerville property is centrally located to all that makes Cape Cod the destination choice of presidents who do not own golf resorts or family compounds. The general store and area-favorite Four Seas ice cream shop that are town highlights are a short walk away.

Large and sandy Craigsville Beach also is a fairly easy stroll, but driving facilitates bringing beach gear. A tip that Marc shares is that parking in the HUGE lot is free after the college kids who staff it go home in the late afternoon. The downside is that these scholars lock the bathrooms and the outdoor showers when they close up.

An amazing aspect of this is proving to this Northern New England boy that ocean water can be warm; this is adequately great to warrant the comment that the Pilgrims are dopes for not staying put on landing in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, rather than the almost universally accepted location of Plymouth. The note here is that the famed rock is not worth crossing the street to see. 

The larger town of Osterville is roughly five minutes away. This is a haven for folks who enjoy boutique-style shopping. Those who are so inclined easily can go home with a stylish summer clothes, tasteful sea-themed decorations. nice drinking glasses, and gourmet cheese. 

Fans of hamburgers are warned that the well-known Wimpy's restaurant in Osterville does not do especially well with that entree despite the eatery name indicating otherwise. They seem to do better with seafood. As in all things, the better bet is to heed the advice of Marc and dine at the mid-range flatbread restaurant Crisp.

The inn also is roughly a 15-minute drive to Kennedycentric Hyannis, which has a JFK museum next to the post office, The several blocks-long downtown has the basic restaurants. souvenir shops, and other businesses that one expects in a touristy beach town. 

Inn Credible Advice

This trip reinforces the belief that personalized hotels generally outshine cookie-cutter properties. The ones, such as the Long Dell, that survives more than four years, are run by folks that know the business and value art over commerce. (The perspective this time was having to convince a hotel owner at a $175/night place to unlock a cabinet to take out a second fun-sized box of Rice Krispies.)

The best places feel like visiting relatives whom you like; in this case, Marc and Donna seem like the cousins who are the kids of the nice aunt. This also makes returning fun. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

'Streets of Vengeance' Blu-ray: Awesome Homage to Trashy Fare of USA Up All Night & Debbie Rochon Films

Olive Films aptly takes us to camp with the July 24, 2018 Blu-ray release of "Streets of Vengeance." Olive captures the tone of of "Vengeance" in describing it as "a throwback  to the gritty action-thrillers of the '80s." The bonus fun comes via this Slasher//video joint being presented in the format of a fictional basic cable show that is just as cheesy and tawdry as the real "USA Up All Night" that gave trashy films new life on weekend nights from 1989 to 1998. One difference is that the graphic sexual and violent content remains intact this time. 

A more modern modern reference is to the oft-hilarious and always perverse films of 21st-century scream queen Debbie Rochon.

The brilliance of "Vengeance" is that ipurposefully making a twisted bad film elevates otherwise pure trash into an awesome guilty pleasure. An example of this is the phrase "choke on your own cock" not just being an expression this time. The only surprise is that the central vigilantes do not have a targeted misogynist suck a bag of dicks. 

The larger reference thus time is to the mother of all bad movie showcases "Mystery Science Theater 3000." The best brains behind that '90s basic cable series spare intentional garbage by limiting their selections to movies that the filmmakers believe to be good.

"Vengeance" opens with porn star Mila on the verge of hanging up her G string at the same time that the San Francisco slasher is killing women who use their sex appeal to pay the bills, 

A retirement party (sans gold garter belt) for Mila ends badly when a cult member grabs her outside the venue and brings her to his lair. This male chauvinist pig makes the common mistake of film villains by telling Mila of the cult objective of ridding the world of women who tease and otherwise abuse men with their slutty behavior. Suffice to say two damaged individuals enter, one porn actress leaves. 

Mila subsequently initially teams up with muscle, who essentially acts as the pimp of the all party-girl army that Mila assembles to take back the street corner. In true revenge-film style, this battle of hos v. bros amps up in a manner that puts Mila on the radar of the cult leader, who is connected with a man for whom the battle is particularly personal.

This leads to the inevitable battle royale that leads to the inevitable mano-a-womano showdown between the cult leader and Mila. Suffice it to say this time, Mila shows that her stiletto-heel boots are made for more than walking. 

Olive further enhances the "Vengeance" experience with a feature-length making-of film and a bushel of other Blu-ray extras. These include cast interviews, a blooper reel, a music video, and several trailers. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

'Gay Hollywood Dad' Theatrical & Amazon Instant Video: To Live and Diaper in L.A.

