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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

'Ancient Aliens' S11 V2 DVD: Stargate: AA

UPS, rather than ET, is behind this post on the Lionsgate S11 V2 DVD of the History Channel series "Ancient Aliens" coming after a review of the S12 V1 DVD set; the first S11 V2 DVD set got lost in transit.

The primary concept of the "Ancient" documentary series is that brothers from other planets visited Earth during the dawns of numerous civilizations. More recent incidents, such as the Roswell crash, supplement the speculation as the events from the era of pyramids and cave drawings.

The S11 V2 set starts out strong with a "very special" 90-minute episode titled "Earth Station Egypt." Excitable manchild/"Ancient" co-executive producer/believer Giergio Tsoukalos avidly goes where very few modern men have gone before to share evidence that the Egyptian gods and pharaohs either are aliens or are the result of visitors from other planets who score while visiting here. This, along with theories regarding the building and the purpose of the pyramids. closely parallels the lore of the cult classic "Stargate" sci-fi television franchise.

Egypt even more closely channels "Stargate" in specifically arguing that the aliens from that era used wormholes (aka stargates) for their commute. 

S11 V2 E2 "Island of the Giants" (aka Sardinia) is a crossover; Marty Lagina of the (reviewed) History series "The Curse of Oak Island" takes a break from his years' long Canadian treasure hunt to join Tsoukalos for a European vacation. The common elements of their series extend beyond sharing a network; Emmy-winner Kevin Burns is an executive producer for both programs.

Tsoukalos and Lagina visit enormous tombs, discuss why no one has found the bones of behemoths, and otherwise offer proof as to Cyclopi once inhabiting the island for the benefits of the human inhabitants.

S11 V2 E6 "They Came From the Sky" focuses on terrestrials and extra-terrestrials using asteroids to transport tech. and organic manner. An aspect of this is terra-forming and the possibility that man evolves from Uncle Martin, rather than from Bonzo.

The next episode "The Artificial Human" more fully brings us back to "Stargate" themes. This study of artificial intelligence includes speculation as to the existence of self-replicating robots that are capable of duplicating at will. Speaking of Will, "Artificial" includes several clips of the current Netflix remake of the '60s sci-fi classic series "Lost in Space."

Things are taken further as to theorizing that humans are very life-like robots.

Other notable episodes in the S11 V2 set include one on alien abductions and one "Stargate" themed one that speculates as to the US and Russia colluding regarding preparing for first contact; that one looks like a job for the Space Force.

As the handful of posts on "Ancient" sets state, the credibility of this series includes the odds being against Earth being the only advanced planet in the universe. Believing that ancient structures and images are closely connected to aliens and that octipi are aquamen from another planet requires even more faith.

Friday, December 27, 2019

'Motel Mist' Neo-Modern Neil Simon 'Suite' Movie

Breaking Glass Pictures fully exhibits its love of perverse edge as to its DVD release of the twisted 2016 drama "Motel Mist." Although this tale of freaks and geeks at a "love motel" just outside Bangkok is adequate lurid, it being a variation of the Neil Simon "Love Boat" (complete with A and B List celebrities) '70s-era "Suite" films makes "Mist" that much more of a no-need-to-feel guilty pleasure. It also makes "Mist" more like BBC series "Hotel Babylon" than ABC '80s staple "Hotel." 

The following Breaking trailer for "Mist" highlights the atmospheric and kinky tone that makes it an entertaining walk on the wild side from the safety of your own home. 

Our rogue's gallery begins with typical outwardly respectable middle-aged Sopol, who maintains a lair at the titular hot-sheets Hilton; his current school girl who works in the oldest profession in the world is Laila. Their intercourse clearly shows that her pain provides his pleasure. 

This encounter taking an unexpected turn literally shows Sopol that karma is a bitch in a way that provides the audience particularly dark pleasure before the tables once again turn only to shift once more thanks to an even Stevens development. 

The partner-in-crime of Sopol is young hotel employee Tot, whose show business aspirations extend beyond his facilitating the real-life Bob Crane hobby of Sopol. Tot also is adequately unbalanced to fit right in with his guests. 

The fictional household name of the group is former child star Tul, whose personal path is textbook for former Disney Channel kidcom stars turned super freaks that you would never consider bringing home to mother. Tul is waiting for his alien friends to beam him up (and likely probe him). His adventures in coveted Room 5 include seeing a blue room and wanting to paint it black. This excitable boy going fully psycho near the end is a film highlight. 

Writer/director Prabda Yoon ends all this with an especially stylish sequence that shows that some dreams come true even for the not-so-pure at heart.

Breaking supplements this with a behind-the-scenes feature. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

'Ultraman Orb: Series and Movie' DVD & BD: Nipponese 'Captain Planet'/'Scooby-Doo'

Mill Creek Entertainment once again proves itself to be a fanboy god by separately releasing DVD and Blu-ray sets of "Ultraman GEED" and our current topic "Ultraman Orb" (2016) on November 19, 2019. These come on the heels of MCE October 2019 "Ultra" releases that are the topics of prior posts that can be found in the MCE section of this site.

