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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

'Lippy the Lion' and 'Hardy Har Har' DVD: True Hanna-Barbera All-Stars

The Warner Archive July 9, 2019 2-disc DVD release of the complete series "Lippy the Lion and "Hardy Har Har" (1962) awesomely contributes to the ecstasy that is the Archive continuous and seemingly endless revival of its classic Animation Domination. This Renaissance arguably begins with the MUST-OWN (reviewed) June 2019 Blu-ray release of "Jonny Quest" OS and continues at least through an August 2019 BD release of "The Jetsons" OS.  

The temporary agony as to this domination relates to "Lippy," along with the recent (reviewed) Archive release of "Wally Gator" only bringing literal and figurative children of the '60s and '70s 2/3 of the way toward owning all three series that make up the syndicated "The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series."

Pure instinct and youthful exuberance indicate that Archive will release "Touche Turtle and Dum Dum" before the end of September 2019. Buying "Lippy" and "Gator" will help make that a reality sooner rather than later. The bigger picture regarding this is that two out of three ain't bad, but a trifecta is much better. 

The release of "Touche" also would allow Saturday-morning sofa spuds with three DVD players to recreate each episode of "Series." 

Folks who are interested in learning more about the era of "talking animal" shows in this Golden Age of Hanna-Barbera are asked to please read the "Gator" review.  That post provides some insight into the productions that begat the action-adventure fare that begat "Scooby" and his clones, and it all was good.

"Lippy" is notable for having two HB all-stars voice the titular king of the jungle and his ironically named hyena sidekick, Daws Butler voices Lippy, and Mel Blanc voices Hardy. The rest of the story is that Butler uses the same voice for Lippy as he does for time-travelling Peter Potamus, whose '60s series also is in the Archive DVD catalog. 

Lippy is an always annoyingly gleeful optimist who almost certainly wears rose-colored contacts. His primary challenge is to get his equally always incredibly glum chum, who literally thinks that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train and often is correct,  to be positive and to laugh. A semi-spoiler is that an episode in which Hardy laughs is the best moment in the series, 

The concept of "Lippy" is a little broader than most HB shows from any era and arguably is one that is closest to the spirit of "Looney Toons." Rather than rely on a single concept, such as the Scooby gang stumbling on an X-File or Gator escaping from the zoo only to find that there is no place like home, "Lippy" shows a bit more variety and is  even more rife with vaudeville-style slapstick. 

Each "Lippy" starts the same with our animated George and Lennie travelling the globe. The variety comes in the form of the reason for their wandering and the catalyst for their action. It often is survival, but may be part of get-rich scheme that Lippy is just as confident will succeed as Hardy is that it will fail. The latter always is expressed by the catchphrase "oh dear, oh my."  There also are times that the pair simply find adventure while on the road Kerouac style. 

The "Lippy" pilot "See Saw" sticks to the basics. Our pair is stranded on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Hardy is lamenting their imminent demise when Lipppy uses spotting an island as a reason for Hardy to be optimistic. The combined bad news is that this arrival coincides with a pirate burying his booty and leads to Lippy and Hardy being Shanghaied.

An especially notable cluster of episode air early in the "Lippy" run. "Smile the Wild" finds the desperate time in the form of extreme hunger lead to the desperate measure of Lippy passing off Hardy as an escaped wildman from a circus in order to claim a reward. Of course, the real McCoy shows up and imperils the jungle boys.

"Film Flam" finds Lippy and Hardy vacationing in Hollywood. A cartoon-staple form of misunderstanding finds a film director mistaking Lippy for an actor in a lion suit. Hilarity truly ensues this time. 

"Gunflighter," which directly follows "Film," has Lippy passing Hardy off as the titular quick draw. The figuratively real McGraw showing up leads to an exceptional conclusion that highlights what Hardy brings to the table.

The "Hick Hikers," which is especially is especially looney toons in tone, finds Lippy climbing a previously unconquered mountain merely to accomplish that feat; Hardy is dead weight in tow and characteristically constantly bitching.