The concept of the Margin Films documentary "Gay Hollywood Dad," which premieres August 2 2018 at the New York Asian-American Film Festival a day before debuting on Amazon Instant Video, is laudable and has great potential. The sad truth is that 29 year-old filmmaker/titular single parent Quentin Lee sacrifices the opportunity to share his unusual experience to promote his career. "Dad" also suffers from being produced with eye toward being a reality web series.

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Dad" shows how the film starts strong before becoming standard reality show fare. One can only fear Lee creating a series titled "The Real Toddlers of Los Angeles" featuring his son Casper.

The central concept of "Dad" is strong. As Lee states at the beginning of the film, his desire for a child that is biologically his prompts choosing surrogacy., We remain on course as we meet gestational carrier Crystal Primavera as she prepares to give birth in her home state of West Virginia.

The veering into reality TV territory roughly 5 minutes later is where things start taking a turn for the worse. The cast of stock characters include aptly named Adrian Ho, whom Lee identifies as his partner. The apparent reality is that Ho is not figuratively or literally prominently in the picture. His conspicuous absences include not accompanying Lee to witness the birth of the baby or on separate trips to meet the grandparents. 

Further, Lee comments that Ho is more comfortable than him regarding going home with Mr. Right Now. All of this points to Ho being more fuck buddy than life companion.

The "plot" when the gang gathers at Chez  Lee is that Lee wants a 100-day celebration of the birth of Casper. The explanation of the reason that Chinese people celebrate that milestone is interesting. The drama begins with debates regarding the venue and the budget for the event.

One uncomfortable TMI moment during the party involves Lee telling the group that his sperm was used in the process of that lead to the birth of Casper. This is contrast to the more appropriate option of stating that he is the biological father.

Lee comes across much worse minutes later as we see him in the back seat of a car sharing that he is too drunk to drive; he adds insult to injury by joking that he looks forward to Casper being old enough to be a designated driver. It also is presumed that this too polluted to operate a motor vehicle father of an infant does not have anyone staying at his home that night to help care for the baby.

The popularity of Lee further falls when he discusses not having as much time as desired to film babies on a prior film project. This creates an impression that his motives for having Casper include having as much time as needed with this "prop" for the upcoming horror short "In Halloween" that Lee heavily promotes to the extent of including most of that film in "Dad."

Things calm down from there as Lee brings Casper to Hong Kong to meet the grandmother of the child and celebrate her birthday. Not much drama ensues during that trip.

More drama ensues during a Christmas week Vancouver trip to meet the generally grumpy Grandpa. It is clear that this man is overdue for a visit from four ghosts. 

Lee wraps up "Dad" with a discussion of taking Casper on the red carpet during a film festival. This ties into discussing the infant liking some restaurants better than others. Speaking as one who often comes close to grabbing a loudly beeping game console or a streaming device playing a children;s video from the hands of a toddler and smashing it on the floor at a restaurant, Lee should not drag his son to dinners as if the boy is a chihuahua in a Louis Vuitton purse. The general rule should be that no one under 10 should eat anyplace that does not advertise on Nickelodeon. 

The bigger picture is that "Dad"  is squandered on an affable man who clearly loves his son but seems to not have properly adapted to his new reality. An average 'mo with  a 9-to-5 job and actually must let his bundle du joie greatly disrupt his life seems to be a better subject for this theme. 

'Billy Budd' Blu-ray: Cinemascope Tale of Innocence Lost at Sea

The Warner Archive crystal-clear July 10, 2018 Blu-ray release of the social-commentary laden 1962 period-piece drama "Billy Budd" fills the summer film void of an epic film with depth (no pun intended.) This adaptation of the Herman Melville novel of the same name tells the 1797 tale of the titular Shanghaied young sailor. 

Peter Ustinov does yeoman's work in this Cinemascope film in that he directs and co-produces it in addition to playing Captain Edwin Fairfax Vere. The exceptional look of this shot-at-sea film and the perfect portrayal of Vere as a man who keeps his head under very trying circumstances prove that Ustinov is a genuine triple threat.

Budd (future General Zod AND Jor-El portrayor Terence Stamp) is a happy sailor aboard the merchant ship The Rights of Man to the extent of gleefully leading the crew in a rousing song when the British Navy ship the HMS Avenger shows up and asserts an effective right of scavenge in forcing Budd to literally jump ship and join Team Vere, 

"Budd" then projects a mild vibe of a modern workplace in that Budd is the slightly annoying enthusiastic newbie who is immune to the cynicism of the "veterans" We also get strong Dickensian overtones that are particularly prevelant in separate scenes in which Budd puts a positive spin on the swill that the crew eats and casually discusses being a foundling. 