Part of the genius of these "Ultra" series, which relates to the genius of their American cousins "Power Rangers" series, is that that they purposefully target actual 12 year-old boys and the inner 12 year-old boy in all of us. This consists of bright-and-bold action, truly hilarious broad comedy, and always bringing something new to the table while incorporating fresh elements. This is why this 50 year-old franchise (ala "Scooby-Doo") still is growing strong. 

Speaking of "Scooby," our central group of "meddling kids" investigate and report on X Files under the name "Something Search People." The game of three is easy as to this group in that one definitely would want to marry level-headed tomboy/den mother Cap, "mate" with adorable excitable boy Jetta, and snuff the brains/mad scientist of the operation Shin. 

Unbeknownst to the gang to varying degrees for varying periods, their buddy Gai is the titular main man this time; his old-school elements include relying on a power surge that last for three minutes to rise to the occasion and vanquish the evil alien monster that is the threat of the week. Suffice to to say that the source of his needed boosts are elemental.

Gleefully evil arch-nemesis Juggler contributes ample amounts of campy fun. Not having watched every "Orb" episode precludes stating whether Juggler ever actually steals candy from a baby.

"Orb" evokes thoughts of the Ted Turner ecotoon "Captain Planet and the Planeteers." The comparison begins with the elements of wind, fire, earth, and water separately being key aspects of the first several episodes. These begins with a variation of the films "Twister" and "The Wizard of Oz" as to the SSP crew getting caught up in a tornado in which they witness a battle between the monster behind that destructive force and a robot-like man whom they come to know as their superfriend. 

The "fire" episode is one of the most clever and dramatic. Ultraman temporarily saves the day as to a "second sun" that is massively speeding up climate change. This leads to his crashing to earth and convalescing with more than a little help from his friends. A cute and funny epilogue has Jetta getting worked up over a universal sin of a roommate only to quickly find that the culprit is honorable.

The "water" episode is a pure delight. The foul brother from another planet in this one is making water supplies incredibly malodorous. Jetta finds this out the hard way while taking a shower. Very family-friendly hi-jinks in a Japanese bath house provide additional charm.

The lore-establishing episodes lead to a delightful tale in which an alien lures a clueless Cap into a trap that is designed to capture her friend Kai. 

All of this culminates with the "Orb" movie that fulfills its duties to be even bigger and bolder than the series and to include an epic battle that results in an equally spectacular finale. An especially Scooby aspect this time is that much of the action centers around a mysterious mansion that provides the setting for a classic Scooby style chase through rooms and hallways.

That home plays a key role in an Earth-threatening plot by an evil alien sorceress, who essentially wants her precious. Juggler also plays a key and somewhat ambiguous role in the form of often doing the right thing while asserting that he is doing so for the wrong reason. 

Our other key player is an Ultraman who has a "Tron" like existence in that he is living in the most advanced Gameboy ever. He sets much of the above in motion by seeking out the SSP team because of their association with Gai. 

One of the most exciting scenes involves a revelation to which the boys have an infectious reaction.

The enthusiasm and skill with which the cast and crew produce these adventures make what could be cheesy effect and wooden acting a true delight that does the "Ultraverse" proud.​

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

'Sordid Lives' Blu-ray: Mama's Trailer Trash Family

A 'del'athon of posts on home-video releases of the films and performances of genuine wit Del Shores continues with the Mama of all his films; "Sordid Lives" (2000) is the one that makes Shores a household name in WeHo, SoHo, and many other Hos. The franchise includes the (reviewed) "A Very Sordid Wedding" and "Sordid Lives: The Series." 

An amazing surprise as to the blu-ray version of "Lives" is that the pristine video and audio and the depth of the images when watched in 4K greatly enhance the "live-stage" vibe of watching this film based on the play of the same name. 

This tale of a working-class family in a fly-over county aptly has 10 festival wins under its enormous silver belt buckle. These include the Best Feature honor at the 2000 Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, "best in show" honors for both Shores and the film at the 2000 Memphis International Film Festival, and "Best Feature" and Best Actor (Leslie Jordan) wins at the 2000 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival.

The following SPOILER-LADEN aptly titled trailer for "Lives" shows how this film is a wonderfully raunchier and darker version of the southern-fried '80scom "Mama's Family (nee "The Family" on "The Carol Burnett Show.")

This sordid tale centers around Sissy Hickey (Beth Grant), who is forced into the overlapping roles of therapist and far-from-teenage diplomat in the wake (no pun intended) of the recent death of her sister Peggy under highly scandalous circumstances. Suffice it to say that the man who plays a role in that demise lacks a leg on which to stand as to escaping culpability.

Shores deftly orchestrates the inter-related (pun intended) action between four arenas of action before gathering at least most of the usual suspects for the climatic main event that is relatable to people of every socioeconomic group.