Our mountain-climbing lion achieves his objective only to find that a welcoming committee in the form of a ram is not at all sheepish about protecting his turf from interlopers. This leads to a hilarious game of king of the hill.

As virtually every post on animated and live-action Archive releases state, the fact that they do not (and will not) make 'em like that anymore provides reason enough to add "Lippy" to your DVD collection. This wonderful reminder of the era before killjoys take the highly entertaining violence out of cartoons is sorely needed in this era in which watching almost constant consequence-free knocks on the noggin is just what Dr. Patch Adams ordered. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Shire Woodstock: A Vermont State of Mind

Birthday trips to places such as The Shire Woodstock in Vermont are more than making for being a July baby precluding the large parties that the kids whose special days occurred during the school year enjoyed. An exceptional in every way dinner at the Red Rooster restaurant at the nearby Woodstock Inn provided the almost literal icing on the figurative birthday cake. An article on that meal is planned for next month.

A less positive role of the Woodstock Inn led both to the stay at Shire and added to the knowledge bank that continually enhances the Inn Credible New England section of this site.

I initially approached the Inn about a media stay. Suffice it to say that this luxury hotel, which has non-profit status despite charging what must be a highly profitable rate for its accommodations, predictably passed me off to its Manhattan PR firm. That firm equally predictably determined that my site was inadequately trendy to warrant any consideration. Being told no did not prompt resentment; the Inn itself not even looking at my site or considering my proposal did, 

On a related note, I was charged a resort fee on a prior trip to the Inn despite the Inn lacking resort facilities. (Guests can use the facilities at a not-so-close recreation center). I also was deprived use of the steam room in the spa because I did not book a spa treatment; the spa was empty at that time. 

A subsequent tip to contact Shire quickly led to the first of several greatly exceeded expectations. That interaction created a strongly validated sense that I was dealing with a place that embraced a Vermont, rather than a New York, state of mind.

Veteran Shire manager Barbara Sheehan was extremely friendly and said "we love travel writers." She booked us in the GINORMOUS Riverhouse Suite and fully comped us. All this was without accepting an invitation to check out this site. 

The below photos are of that deluxe two-bedroom accommodation, complete with a Jacuzzi that provides shoulder massages that will make you never want to get out of the tub.

Front-desk clerk Shannon provided a Vermont-quality welcome on our arrival at the main building, which is a motel that has been renovated into a upscale place to stay that combines the best elements of a B and B and a nice hotel without a 'tude. After checking us in, Shannon directed us to the adjacent Riverhouse. This two-story building is the home of the former owners that has been beautifully renovated to having the suite on the ground floor and guest-rooms upstairs. 

Entering the suite provides the desired "wow" factor. There is a spacious entry hall that leads to the rest of this palace. The enormous master bedroom, complete with gas fireplace and a door to the river-front wrap-around porch of the suite, has a walk-in closet that is almost as large as the "shabby broom closet" that Inn Credible articles often mention., 

This space, which easily qualifies as a mini-suite by itself, has a large en-suite bathroom with the aforementioned tub. Other highlights are the honey-based BeeKind amenities and a shower large enough for you and two of your closest friends.

Putting the shower gel in the Jacuzzi produced silky smooth skin; using two tubes of it evoked thoughts of Bobby Brady putting a box of detergent in the washing machine. Fortunately, the mountain of suds in the Jacuzzi did not overflow onto the floor.

The second bedroom is larger than most upgraded accommodations in cookie-cutter hotels. It, like the master bedroom, has a roomy seating area that is a treat for those of us who dislike having a bed being the only sitting option in a hotel room.

The bathroom for this bedroom is across the hall; however, doors at each end of that hall allow the person staying there complete privacy. 

An aside related to this is that even the happiest of couples can be even happier when having the option of separate bedrooms. Snoring, restlessness, nocturnal bathroom breaks, and late-night use of electronic devices all can disrupt the sleep of each better half. The suite bedrooms having their own highly effective climate-controlled systems is the bonus regarding this. 