The good nature of Budd puts him on the radar of gruff and tough Master-of-Arms John Claggart (Robert Ryan), who rebuffs the sweet and caring offer of friendship by Budd. The sense of a modern workplace enters the picture again on Vere granting Budd a fast-track promotion prompting Claggart to feel additional animus toward our teen seaman. 

Things further escalate on Claggart maliciously making a false accusation against Budd that leads to Vere giving the lad a chance to defend himself. Expected shock and awe leads to a tragic accident regarding which the captain aptly expresses the flaw of most legal systems that requires basing a decision on the law rather than on justice.

This in turn leads to arguably the most powerful scene in the film in which the crew experiences one of the harshest realities of both life at sea and being in the military. The "but wait there's more" surprise comes just as things seem destined to reach a conclusion that is preordained from the beginning. 

The bonus impact this time is the sad truth that things have not changed much since the 18th century setting of "Budd" or the 1962 premiere of the film. Further, the same likely will be true 56 years from now.

The special feature is commentary by Stamp and Steven Soderbergh.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

"Edge of Darkness" DVD: Errol Flynn Leads Norse Revolt Against Nazi Occupation

Warner Archive makes July 24, 2018 a day that will live in infinity (and beyond) with the (reviewed) separate but equal Blu-ray release of the universal cut (with  bonus DVD of the director's cut) of "Supergirl" and the DVD release of the 1943 Errol Flynn WWII drama "Edge of Darkness." This nail-biter stars the dashing Flynn as Norwegian fisherman Gunnar Brogge who leads the resistance effort of his small town against the Nazi occupation. The depth this time comes in the form of the character studies of the townfolks.

"Darkness" opens in a thoroughly modern manner in that German aviators flying over the aforementioned burg make an observation that prompts a closer look. That leads to an investigation in which it is discovered that streets literally are littered with dead German soldiers and that the same is true regarding a hotel that we soon learn is the former local German army headquarters, 

The 21st-century movie aspect comes next when the action shifts backwards several weeks. Gunnar, and Karen Stensgard (Ann Sheridan), who is the main squeeze of Gunnar and the daughter of town doctor Martin Stensgard (Walter Huston), are keeping a low profile while waiting for news of a shipment of guns from the British army. 

Martin Stensgard is not so fond of the Nazis but is staying neutral, his wife Anna (Ruth Gordon) is dazed and confused, and son Johann (John Beale) is a low-level collaborator who arrives home from Oslo in the middle of the film. Cannery owner Kaspar Torgerson (Charles Dingle) is the friendly collaborator who also is the brother of Anna.

An amusing element of "Darkness" is a connection with the sequel to the '*80s comedy film "Mannequin." "Mannequin on the Move" (1987). The titular store display in "Move" is from the Bavarian kingdom of Hauptmann Koening, which is the name of the German commander in the "Darkness" town. 

The prelude to the primary action in "Darkness" is a nearby town getting the aforementioned allied support. The resulting armed conflict with the Nazis not ending well for the villagers provides some neighbors of Gunnar to believe that resistance is futile.

The tension mounts as the Germans amp up their defenses against an anticipated attack by the occupied. Things fully come to a head when the occupiers make an example of a local who stands up to them.

Oscar-winning director Lewis Milestone ("All Quiet on the Western Front") superbly orchestrates the ensuing melee in which the Germans figuratively (and presumably literally) lose their feces in direct proportion to the villagers becoming emboldened. These events also reignite feels of revulsion regarding a report of a particular atrocity that supports the understated observation that Nazis are not nice.

The first larger perspective this time is the fascinating look at where the villagers fall along the Kinsey Scale of collaboration, One can understand how folks such as Gunnar and Karen feel obliged to mount active resistance and others such as Martin Stensgard choose to simply wait things out. It even is understandable that folks like Johann present an appearance of cooperation. Full-on collaborators such as Kaspar have more 'splainin' to do. 

A cooler larger perspective is the parallel with the American Revolution. The patriot militia is like that of the villagers in that they are an informally organized covert group literally outgunned by a larger and formally organized and trained occupying enemy.