The abode of Sissy literally provides the "meanwhile" at the ranch element of this two days in the valley of the dolts. Even more epic hilarity ensues as her sibling Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (Jordan) is enduring a decades' long unfortunate incarceration in a mental hospital. He is being treated for the twin "diseases" of being a homosexual and for a strong urge to go Full Minnie in impersonating Tammy Wynette and other first ladies of country music. 

The conversion therapy session between Brother Boy and "Mommie Dearest" style psychiatrist Dr. Eve Bollinger proves that Shores is the lover child of Tennessee Williams and John Waters. The battle of wills between doctor and patient is classic for reasons that extend well beyond an argument as to a failed masturbation experiment. 

Delta Burke of the classic southcom "Designing Women" steals the show as woman scorned Noleta Nethercott, who tracks down husband GW (Beau Bridges) at the local dive bar. Burke fully channels loose cannon Suzanne Sugarbaker in finding felonious inspiration from "Thelma and Louise." Although Bridges is well cast as a good ole boy forced to humiliating pay a litany of sins, armchair casting suggests that real-life Burke spouse Gerald "Major Dad" McRaney would have been a better choice. The appearances of McRaney on "Designing Women" show that he has wonderful on-screen chemistry with his equal half.

The final piece of the puzzle is the most autobiographical part for Shores. The death of his grandmother forces successful and dreamy gay  actor Ty Williamson (Kirk Geiger) to confront several conflicting emotions. He is happy and well-adjusted as to his life in Los Angeles but closeted and unhappy as to his relationship with the folks back home.

Most of the scenes with Ty occur during a session with a therapist who is much more compassionate and skilled than Dr. Eve (of destruction). Even many gay men who are coming-of-age in our overall more enlightened era of marriage equality and of being able to both ask and tell (not to mention show and tell) can relate to his family not fully embracing this adorable boy whom anyone would love to have live next door. 

All of this amounts to a film that, in addition to the similarities with "Family," can be thought of as a toned-down David Lynch movie about Mayberry. Shores provides needed warmth as to this nostalgia regarding a small town in which everyone knows each other, and whose own "quirks" allow finding amusement in the eccentricities of his or her fellow man and woman. 

The bigger picture is that Shores shows that excellent writing and a strong cast that fully embraces his or her role are important elements for a film that remains funny and does not look dated nearly 20 years after its release. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

'Star Trek: Discovery' S2 DVD & BD: Enterprising Search for Spock with Captain Pike

CBS Home Entertainment gives folks who do not subscribe to CBS All Access a chance to watch the subject of the massive recent buzz from the Trekverse by releasing "Star Trek: Discovery" on DVD, Blu-ray, AND Blu-ray steelbook on November 12, 2019.

The excitement relates to the Discovery crew encountering the Enterprise and Captain Christopher Pike assuming command of the former. This plays a role in a search for Spock (who may have acted out of concluding that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few).

One spoiler is that "Trek" deity Bryan Fuller exceeds all high expectations as to all the above and so much more; seeing the tech. of this show set 10 years before the OS period being so much more advanced, brighter, and bolder than that as to the exploits of Team Kirk remains mind bobbling. 

The following trailer for "Discovery" S2 highlights the feature-film production values, the aforementioned OS elements, and the underlying mission that drives much of the action. This is not to mention a taste of the charm and broad appeal of everyone's favorite "Rent" boy Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets.

S2 begins with things being relatively back to normal after the S1 parallel universe adventures, conflict with the Klingons, and copious ship-board drama. Things change on receiving a distress signal from the Starfleet flagship Enterprise. Although the ensuing rendez-vous alters the execution of Pike taking charge, this ties into prior unfortunate circumstances leading to Pike being the new boss. Subsequent unfortunate circumstances lead to Pike staying in charge longer than initially anticipated.

These events set the stage for Discovery to take the lead in investigating the phenomenon of seven signals briefly appearing and heralding (pun intended) the arrival of a mysterious entity dubbed The Red Angel. Early indications, including separately finding a crashed Starfleet ship in dire need of aid and a group of humans being rescued and relocated far, far, far from home in the distant past of 2053, are that the angels provides what is needed ala the sapceship Destiny in the "Stargate: SGU" television series. 

This presumed guardian also leads the crew to the especially alien homeworld of Commander Saru, who is fresh off a identity-changing incident. This trek involves both a family reunion and unvcovering a hidden historical truth.

Team Fuller expertly builds on this solid foundation by expanding on the themes of the series and the larger "Trek" lore. Much of this revolves around the relationship between Spock (who actively affirms that he likes science) and his adopted sister Discovery First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green).  S2 provides Burnham massive closure and related inconvenient truths. The lifting of childhood guilt that has haunted her to her present provides little solace. The same is true as to her getting the full LaForge as to an unexpected family reunion

Arguably the best treat revolves around the Pike lore; a sort of a homecoming awesomely ties into the OS even more spectacularly than the "Trials and Tribble-ations" episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." The "previously on" episode-opening segment on this "Discovery" outing is must-see. 