The rest of the story is that this layout is PERFECTLY conducive to visits to the Woodstock area. Like most Inn Credible New England trips, the agenda involved heading out relatively early each day and spending much of the evening relaxing in the room.

Our days started with eating bakery muffins and having coffee (complete with real cream) and following the Inn Credible habit of watching a little "Kelly and Ryan" before heading to nearby Hanover, NH (home of Dartmouth College) on our first full day and not so nearby Brattleboro, Vermont on our second day. We also took advantage of Shire literally being on the edge of the quaint business district of Woodstock to tour the shops and the galleries there, 

We took moderate advantage of having a full kitchen (complete with a table that seats eight) and a large living room by having dinner in the night after feasting  at the Red Rooster. Grad school-era memories of the era elicited repeated chants of PIZZA CHEF PIZZA CHEF PIZZA CHEF throughout the trip that succeeded in getting our food there,

The good news is that Chef still puts only a moderate amount of its tangy sauce and an equally well-proportioned amount of its equally good toppings on its pizzas. The amusing news is that New York entered the picture in the form of being behind tourists relentlessly grilling the friendly 11-year veteran behind the counter about gluten-free crust, the type of cheese, and everything else. This prolonged absurd exchange almost prompted a Bronx cheer. 

A post-pizza chant of ROADHOUSE ROADHOUSE ROADHOUSE prompted watching that Patrick Swayze classic on Netflix on the 4K smart-TV over the gas fireplace in the living room. 

In other words, a good time was had by all, and Shire has well-earned most-favored nation status.

The bigger picture this time is this stay validating the invalidity of a bias against former motels that have been upgraded to good getaway hotels. A prior stay at a similar place (with a forgotten name) in the Berkshires of Massachusetts involved unwarranted trepidation. No such concerns existed regarding Shire, which has expertly renovated and improved the rooms in the main building. That place provides a solid option to the other options in town and greatly outshines every off-ramp palace anywhere in the US.

Final thoughts reflect simple Vermont wisdom in that Shire shows that you should not judge a book by its cover; passing up a place because it looks like a motel can cause you to miss out  on something good. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

'Miss Arizona' Theatrical/VOD/Digital: How a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Got Her Groove Back

  • Picture
  • Writer/director Autumn McAlpin fully embraces the modern-woman girl-power of the 2016 "Ghostbusters" reboot with the July 12, 2019 theatrical/VOD/digital release of "Miss Arizona." Also, like "Ghostbusters," McAlpin pays wonderful homage to the past in a very woke fashion.

    The first of a few asides is that the title of "Arizona" relates to a classic riddle. The question is "why was the Miss America pageant short a contestant?" The answer is "because no one wanted to be Miss Ida Ho."

    The "elevator speech" recap of the ""Arizona" concept is that a former beauty queen turned trophy wife forms a sisterhood of the travelling misfits and learns the value of hos before bros.

    The following YouTube clip of an "Arizona" trailer follows the same principle as the above synopsis. This promo. rapidly takes us through the entire movie and even briefly provides the life story of each major character.

    The second aside in this post is that the always-amusing and often hilarious "Arizona" coming attraction honors the humor of the HILARIOUS nine-minute indie film "Trailer: The Movie" (2001). IMDb PERFECTLY describes that one as "when two filmmakers discover their blockbuster is really just a bust, they cut together every half-decent shot into a misleading trailer to dupe audiences and save their careers."

  • The traditional aspects of "Arizona" begin with this almost literally "day in the life of" film commencing with titular American beauty Rose (Johanna Braddy) waking up in bed next to negligent power-agent husband Rick (Kyle Howard). She then wakes up growing boy 10 year-old Sawyer and serves her men a delicious nutritious breakfast because their maid has the day off.

    Rick heading off to New York to attend the Tonys, and Sawyer going to school ahead of a sleepover leaves Rose with  an empty nest.