Archive further excels in outdoing itself regarding the always exceptional special features in its releases. The treat this time is a plethora of vintage shorts grouped under "Warner Night at the Movies." We get two cartoons, the theatrical trailer for "Darkness" and "The Hard Way," a newsreel, and other equally good retro fare. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

'The Three-Way Wedding' DVD: The Book of Normandy

Film Movement celebrates Bastille Day Month with separate but equal July 24, 2018 DVD releases of French films with modern sensibilities. An upcoming post on "You Will Be Mine" discusses that film about a lesbian love affair between reunited childhood friends.

​Our subject du jour is the more comedic 2010 film "The Three-Way Wedding." The attributes of this one include a strong live-stage vibe.

The following YouTube clip of a PG-13 trailer for "Wedding" showcases the midsummer-style comedy and eroticism of the film.

This homage to Woody Allen and all the greats whom he honors in his "Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" and numerous other adult comedies occurs during an eventful day at the country estate of blocked playwright Auguste. His day commences with an intimate moment with young law student Fanny, who is his assistant/confidante. The real fun begins with the arrival of visitors from Paris who are there to replenish the well of creative juices.

The source of much of the trouble is leading lady/Auguste ex Harriet being the current object of affection of leading man Theo, who accompanies her. Discovering this French connection enrages Auguste and prompts le fit hissy by the much younger Theo. Harriet taking off after her current beau does not help matters much.

Meanwhile, Fanny is the young innocent caught up in all this. These developments stir up feelings of ardor by all concerned, This is turn triggers thoughts of various unconventional options that reflect the title of the film. Fanny also is the center of a plan to literally upstage Harriet.

The absurdity of all this is that the plans to make Fanny a woman will rob her of the innocence that makes her appealing. It further seems that she is becoming "New Harriet." 

Theo portrayor Louis Garrel steals the show as he pursues Fanny with varying degrees of enthusiasm, plays young stud moving in on the territory of aging lion August, and regularly displays his emo side. Highlight includes his role in a reverse shotgun wedding and his clumsy attempt to seduce Fanny in her car.

Writer-director Jacques Doillon wraps things up in an apt but surprising manner that creates tantalizing ambiguity regarding which combination (if any)  of our characters will walk down the aisle and how that will work out. Either way, it seems sure that the finished play will reflect the outcome.

The fun of "Wedding" for Americans is the incredibly strong French feel of the film. Everyone is sophisticated regarding the sexual tensions and related overlapping relationships. We also get heavy emoting that seems par for the course for the affected folks. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

'Hidden Kisses' DVD: Literal French Kiss Triggers Actual High School Gay Bashing

The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2017 French drama "Hidden Kisses" awesomely puts the Breaking edge on an otherwise light story of two high school boys in love. "Kisses" being a TV-Movie both explains the slight "After School Special" vibe oand further proves that the French are much more progressive and cool than Americans.

The 21st-century centric drama begins when "new boy in town" 15 year-old everyteen Nate meets a mystery boy for the titular buss in a dark greenhouse during a large party. An unknown person takes and uploads a photo in which only Nate is identifiable. The picture going viral among students, parents, and faculty simultaneously forces Nate out of the closet into a hostile environment and triggers speculation regarding the identity of the other boy.

The fallout extends to straining the previously close relationship between Nate and his widowed police chief father Stephane. Stephane still loves the sinner but is not fond of the sin and has difficulty accepting his new normal.

Meanwhile, Nate is subject to increasingly vicious bullying at school and is experiencing the heartbreak of his secret boyfriend ignoring him. This culminates in a brutal beating with an equally horrific emotional element. The latter reflects the same insecurities behind real-life gay boys and men yelling "fag" om the mere sight of an effeminate man and throwing the first punch in a dark alley behind a gay bar.

The next round of drama occurs when the rookie mistake of not clearing a browsing history results in identifying the other boy in the photo. This both forces him to come to terms with his sexuality and to contend with his enraged father, who believes both that he literally can beat the gay out of his son and that conversion therapy is effective. The related emotional abuse is equally painful to watch.

The film not being a product of Hollywood (or Logo) and this not being the '90s allow for "Kisses" to not conclude with a fairy tale (no pun intended) ending with our princes slow dancing at the prom while their smiling peers, teachers, and parents circle around them. However, both boys survive the traumatic aftermath of being outed and get a quantum of solace; they additionally get one adorable scene that provides some hope for greater societal enlightenment.