We also get heavy shades of "Terminator" as to Team Pike undertaking numerous "Trek" style life-threatening missions so that the universe can avoid a dark fate. These heroics involving copious amounts of time-travel and physics for dummies further elates the hearts of trekkies and trekkers alike. 

The plethora of special features include two separate "Short Treks" that separately feature Saru annoyingly cheerful and flaky Ensign Sylvia "Neelix" Tilly. We also get "Star Trek: Discovery: The Voyage of Season Two," "Enter the Enterprise," and "The Red Angel." 

The insufferable Tilly warrants special notice in that she reflects an element of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." That series has the almost as loathsome teen genius/Class-A dork Wesley Crusher, who provides real-life adolescent misfits of science a role model. Tilly serves the vital function of inspiring awkward science geek girls to pursue their dreams despite the social cost of doing so. Like Crusher, Tilly is a valued (and surprisingly liked) member of the Discovery crew. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

'Eegah' Blu-ray: Captain Caveman Meets Joel and the Bots

Deity to lovers of classic and/or obscure movies, The Film Detective fully puts the turkey back into Turkey Day with a pristine 4K restoration (complete with "Mystery Science Theater 3000" version) of the 1962 scifi cult classic "Eegah" on November 26, 2019. The Turkey Day tie-in dates back to '90s-era MST3K Thanksgiving marathons of the best episodes of this series that hilariously and relentlessly riffs on movies that are "the worst we can find."

An unintentionally amusing element of "Eegah" is that its 1955 Mexican release date is April 1. 

The true MST3K gems are the ones such as "Eegah" in which the roasted fowl itself is highly entertaining and creator/head writer/host Joel Hodgson (later Mike Nelson, no relation) and the "bots" that join him in watching B-movies are fully on their game both in their riffing and the bumper skits. The voice of experience advises to not eat cereal while watching these frequent trifecta offerings; Apple Jacks will become airborne. 

The ONLY complaints about "Eegah" are that the MST3K gang NEVER mentions the '70s cartoon "Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels" or the 1992 Pauly Shore teencom "Encino Man" and misses a chance for a  PERFECT reference as to wannabe teen idol Arch Hall, Jr. commenting in "Eegah" that he is taking his beloved dune buggy off road. Even moderate MST3K fans are sure to yell out "Roads?! Where we're going, we don't need roads." Lesser sins of omission are not referencing Kristin Shepard or Joe Gillis in a climatic scene, 

The MANY ways in which the almost non-stop clever quips more than compensates for the omissions include a clever reference to the 1963 star-laden comedy "Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."

The "True Palm Springs Story" behind "Eegah" is just as entertaining as the action in this film about the titular caveman (Richard "Jaws" Kiel) looking for love in all the wrong places. As blonde surfer dude star Arch Hall, Jr. tells it in an interview for the blu-ray, he and his father simply decide to run a low-budget scifi film up the flagpole and see if any teens salute.

As Hodgson states in a separate DVD extra, the pandering to the target audience includes giving the kids all they love in the form of numerous elements that include rock-and-roll and a character who wants to be a Flintstone (a little baby Flintstone). Hearing about when Joel meets Arch years after brutally verbally bashing the latter is another interview highlight.

Our story fully begins after roughly 10 minutes of (sometimes comically obvious) exposition. Love interest Roxy is driving her two-seater convertible down a desert road when she runs into Eegah (name written in blood). She lives at least another day to tell her tale to father Mr. Miller (Arch, Sr.) and boyfriend Tom (Arch Jr.).

This soon leads to the "watch out for snakes" reference that is an all-time Misties favorite. Mr. Miller then makes a desert crossing that initially gives Tom glee in the form of getting to show off his speed buggy. Subsequent events show that a father and daughter reunion is only a booty call away. 

Their unfortunate incarceration in the land of the lost allows the Millers to meet the parents and to ponce on the origin story of their host. (The missed opportunity here is the Sherwood Schwartz failedcom "It's About Time" that has two astronauts time travel to prehistoric times.)  

It is equally predictable that a successful escape is not the end of the story; Our brother from another era fully finds himself in the modern world on coming in search of his bride. Needless to say that this blast from the past with a variation of a shotgun wedding does not lead to happily ever after. 

The broadest appeal of this pleasure that does not provide any cause to feel guilty is that it is a strong example of the Saturday afternoon matinee fare that delights and amuses in a manner that keeps MST3K initially on the air for 11 years and has it find new life on Netflix. The next layer is that Arch Jr. has infectious youthful exuberance for his role. He literally is born to play an an OC everydude. 

On  a related note, this "lost episode" release comes two years after the final DVD release of every MST3K episode for which licensing is not a fatal obstacle. (Owning the quickly recalled due to licensing issues Volume 10 is a point of personal pride.) This makes "Eegah" comparable to fans of the classic '50scom "The Honeymooners" getting to own rare episodes of that series that are not part of "the original 39."

It is highly advised to pre-order two copies of the 1,500 copies of this limited-edition release. This allows keeping one for yourself and watching it on Turkey Day and giving the fanboy in your life the second one for a holiday gift.