    Our lady of leisure becomes a lady who lunches on Rick calling her to demand that she perform her corporate spouse duty. The aside this time is that your not-so-humble reviewer refers to this as Samantha Stephens duty without the fun of being able to turn the client into a monkey when asked to attend a corporate event.

    Rose gathering with her fellow real housewives of Beverly Hills leads to her volunteering to teach a life-skills class at a women's shelter that afternoon. The ensuing unfortunate circumstances lead to the hilarity with a touch of "Orange is the New Black" that ensues in the film.

    Rose arises to find male shelter manager Bigs largely indifferent to her presence. He offers this rich white lady (avec sash and tiara) who has always lead a privileged life minimal support in her effort to reach the down-and-out shelter residents. These folks on whom enlightenment is being forced are even less receptive.

    The imminent  arrival of an uninvited guest requires that the shelter residents run, do not walk, to the nearest exit. Car trouble leads to Rose becoming their chauffeur.

    A chance encounter drives (no pun intended) the rest of the action. Shelter resident Leslie (Robyn Lively of "Teen Witch") sees the car of her husband at the home of his cousin. This is of particular interest because the husband is guilty of parental kidnapping, and Leslie does not know where he is keeping their offspring.

    Subsequent subterfuge results in the group learning where the kids are stashed; the gig being up leads to a frantic car chase.

    The type of treat that makes indie films so special follows when the women go to a police station for assistance. A cop played by master of deadpan Tom McLaren ("Expelled" and "All American Bikini Car Wash") is surprised to find a former acquaintance in the station waiting room. He gets good mileage from merely saying "You again? Keep you nose clean." and walking out before the woman can respond.

    Rose discovering that she cannot rely on her friends and family leads to the closest homage of the entire film. She and her new friends find themselves in West Hollywood (aka WeHo) in desperate need of money.

    Discovering a drag-queen contest leads to the Lucy and Ethel caliber crazy scheme of having the former Miss America contestant compete. One character aptly refers to the classic Julie Andrews cross-dressing period-piece comedy film "Victor"/"Victoria."

    It seems that McAlpin has a "Must See" show in mind when taking the film in that direction. An episode of the '90scom "Wings," which revolves around two brothers operating a struggling commuter airline on Nantucket, finds one of the brothers and the "girl" to the "two guys" stranded in New York. Their solution is to have the woman compete in a drag contest so that they can get enough money to return to their island.

    Personal experience shows that McAlpin is well-tuned into the drag-queen mentality. They generally are a vicious lot that equally steal the clothes almost literally off the back of the others and get very upset when that occurs. At the same time, some of these boys who put so much into their art can be the nicest people in the world.

    Suffice it to say that a permed "Cher" out there does not take kindly to being mistaken for Fran Drescher, and that anyone should be cool with adoration that includes a kiss on the cheek from a nice queen.

    Worlds collide and revelations are achieved during the contest. Finding out about the secret life of an acquaintance is another true-life aspect of this portion of "Arizona."

    This long strange day and night ends with a neo-Hollywood ending that involves the standard unexpected angel as well as Rose getting her groove back.

    Although largely presented as a feminist fable, the message of this movie that should appeal to everyone from their teens to their 80s comes from another classic film. Everyone of every gender and sexual orientation should be excellent to each other. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

'Roadhouse Murder' DVD: Member of Fourth Estate Waives the Fifth

Warner Archive continues making the best movies of which you never heard available by releasing the 1932 thriller with social commentary "Roadhouse Murder" on DVD on June 11, 2019. Archive using the term "the deadly Dykes" in the back-cover synopsis enhances this joy. 

The following YouTube clip of an Archive promo., for "Roadhouse" is of a pivotal sequence that wonderfully illustrates the vintage early talkie feel of this highly theatrical film. The flawed picture quality of this clip also highlights the much better images and sounds of the Archive DVD.

Like a full gamut of '30s films, our story begins in the bullpen of a newspaper; in this case, a disgruntled veteran reporter is expressing his job dissatisfaction in strong language for films of that era, We soon see the basis for those sentiments. 