"Kisses" addresses the good news regarding this issue; boys coming to terms with liking other boys should be spared the scorn and torture of the generation before them. The bad news is that the reality is that coming out as a teen (and often as an adult) still likely comes at least with the price of nasty looks and comments behind your back.

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

Saturday, July 21, 2018

'The Great Game' DVD: French Political Animal Makes Radical Move

The Icarus Films July 24, 2018 DVD release of the 2015 political thriller "The Great Game" (a.k.a. "Le Grand Jeu"") indicates that corrupt power-brokers from every country utilize the same playbook. A similar universal truth exists regarding the bedfellows with whom our elected officials and their staff find themselves.

The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-HEAVY trailer for "Game" achieves its goal of accurately conveying the tone and the themes of the film.

"Game" fully gets afoot when one-book-wonder novelist Pierre Blum and self-proclaimed problem-solver Joseph Paskin meet at a casino. Pierre is attending the same wedding as his ex-wife with whom he has a much more successful divorce than marriage; Paskin is there to gamble.

The entertaining odd tone of the film begins with Paskin asking Blum whether he is an alcoholic and numerous equally personal questions within seconds of the start of their less-than-beautiful friendship. This conversation including Blum being the author of a well-received book several years earlier but not writing anything since leads to the proverbial seemingly innocent offer that turns out to be a Satanic bargain. 

The deal is that Paskin pays Blum to ghost write a subversive book that advocates civil (and less-than-civil) disobedience in exchange for a large sum of money and total anonymity. The rest of the disclosed story is that the manifesto is part of a larger plan of Paskin to turn the hearts and minds of the French people against the current Minster of the Interior for the fun and profit of Paskin. 

Paskin apparently making a great effort (and demonstrating tremendous skill) in tracking down Blum after their purportedly chance encounter is the first development that triggers the spidey sense of Blum. Learning the rest of the story provides more reason to run, not walk, away,

Like all good thrillers, the suspense escalates as the audience learns more about the horse that Paskin has in the race to pull off a coup. This coincides with being a ghost writer coming back to haunt Blum to the extent that he must hide at a farm to avoid buying one., 

Blum coming under attack from the left and the right understandably raises the stakes for him; loves past and present creating additional drama further leaves the audience guessing regarding the outcome.,

Writer-director Nicolas Pariser shows additional good basic instincts regarding an apt epilogue to this film that presents itself as a fiction or non-fiction book on its subject. A scene seconds before the end credits begin rolling provides an awesome final aha moment. 

The bigger picture thus time is the verification of the depths to which government officials sink to manipulate those whom thee individuals are elected to serve. The lesson here is that turning 30 does not preclude trusting you but getting your paycheck from a political entity does. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

'When the Starlight Ends' DVD: The Secret Life of Walter Millennial

The shifting (and alternate) timelines that are one of several elements that make the 2016 dramedy "When the Starlight Ends" entertainingly odd also makes this facially tardy review of the Cinedigm March 2018 DVD release of the film timely. Writer-director Adam Sigal channels the best of indie fantasy films in telling the story of heavily fantasizing office drone Jacob (Sam Heughan of "Outlander") turned published author, turned angst-ridden basket case.

The quirkiness of "Starlight" commences with the opening narration by Jacob that runs throughout the film. He tells us that love of his life Carli left him one month and 14 days ago after meeting him an equally specific period ago. The circumstances of their meeting also help set the tone for "Starlight." 

The well-intentioned catalyst for most of the action in "Starlight" is Carli convincing Jacob to trade in his cubicle for an attempt at writing something that at least approaches the level of the great American novel. This leads to the moderate success that leads to the heavy drama that leads to the aforementioned departure of Carli.

In this case, the journey is far more than half the fun as we see the manifestations of the daydreams that often feature putting Jacob and Carli in the shoes of the folks with whom Jacob interacts in real life. Much of this entertainment relates to not knowing if it is live or Memorex. 

A prime example of this altered reality is Jacob writing in a diner when the current "It" girl strolls in. The scenarios that play out include an increasingly intimate chat and our hero taking a bullet for her. 

The wacky neighbors provide additional fodder for the imagination of Jacob and related entertainment for us. Clueless Ralph (Sean Patrick Flanery) suspects that his wife is cheating on  him and adds stupidity to ignorance by hiring the culprit to spy on her.

Jacob also bonds with his aging beach bum neighbor who has a different dog each week. The circumstances surrounding one theory regarding this regular swapping of pets is darkly hilarious. 

Sigal extends the concept of the film to the "one who got away" post break-up period, We get a full sense both of what might have been and of the degree to which Jacob desires to control the lives of those around him.