The only proper way to end these musings is to say "push the button, Frank." 

Monday, November 11, 2019

'Ritual: A Psychomagic Story' DVD: Cinquanta Shades of Grigio

The Film Movement DVD release of the 2013 Italian Gothic psychological thriller "Ritual: A Psychomagic Story" awesomely takes the concept of "50 Shades of Gray" to an exceptional level and celebrates the true spirit of feminism.

Vulnerable Lia is catnip to controlling manipulative Viktor from the moment that they meet; one spoiler is that both display their crazy long before there are any thoughts of putting a ring on it.

Viktor supplementing his compliment of the self-designed dress that Lia is wearing by suggesting that she complement it with the shackle-like bling that he apparently carries around for such chance meetings is the first of many warning signs. 

Things "progress" to insanely jealous Viktor exerting increasing control over Lia to the point that she literally drops her panties as his command. Further kink comes courtesy of Viktor blindfolding his willing victim. 

Lia finding herself with bastard introduces further drama in the relationship. Viktor insisting that Lia terminate the pregnancy does not help matters.

The audience being a fly on the wall during therapy sessions that earn Lia portrayor Desiree Giorgetti at least a festival award provides further context for the dynamics of her relationship with Viktor. This relates to her premature introduction to womanhood being horrific for her. 

A rude awakening convinces Viktor to reverse his denial of a request by Lia for a therapeutic visit with her aunt Agata, who lovingly raised Lia after the death of her mother. The icing on the cake is that Agata lives in the beautiful old family villa, The fly in the ointment is Viktor crashing the family reunion.

The rest of this portion of the story is that Agata is either a new-age healer or a witch depending on the mindset of the beholder, No one can dispute that she gets wonderful results for those who consult her.

The Shakespearean magic of this idyllic locale includes the nicest kids in town taking Lia under their wings. This offsets an highly psychological haunting.

All of this culminates in a titular rite that reinforces the girl power theme of the film.

The appeal of this character study is that Lia is a character well worth studying. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

'The Thing' Blu-ray: Prequel Perfect Homage to Carpenter Classic

Mill Creek Entertainment provides a chance to see a prequel done right as to the October 29, 2019 Blu-ray release of "The Thing" (2011), which is an awesome homage to the 1982 John Carpenter cult classic of the same name. As the "must-see" bonus feature "'The Thing' Evolves" clearly shows, the filmmakers meticulously follow the principle of the devil being in the details to the extent of recruiting actors in Norway to play the crew of the Norwegian research station around which this origin story is centered.

MCE deserves an even more hearty slap on the back for the expert job producing the BD. The panoramic opening shots of snow and ice are almost blinding, and the sound is so crisp that you will hear and feel every crack of ice. This is not to mention the depth of these and all other shots. 

Our story begins with our modern-day Vikings searching for the source of a mysterious signal; discovering in one of the worst possible ways that a long-buried alien spaceship is the culprit figuratively (and almost literally) is the tip of the iceberg. These scientists learn that the last visitor from a distant planet to exit the craft left the door open.

Finding that careless individual encased in ice leads to paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) coming to the great white north because she thinks that it is a beauty way to go. Her companions include boyfriend Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen) and his boss, 

Jubilation soon turns to horror as our international group of friends soon become chum for the titular monster. Ala "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers," the ability of the brother from another planet to replicate and possess any living organism both creates reasonable paranoia and complicates the task of putting the genie back in the bottle,

Much of the rest of "Thing" takes on a perverse "Tom and Jerry" theme as the roles of hunter and hunter frequently shift. Inarguably the best scene in this film with award-worthy effects involves showing the extent to which the big bad is a karma chameleon. A still functional detached limb doing its thing at PRECISELY the right moment alone is worth "the price of admission." 

This mayhem and increasingly frayed nerves related to it becoming increasingly clear that no one may be whom he or she seems to be leads to an inevitable "Alien" style showdown. The epilogue that plays out during the closing credits provides the missing link between the prequel and the main event.

The epilogue to this post is that the prequel provides valued closure more than 35 years after the release of the original. It also shows that classic scifi is timeless in style and substance.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

'A Quest for Meaning' DVD: Millennials Seek Literally Sage Advice

The Icarus Films DVD release of the 2015 documentary within a documentary "A Quest for Meaning" aptly is off a nature that makes writing about it a challenge for unenlightened souls. Fully appreciating the film that is the latest in a strong Icarus collaboration with Bullfrog Films requires abandoning a cynical view of the world that results from the "stinking thinking" that largely is responsible for most of us not being at peace with the real real world. 

​The following YouTube clip of the Icarus trailer for "Meaning" creates a strong hunger for more of the abundant food for thought in the film.

The aforementioned cynicism quickly enters the picture on learning about the tellers of the tale; the intent of 20-something narrator Nathanael Coste in sharing that he and his partner-in-filmmaking Marc de la Menardiere are wealthy Manhattan party monsters who are seeking deeper knowledge likely resonates with other Millennials. Gen Xers likely will be as turned off regarding this self-indulgent exercise in the same manner that this demographic responds to the college kid who works at Starbucks providing a greeting of Namaste. 