The toxic editor who inspires the ill will subsequently turns his wrath on cub reporter Charles "Chick" Brian. Chick does good by catching a loose woman red-handed with hot ice and by getting a photo of her in literal hot water. This dame having a friend in a high place kills both the story and the immediate potential for Chick to advance his career.

This blow prompts Chick to take secret girlfriend Mary Agnew, who is the daughter of homicide Inspector William Agnew, for a ride in the country, Things take a combined "It Happened One Night" and "Scooby-Doo" turn when a sudden deluge requires that this unmarried couple without any physical baggage take shelter at The Lame Dog Inn. The manner in which the innkeeper takes advantage of the assumed vulnerability of these guests is a "Roadhouse" highlight. 

Things going bump in the night lead to our nice young people discovering the titular crime and knowing whodunit.

Rather than immediately finger the perps, Chick decides to frame himself with the idea that his story literally will be front-page news. The rest of this career-advancement plan involves entrusting Mary, whose name literally is kept out of the papers, with a figurative smoking gun. The rest of her job is to produce this compelling evidence before Chick becomes a permanent guest of the state.

"Roadhouse" then uses a technically advanced method for the era in a variation of using shots of newspaper headlines as an exposition device. This clearly shows Chick is both the story and the author of his tale.

The honeymoon ends on Chick being caught in the worst place at the worst time. This leads to the climatic courtroom scene that seems mandatory for most Golden Age films of every genre. A nice twist ensues courtesy of a chain-of-custody issue requiring that Mary (with help from Dad) does more than just stand by her man. 

More fun comes via the cynicism that pervades "Roadhouse" creating the possibility that truth, justice, and the American way will not prevail. 

The scoop regarding all this is that "Roadhouse" reminds us of the era in which even B-movies have strong merits. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

'Bronco Billy' BD: Clint Eastwood Hopes For Few Dollars More From Wild West Show

Warner Archive once again shows its perfect instincts by releasing the crystal-clear (bordering on 4K quality) Blu-ray of the 1980 Clint Eastwood comedy "Bronco Billy" on July 9, 2019. Summertime is the season of tacky lowest-common-denominator attractions such as the failing Wild West Show that the titular urban cowboy (Eastwood) is hoping to keep afloat.

The bigger picture this time is that "Billy" perfectly reflects the films of Eastwood before he turns auteur by directing films such as "Bird" and "The Bridges of Madison County." "Billy" comes in the era in which Eastwood moves from the spaghetti westerns that solidify him as a household name to the time in which he makes the Dirty Harry films and the lowest of the low-brow comedies "Every Which Way You Can" franchise. All this is decades before he talks to the invisible man at the Republican Convention.

The final piece of this puzzle is that reel- and real-life Eastwood leading lady Sondra Locke plays "Billy" love interest heiress experiencing a reversal-of-fortune Antoinette Lily (a.k.a. Miss Ida Ho).

The following standard-def. '70slicious trailer of "Billy" highlights the almost literal night-and-day difference between the theatrical presentation of the film and the Blu-ray. The contrast between the washed-up red of the convertible of Billy and the bright and shiny showroom red of the one in the Archive version is incredible. This is not to mention the numerous era-specific elements that include this promo. featuring Scatman Crothers ("Chico and the Man" and "Hong Kong Phooey") as sidekick/sage Doc Lynch.

The melange of westerns and "Loose" relates to Billy struggling to keep his oh-so-cheesy wild west show going. The early scenes of acts such as Chief Big Eagle (Dan Vadis) doing a rattle-snake dance and a seemingly all-American boy doing rope trips while dressed as an insurance salesman on vacation at a dude ranch provide the picture. 

The rest of this part of the story is that we see Billy showing off his riding, shooting, and knife-throwing skills. He does this with the help of the latest in a long string of lovely assistants/bimbos. 

Meanwhile off the reservation, Antoinette crosses paths with Billy at an Idaho city hall. He is buying a permit so the show can go, and she is about to marry wimpy John Arlington (Geoffrey Lewis) so that she can inherit a fortune and he can be a kept (but sexually frustrated) man. John indisputable gets the best line in the film as to his being denied any semblance of marital bliss. 