The first bigger picture this time is pulling back the curtain on the desire of all of us to control our relationships with others and have them lives their lives as we see fit. The second big picture is the conflict than can exist between pursuing our dreams and hurting the ones whom we love. We further see that writers awesomely can at least have their cake and eat it too.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

'Boy Undone' DVD: Morning After Begins Effort to Make Sense of Night Before

The TLA Releasing May 29, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 gay-themed psychological thriller "Boy Undone" is adequately freaky to earn the "guerrilla" label with which it is associated.

The following YouTube clip of the official "Undone" trailer highlights the dreamlike tone of this highly stylized largely silent film.

The real action begins with the titular young man waking up dazed and confused naked in a strange bed in a strange home. His success in getting himself together is thwarted when his cunrecognized host feels free to strip and top this guy who simply goes along with the program.

The portion of the story that comes out fairly quickly is that "Host" found "Boy" unconscious on the bathroom floor of a wild gay club with entertainment that includes nearly naked go-go dancers. On a related note, the edge of "Undone" includes our stars frequently in every stage of arousal and explicitly engaged in the full range of homosexual activity.

The rest of the story is that "Boy" has complete amnesia regarding his name and every aspect of his life; this includes how he ends up naked in the home of "Host." The strong assumption among this newly formed couple is that a severe trauma is the root of the problem.

Despite the aforementioned regular nudity, there is no doubt that "Host" wears the pants in the relationship and that "Boy" remains a confused puppy even weeks after being picked up (presumably) in a puddle of urine, A blatant example of the metaphor is "Boy" curling up on the floor beside the bed of "Host."

Surreal images that are a mix of the known and unknown and that are accurate to an undetermined extent trigger some sparks of memory; sleuthing of "Host" further helps solve the mystery.

Ultimately finding the missing link triggers further drama and does not explain everything. Men who watch the interrogation scene that elicits that information are dared to not look away.

This copious psychological trauma and drama illustrates how our past shapes our future and that we sometimes must completely break down to become the person whom we want to be. It further shows the aspect regarding some of us being wolves and others lambs that lambs sometimes lead themselves to slaughter and cannot resist coming back for more.

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

'In Harmony' DVD: Quality Gallic Nicholas Sparks Tale of Horseman and Insurance Adjuster

The Icarus Films July 10, 2018 DVD release of the 2015 French romdram "In Harmony" once again shows how the viewing public benefits from that company filling its catalog with "films from independent producers worldwide." This tale of unmarried recently paraplegic horse trainer/equestrian Marc and married insurance company rep. Florence charged with having Marc accept a low-ball settlement shows that films about relationships in which loathe turns to love can be much more than an unwatchable chick flick.

A related big takeaway for straight dudes is that "Harmony" can score you twofer points in terms of it being a romdram and a French film. The best part is that you will like this movie that lacks any overblown angst and melodramatic declarations of love. 

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Harmony" achieves its purpose of accurately conveying the tones of the film.

Florence literally and figuratively comes on the scene in the wake of her colleague failing to get Marc to accept what he considers an inadequate amount for the harm from falling off his symbolically named horse Othello while doing a stunt for a film. Writer-director Denis Dercourt uses clever exposition by having Florence view a DVD with relevant footage of the circumstances of the accident. 

Marc giving Florence the same "and the horse you rode in on" message that he gave her colleague sends her back empty-handed to her not-so-pleased employer, The gist of the matter is that the company is facing heavy liability regarding the accident, 

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Marc is contending with the dual challenges of his personally designed rehab. and the insurance company essentially trying to starve him out. 

The impact of the events on Florence include Mark doing what he loves best and being determined to return to it reminding her of abandoning her dreams in favor of a a steady paycheck. She further is reminded of the ruthless nature of the insurance industry.

This leads to the initial betrayal of the insurance company by Florence that is typical in this type of film. This leads to the also standard true test of loyalty regarding her having to make a strong stand on one side or the other.

All this occurs in the background of our couple developing a more stable relationship and Florence helping Marc get back in the saddle. The nice thing this time is that both people are nice and lack the extreme personalities that characterize the lesser fare of this type that Hollywood produces. 

Decourt also handles the inevitable meeting between Marc and the husband of Florence well. One spoiler is that no punches are thrown. This good track record continues to the end with Dercourt providing a somewhat unexpected but happy ending for all that makes the audience want to see the Chapter Three of the leads.