Cynicism remaining regarding the messengers soon takes a backseat to the copious insightful messages that the film contains. The inconvenient truth is that many of us will not take those messages to heart. 

These hardy boys begin our journey in India before going off to pick the best brains in France and other countries and then literally and figuratively bringing things home. A highly satisfying aspect of this is that the aforementioned more highly evolved individuals shame the "namaste" poseurs for not practicing what they preach.

A personal highlight is a talking head calling out people who meditate or practice yoga every day only to be nasty to his or her fellow man or woman the rest of the day. We also hear from someone who states that shelling out big bucks for yoga and meditation classes is a huge waste of money. 

The valid but incredibly challenging concepts that seek to put right what once went wrong center around a few guiding principles. Achieving the ideal of only using what we need (rather than acquiring wants as well) is very tough in this highly consumer-oriented society.

A truth bomb regarding what we consider happiness and other emotions is especially eye-opening. This makes the strongest case for striving to live a life of peace,  love, and understanding. At the same time, some people should avoid peeling back layers of the onion. 

We additionally learn that true enlightenment requires a strong connection with both the earth and everything else in our macro and micro universe. Hearing a theory about the actual origin of man brings this home. Another aspect of this is taking recycling to the nth degree.

One of the most thought-provoking aspects of "Meaning" relates to an urban farmer who has incredibly cute and friendly goats. This man notes that his farm is now the envy of the neighborhood. There also are many stories of urbanites (ala attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas) growing vegetables in pots. All of these folks put those of us who do not plant gardens in our large yards to shame. 

The big picture shows how we got to our present place. Most Americans grew up in households in which we wanted to show up the Joneses and in which we were not even encouraged to literally or figuratively get our hands dirty. It is hard to persuade us to strain our muscles growing our food when we can go online and get it delivered either for free or for a relatively low price.

The DVD extras include "Ego Not Bad," which is an extension of "Meaning." The narrowed focus this time is enhancing self-awareness. 

The bottom line regarding all this is "Meaning" shows that fully embracing the concept of namaste when you say it and the other person being receptive to that message are good first steps toward being truly shiny happy people, 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

'Ultra Q' CS BD: Japanese Blend of 'Twilight Zone' and Early 'Lost in Space'

Mill Creek Entertainment begins an epic journey with the October 15, 2019 separate Blu-ray, and Blu-ray steelbook releases of the mid-60s Japanese sci-fi classic "Ultra Q" and the follow-up series "Ultraman." These two more-than-ready-for-primetime series are the first of roughly 40 "Ultra" shows,

A related note is that the surprisingly strong production values and delight associated with these series is worthy of marathons that justify sleep deprivation, However, rationing them out to savor over an extended period is advised. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.  

MCE is honoring the unprecedented track record of this 50 year-old phenomenon by releasing other sets of programs over the next several months. One can only hope that the entire franchise ultimately sees the light of day.

Our discussion of "Q" (just ahead of a "Man" post) begins with an hearty endorsement of the steelbook editions of "Q" and "Man." Both series look and sound crystal-clear in BD. Further, the well-designed sturdy steelbooks are stylish and have spines that add to "the big picture" as future "Ultra" series hit real and virtual store shelves. 

Both BD versions of the "Ultra" series include a "must-own" collectible booklet that commences with an informative essay on how each show makes it on the air. This includes both the collaboration and the "circle of life" elements of the productions. 

The booklets go on to provide detailed episode recaps; truly last but not least is an index (complete with photos) of every monster from that series. 

The following description of "Q" that is "borrowed" from the MCE website is a comprehensive overview of the lore and the themes of this fanboy fave. 

"After co-creating the iconic movie monsters Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra for Toho Studios, special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya launched his own company, Tsuburaya Productions. The first production under his new label was ULTRA Q, a 28-episode series that brought the theatrical spectacle Tsuburaya had become known for to television.

The black & white sci-fi drama focused on Mainichi Shimpo photojournalist Yuriko Edogawa (Hiroko SakuraiUltraman), Hoshikawa Airlines pilot/SF writer Jun Manjome (Kenji Sahara) and his co-pilot Ippei Togawa (Yasuhiko Saijo), who partnered to investigate mysterious events occurring in and around Japan. These phenomena often involved aliens and giant monsters, many of whom would return in future Ultraman shows and movies.

One of the most expensive TV programs produced in Japan up to that time, ULTRA Q was a ratings smash that paved the way for Tsuburaya Productions' first color series... ULTRAMAN!"

A "True Tokyo Story" aspect of "Q" from the aforementioned booklet is sure to delight at least one teen Swedish girl. We learn that the original title of this series is "Unbalance" and that it is intended to show how Mother Nature fights back when man disrupts the balance between the natural and the industrialized worlds. 