A very light "Harry" element enters the picture when Antoinette discovers on awakening the morning after her nuptials that the honeymoon is over. John and all of her money are gone. This ultimately leads to the evil stepmother and the family attorney conspiring to convince John to confess to murdering Antoinette. The compensation for this unfortunate incarceration is $500,000.

Worlds collide when the desperate but not serious status of Antoinette leads to this New York socialite joining the motley crew of Billy. Her rude awakening this time involves quickly learning the variation of the ass, gas, or grass principle that Billy enforces as to the caravan that brings his group from town to town. It does take awhile for the kisses of Billy to drive Antoinette delirious. 

"Harry" also enters the picture when a night out at a redneck bar goes Big Dan's with respect to Antoinette and leads to Billy also having to rescue the aforementioned boy-next-door on learning that he is on the run from the law. This leads s to a "Smokey and the Bandit" style showdown that it is a  "Billy" highlight. 

A subsequent surprise family reunion leads to more trauma and drama; this leads to a celebration of truth, justice, and the American way.

The strong appeal of all this begins with Eastwood obviously fully embracing this role that perfectly reflects his career. We also see how this spirit (and the associated '70s "free to be you and me" philosophy) permeates the film that we badly need in our hostile dystopian present. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

'Married Before Breakfast' DVD: Comedy of Errors Leads to Pre-Marital Bliss

Warner Archive aptly celebrates its 10th anniversary with the Perfect 10 June 11, 2019 DVD release of the 1937 Robert Young ("Father Knows Best") screwball romcom "Married Before Breakfast." This nicely remastered film goes beyond the typical Archive standard of showing that they ought still make 'em like that to being a movie that can be made word-for-word and shot-for-shot today and still provide roughly 90-minutes of quality escapist fun. 

The following YouTube clip of this overlooked gem wonderfully highlights many of the copious Depression-era elements of the film. 

Young plays inventive everyman Tom Wakefield, whom we meet on the brink of selling what he thinks is his perfected cream that removes facial hair without having to use a razor. As is the case in many of these films, his dreams are dashed just as he believes that he literally can make an honest buck and enjoy the lifestyle to which he would like to become accustomed while he is young (no pun intended) enough to enjoy it.

The rest of the beginning of the story is that Tom is engaged to practical June Baylin, who never has had to worry about from where her next gourmet meal was coming. She is standing by her man but strongly prompts an attitude adjustment. 

The first of several nice twists comes when an outfield-adjacent angel tracks down Tom to offer him $250,000 in 1937 dollars for his invention. The faith of that investor in the ability of Tom to work out a figuratively fatal flaw is one of many feel-good aspects of "Marriage."

Our excitable boy then literally puts his fresh-off-the-presses nouveau riches to good use. He takes a large step toward making June an honest woman and bestows exceptional personalized largese on his landlady and his neighbors at his immaculate and well-run boarding house. He goes one step further in hiring Tweed the valet, whom Tom renames Senior for a reason that makes perfect sense in the context of the film. 

The chance encounter that changes everything in every romcom occurs when Tom goes to a travel agency to book a honeymoon cruise. Agent Kitty (perhaps literally) going the extra mile to deliver the tickets leads to an overnight adventure that evokes thoughts of the 1985 Martin Scorsese dark-comedy "After Hours." 

The genesis of this is Tom taking his he can't do a little because he can't do enough attitude to heart in trying to help Kitty overcome an obstacle that is delaying her marriage to insurance-agent Kenneth. The "sit" that drives much of the rest of the "com" in "Marriage" is that a promotion for Tom is conditioned on selling a policy to a very reluctant milkman named Mr. Baglipp.

Tom responds  by pledging to get the milkman to deliver by getting him to buy a policy for which Tom will pay the premiums. The related promise is that Kitty will get the titular nuptials. 

