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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,