On a more relatable note to mainstream North American audiences, "Q" evokes strong thoughts of the original "Twilight Zone" and the (black-and-white) first season of "Lost In Space" before the influence of "Batman" '66 makes the latter far brighter and more campy. This element of east meets west extends beyond all three series including exposition (and context) providing narration.

The look and tone of "Q" is very similar to that of "Zone" and "Space." The production techniques show that Irwin Allen of "Space" fame and his brother from another continent Tsuburaya are of one mind. 

The aptly titled "Defeat Gomess" starts "Q" on a terrific note that reflects a timely "television killed the movie star" vibe by having a well-executed "Godzilla" theme. This story begins with construction of a train tunnel giving the titular beast both a rude awakening and an exit strategy.

This adventure includes a "little child" shall lead them element that is prominent in "Q" and "Man." A young boy takes an "it takes a Klingon to defeat a Klingon" attitude by being instrumental in inviting the arch-foe of Gomess to the party. The rest is pure scifi history.

Speaking of "Trek," "Q" (no relation) regularly having a boy hero seems to inspire a prominent feature in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." One of countless expressions of intense disdain for prodigy Wesley Crusher prompted a friend to agree but note that Wesley allows tween boys to fantasize about being respected members of the Enterprise crew. 

"Q" next takes a wonderfully goofy turn in "Goro and Goro." This one has a monkey whisperer do his thing when a science experiment gone awry causes a simian to become a (non-grape) great ape, The humanitarian outcome is a nice alternative to having the "monster" plummet from a skyscraper. 

The ironically titled "Gift From Space" has our not-so-favorite Martians respond to rocket scientists boldly going where no man has gone before. There never has been a more clear example of Yankee, go home. 

The fun continues with variations of "The Thing" and "The Little Shop of Horrors" (complete with a vampire plant that literally can be thought of a a big prick). This leads to an imminent explosion of Mt. Fuji involving a bear boy and another slumbering monster whom the misdeeds of man has awoken.

"Q" wraps this up several episodes later with a "Dr. Who" style adventure involving a train that can travel through time and space. The "Zone" style destination in a land that is free from the consequences of incidents that shows what fools these mortal be. 

The kicker to all this there is much more to discover and adore about "Q" and the entire franchise. MCE deserves high praise for doing such an exceptional job making this possible. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

'Gunsmoke' S15 V1 & V2 DVD: 26 Ways to Delight in the Old West

CBS Home Entertainment aptly shows that it has absolutely no intention to get out of Dodge by separately releasing "Gunsmoke" S15 V1 and V2 on October 1, 2019. This leaves only five more seasons to go as to being able to own this series that spans the period from the '50s to the '70s. 

Comparable to the love that CBSHE shows a plethora of other "TV Land" shows, such as the (reviewed) "The Beverly Hillbillies" and the (reviewed) "The Love Boat" DVD sets, this studio expertly remasters ORIGINAL BROADCAST versions of "Gunsmoke" and includes episode promos. 

Of course, the (reviewed) recent CBS massive epic "Brady Bunch" 50th anniversary set deserves a very special mention. This one includes EVERY "Brady" series and films sans the variety show and the reality series. 

"Gunsmoke" is a prime example of the exceptional shows on which many of us miss out due to an unwarranted prejudice against westerns, The ignorant aspect of ignoramous fully applies to folks, which includes your previously unenlightened reviewer, who write off these dramas as not much more than excuses for saloon fights and high noon showdowns.

Much of the entertainment relates to comic relief part-time deputy Festus Haggen, who clearly is the Bany Fife to Marshal Matt Dillion. Dillion amusingly getting out of Dodge for several episodes allows his right-hand man to take the lead as to maintaining law and order. 

The "Andy Griffith Show" vibe extends to a coming-of-age S15 episode in which Ron "Opie" Howard plays a teen boy coming to grips with his relationship with the indian woman who is the second wife of his father. The catalyst for this drama truly is a case of my boyfriend's back, and there's gonna be trouble. 

Howard also is connected to "Gunsmoke" in that setting the series in the Old West reflects the wisdom of "Happy Days" creator Garry Marshall. Marshall recognizes that setting a '70scom in the '50s and the '60s prevents it from ever looking dated. 

Of the 14 episodes watched for this post, there was only one showdown. That one was an element of an old west mashup of the Hatfields and the McCoys. This time, the offspring of two feuding families in Dodge City planning to get hitched coincides with the arrival of a man who has gun, will travel. 

The rest of this story is that an assumption as to who is going to be the newest resident of Boot Hill leads to twist that takes the episode in a new direction. All of us can relate to someone faster and overall better threatening our way of life. 

We also get a still relevant life lesson in an episode in which three prisoners come to Dodge to work as as an alternative to remaining a guest of the territorial governor. Two end on the farm of a couple that seem to be Quakers. and the third gets his last-minute second-chance at the Long Branch saloon run by Miss. Kitty. The ensuing rehabilitation efforts show that some men can be saved and that others are irreparably born bad. 