The adventure begins with a visit to Chez Baglipp; not sealing that deal despite a criminally diligent effort leads to an obsessed Tom dragging Kitty along on a crusade to convince Baglipp to purchase some "protection."

The too numerous to mention (and too amusing to spoil) misadventures begin with Tom renting a taxi for use in his plan. Before the sun comes up, Tom and Kitty will tangle with both cops and robbers as well as start a fire. This is not to mention taking a bus passenger for a ride.

Of course, Tom keeps putting off his increasingly angry fiancee throughout all this. As time goes by, it becomes clear that his odds for a June wedding are slim to none. 

"Marriage" follows a wonderfully circuitous route to the courtroom scene that provides the setting for many a Golden Age comedy and drama. The icing on the wedding cake comes in the form of more action, adventure. and laughs that ensue after the judicial proceedings conclude. 

All of these moving parts provide fun as to which boy (if any) will end up with which girl and if the good intentions of Tom will literally lead to his writing a check that he cannot cash.

It is equally valid to say that "Married" has a dull moment and will leave you wanting more, 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

'Mindwarp'/'Brainscan' BD Double Feature: Those '90s VR Scifi Horror Flicks

Mill Creek Entertainment wonderfully puts the camp back in summer with the  June 4, 2019 pristinely remastered Blu-ray double-feature "Mindwarp (1992) and "Brainscan" (1994). The leitmotif is a virtual-reality experience gone horrifically wrong. 

MCE chooses well in pairing these films; the common themes extend well beyond the VR element, and viewers aptly are promised a total of approximately three-hours of escapist fun that lacks a dull moment. 

"Mindwarp" is the darker of the two films; it occurs in a post-apocalyptic era in which elite Inworlders (a.k.a. Dreamers) never venture out and spend most of their time in their ideal virtual worlds ala "Ready, Player One." 

A quarter-life crisis for 20-something Judy kicks things into high gear. Tired of living a fantasy, she wants real-world experience. This results in her being thrust into the "Mad Max" badlands beyond her safe space. This not-so-teenage wasteland is populated by not-so-teenage mutant warriors known as Crawlers, who are hunting the most dangerous game. 

Last-minute salvation arrives via Stover, who is a typical grungy hero played by Bruce Campbell (""Ash vs. Evil Dead"). Their honeymoon period is very short-lived thanks to a Crawler raid on Chez Stover.

Judy becomes a somewhat honored guest of the Crawlers, and Stover is treated more like a host., Both get an up-close-and-personal look at how the Seer operates things; the pair further get a sense of how all things are relative, 

A way-cool aspect of "Mindwarp" is how it shows that VR tech. can create an "Alice in Wonderland" or "The Wizard of Oz" existence, This continues through to the awesome twists at the end.

"Brainscan" is the more campy of the two films and looks and sounds especially good in BD. Additionally Edward Furlong ("Terminator 2") contributes a strong '90s vibe in his portrayal of teen gamer Michael.

Michael truly is the victim of a bad influence when slacker best bud/fellow slasher film aficionado Kyle induces him to try the titular new CD-Rom game. Each of the four discs essentially arriving in a plain brown wrapper adds to the nostalgic fun. This is on top of the film being a Tipper Gore caliber commentary on the evils of computer games. 

It is all fun-and-games at first when Michael virtually becomes the killer in the first round of the game. This perspective puts the teen in control as the victim gets the Lizzie Borden treatment; the rude awakening the next morning is that the stiff is a real murder victim.

Michael also soon learns that accepting the terms-and-conditions of the game invites the mischievously evil The Trickster into his life and home in a manner reminiscent of both "Weird Science" and "Poltergeist." 

The Trickster becomes an even worse influence than Kyle in that he compels his new minion to continue a killing spree to avoid ending up in juvie. This includes a few felonious acts that hit close to home. 

The rest of the story is that police detective Hayden (Frank Langella) is having increasing interest in Michael as a person.  Much of this relates to the theory that the perp. always returns to the scene of the crime.