We further get social commentary in an episode in which an indian scout in both senses of that word makes a valiant effort at  a mother and child reunion while on a mission from Grant. This surprisingly
candid adventure relates to the brutality that the woman experienced while being held captive by the tribe of her offspring. 

One of the more intriguing episodes is a "what if" outing, Dillon is summoned to intervene in a kangaroo court murder trial occurring in a town that is a bizarro version  of Dodge. The buildings and many of the townfoks are virtually the same. The primary difference is that the absence of a dedicated lawman such as Dillon allows a rich widow to run the community with an iron fist. Her comeuppance awesomely is a mix of frontier and poetic justice, 

A more universal theme is that an actual or assumed stranger comes to Dodge City with a chip (but not a Chippewa) on his shoulder. This new kid in town may be gunning for Dillion based on their personal history, seeking vengeance against a former partner-in-crime who shows that there is no honor among thieves, or merely is there to deal with a family issue, One of the latter involves a scheme to compensate for a lack of alimony before heading for the border. 

The only fitting way to conclude this tribute that easily could be of epic length to this timeless classic is to state "I told you so." The value of "Gunsmoke" clearly extends well beyond the stereotypes of its genre.

Friday, October 11, 2019

'High Strung Free Dance' Theatrical: Wonderfully Reminiscent of '30s Musicals

Former "The Young and the Restless" hunk/rocker/notable sitcom guest star Michael "Flyman" Damian once more puts his diverse background to good use in producing/writing/directing "High Strung Free Dance." This sequel to the (reviewed) 2016 Damian joint "High Strung" opens theatrically on October 11, 2019. The ONLY "complaints" about this sequel are that it lacks the term "Electric Boogaloo" and does not recreate the awesome violin bow duel from the original. 

On a serious note, Damian also takes advantage of his decades of show business experience by following the general rule of making a sequel more grand than the original, He does buck the trend of a first sequel being horrible only to have the franchise rebound with the third entry. This creates great expectations as to a third "High Strung" movie.

Damian (perhaps inadvertently) also reflects the wisdom of the mid-70s Saturday-morning series "The New Scooby-Doo Movies" that a fan base can handle a more mature offering than the series that brings them to the table. The post on "High Strung" notes that it seems to be geared to a tween girl audience but appeals to a broad age group, 

The final aside before fully discussing "Free Dance" is that the "cast of 1,000s" listed as producers of this crowdfunded movie shows that it would be cool to see your name on the silver screen. These contributions to indie films that value art over commerce also help talented folks such as Damian continue to "rock on."

The following trailer for "Free Dance" highlights how it is brighter, grander, and more adult than its excellent predecessor. 

"Free Dance" takes its name from the epic Broadway show around which the film revolves. The link with "High Strung" is that both films feature Jane Seymour as highly demanding dance instructor (ala Lydia Grant of "Fame" fame) Oksana in both films. One difference this time is that Oksana has a highly personal interest (and rocky relationship) as to central dancer Barlow (Juliet Doherty).

The asides this time are that we know that Seymour is not an ex-wife of Henry VIII but do not know whether Oksana considers Anna Karenina her favorite author.

Damian pays a wonderful homage to the past by bringing the epic '30s musicals back in a much bolder and brighter fashion in the 21st century. The choreography and cinematography require a Blu-ray when "Free Dance" is released on physical media.

This ode to yesteryear includes Barlow initially not making the cut as a background dancer for the titular extravaganza of fabled choreographer Zander Raines (Thomas "Harry Hook" Doherty of the "Descendants" franchise). Barlow not taking "no" for an answer puts right what once went wrong.

Our classic tale continues with deli delivery boy/aspiring pianist Charlie (Harry "Vampire Boy" Jarvis) getting his first lucky break in terms of one chance encounter connecting him with a reclusive retired famous pianist.  A subsequent series of fortunate (and one seemingly not-so-fortunate) circumstances leads to Charlie getting the gig as the on-stage pianist for the show, Barlow being his muse helps the production while contributing to backstage drama. 

Related asides this time are that casting Thomas and Harry reinforce that Michael (who casts "handsome devil "Nicholas Galitizine in the first film) has a good eye for talented British pretty boys and that Jarvis shares in an interview for another outlet that "Free Dance" prompts him to resume his piano studies after a long absence. His exceptional playing proves that he is an apt pupil.

Much of "Free Dane" centers  around the trauma and drama of rehearsing for the show, The vintage-style shifting fortunes of Barlow drive much of the action. 

All of this leads to the epic opening night; a twist during this frantic period will cause many viewers of this compelling film to yell out a word that rhymes with "witch" when it seems that nice guys once again finish last. 

Damian fully delivers as to the final performances that include an truly grand finale. This fully leading to a classic Hollywood ending removes any doubt that Damian honors the past.

The epilogue to all this is that the post on "High Strung" encourages folks to disregard embarrassment related to seeing a very good film that is geared to tween girls; there is ABSOLUTELY no cause for such concern as to "Free Dance."