The real fun begins when The Trickster fully involves the literal girl-next-door in the fun-and-games. This leads to Michael having to make another in a series of very tough choices. This is not too mention all this occurring at a time that the figurative noose is tightening around the neck of our excitable boy.

The first big finale twist shows the extent to which The Trickster is phallic; the next one fully proves that boys will be boys.

As indicated above, lovers of good bad-movies cannot ask for anything better than this double feature. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

'Wally Gator' CS DVD: Latest Warner Archive Animation Domination

The too-numerous-to-mention Warner Archive Blu-ray and DVD releases of classic Hanna-Barbera animated series has long made Archive the darling of literal and figurative children of the '60s through the '80s. Two relatively obscure examples that are especially close the heart of sugar-cereal loving sofa spuds are the 1972-73 Saturday-morning "Flintstones" clone "The Roman Holidays" and the ready-for-primetime "All in the Family" satire "Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home" from the same era. 

Archive particularly stepped up its animation domination game with several (and rapidly counting) 2019 releases. Standouts from earlier this year include the reviewed (1993-95) series "Two Stupid Dogs" V1 and the even more awesomely old-school (also reviewed) "Kwicky Koala"  CS from the early '80s. 

Archive is building on this by establishing a pattern of releasing several DVD or BD sets of HB series each month over the past few months. Standouts include a phenomenal reviewed BD set of "Jonny Quest" OS CS, and an (also reviewed) "Popeye: the 1940s" V2. Long-awaited upcoming releases include "Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har" CS AND the even more obscure "Johnny Cypher in Dimension Zero" CS. 

All of this is shared in the context of the Archive June 25, 2019 DVD release of "Wally Gator" CS. The broadest context of this 1962-64 series begins with these adventures of the anthropomorphic reptile being a prime example of the "talking animals" era of HB ahead of Spider-man and his amazing friends invading Saturday morning prompting HB to shift its focus to "Quest" and other scifi and/or adventures of humans. "Gator" also is similar in style and theme (down to the appearance and demeanor of the local beat cop) as the HB 1961-62 primetime series "Top Cat."

Each "Gator" episode centering around Wally either escaping from his Bronx Zoo habitat and experiencing comic trauma-and-drama that sends him scampering home or having events at the zoo cause him distress arguably helps inspire the HB 1971-72 series "Help, Its the Hair Bear Bunch." Other similarities include HB all-star Daws Butler (Wally) providing main characters in each series voices and Archive having a "Bunch" CS DVD. Further, a 1970s syndicated series teams up "Wally," "Lippy," and "Touche Turtle." Fairly safe money is on Archive pulling "Touche" from the vaults before the end of 2019.

"Wally" starts strong with "Droopy Dragon." This one pays homage to the 1932 classic film "The Most Dangerous Game" that involves hunting humans. Wally goes over the wall only to find himself being pursued by a senile nobleman who mistakes him for a dragon. "Dragon" also immediately establishes "Wally "as one that they won't make 'em like that anymore. Wally smokes cigars, is constantly shot at (as he is in several other outings), and is the victim of copious other cartoon violence that literally does not leave a scratch on him. Real-life buzzkills roughly a decade later ruin all this fun.

Another prime example of "Wally" not reflecting our modern times is an episode centered around a return to his native Everglades. Our star being a Florida native is not enough to avoid having a rough Confederate alligator (complete with a rebel cap) label him a Yankee and oust him from the swamp. This prompts several thwarted attempts by Wally to emulate General Sherman.

Other notable adventures include playing along to an extent with an Indian boy engaged in a rite of passage, being a key ingredient in a potion of a witch, and having a granted request for a wife lead to spousal abuse. 

The appeal of this reflects the value of "Tom and Jerry" and many other classic animation series. The trick is finding fresh and entertaining variations on a tried-and-true theme. 

The final thought regarding this lengthy discussion of Archive animation releases in the context of the "Wally" release is that NOBODY did Saturday morning cartoons better than HB in their golden era. These shows should be celebrated for their strong contributions to television history.