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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Real and Reel World Relationship Lessons as to Coronavirus Isolation

A highly personal aspect of the coronavirus isolation alone warrants this rare detour into Blogland on this review site.

I literally was laughed off the stage while reading an essay that very closely predicted our current nationwide lockdown in a college class a "significant" number of years ago. Mixed feelings as to being proven right are akin to admitted guilty pleasure regarding an abusive college roommate who currently has his 100 or so fast-food franchises shut down; I unequivocally feel badly for his workers.

Equally predictive, a few real and reel incidents are relevant to the increased amount of time that those of us in committed relationships spend with our highly significant others. This began with asking a 70-something friend when he planned to retire from the shop that he owned. He replied that he still worked because his wife had retired, and he wanted to give her an adequate break from him each day, 

This conversation roughly coincided with watching a DVD episode of the sitdoc "Curb Your Enthusiasm" about the daily life of "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David; David inspired George Costanza.

Freshly separated fictional wife Cheryl tells Larry that she likes "Seinfeld" Larry better than post "Seinfeld" Larry because he was not home nearly as much when he was working on his "must see" series. That leads to a discussion of a little Larry being the right dosage of that man.

This also relates to a newspaper article several years ago about married couples buying a B n B with high hopes of happily running it together only to massively crack under the combined pressure of  keeping the business viable and being together 24/7. The college-era personal experience this time is offering ad hoc help at the Notchland Inn in the New Hampshire White Mountains when the owners offered dinner theater in the form of a combination of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and "The War of the Roses." Current guests still tell the tale of hearing shouting and airborne utensils from the kitchen.

A final perspective is a friend stating years ago that he stayed home from work one day only to have his cats stare at him the entire time as if to say that he was not supposed to there at that time.

Returning things literally and figuratively close to home, I have been fortunate enough to work from home for a "significant" number of years. My highly significant other is an executive, who traditionally has worked at an office but has operated out of our kitchen for the past few days. That may last six weeks. 

Living in a 2,100 SF single-family home provides good personal space even during this lockdown; my joke that one of us may end up burying the other in the basement before home arrest ends may be a reality for couples with far less living space. 

When we first moved in together, I would have a few hours of alone quiet time before my highly significant other came home; a new job 90-minutes away resulted in me and our cat having the place to ourselves a few nights a week. I am considerate by nature, but not having to think about someone much of the time has become second nature. At the same time, I still am encouraged to call virtually all of the shots. 

I still enjoy exceptional accommodations as to maintaining my normal routine; at the same time, I feel self conscious about things such as watching really bad On Demand fare because it provides both variety and a sense that I am not entirely throwing the payment (which would not go down if I cut the cord) for television service. 

I additionally want to be a good "spouse;" Newly adopted Marlo and I were just vocally playing with the cat toy named Mr. Mousey (Mr. Elephant is way under the bed) when my highly significant other received a business call. Our literal cat-and-mouse game quickly ended without an iota of resentment. 

On a related note, I would feel badly for a client calling only to hear "Gilligan's Island" in the background. I did offer to watch television in the bedroom and was told that it is not necessary.

The bottom line this time is that someone being one of  the most important persons in your life does not mean that either of you want the other around all the time. Wanting "Seinfeld" Larry is understandable. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

'Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga' BD: Epic Part of Ultraverse

The Mill Creek Entertainment February 25, 2020 Blu-ray release of the 2016-17 12-part mini-series "Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga" is an exceptional addition to the incredible MCE catalog (including steelbooks) of Ultraverse titles. The basis for this praise extends well-beyond the obvious influence of  "Star Wars," "Star Trek," and more fundamental lore. The MCE gift of "Ultra Fight Orb," which is the "Orb" sequel, is the proverbial icing on the cake. 

The "you've come a long way, Baby" production values in this decades-long Japanese sci-fi franchise are as solid as the underlying story. The only "constructive criticism" is that editing the 23-minute episodes into a two-part feature-film format would have been a nice bonus. 

"Saga" is the prequel to "Ultraman Orb" (2016), which this site describes as a Nipponese "Captain Planet"/"Scooby-Doo." "Saga" opens with the titular interstellar hero (aka Gai) and his running buddy Jugglus Juggler, who inarguably is the most complex "Ultra" character and arguably is the most interesting, at Crusader's Peak on Planet 0-50. 

Our excitable boys are there to see who is deemed worthy of being transformed into the titular Crusader of Light. Juggler being passed over is the game-changer that makes him such a desirable character in a 'verse mostly populated by goody-goody teens and 20-somethings and buffonish adults. 

Juggler setting Gai on his path, which involves a stargate, to being a hero despite the understandable resentment of the former is one-half of the story that leads to a climatic "away game" on Earth.

These events coincide with deranged Dr. Psychi (with some help from his robot friend) taking an ends justify the means approach to making a universe a kinder and gentler place. He already has Queen Bezelves and his evil minion army of Devil Bezelves under his control. Fulfilling his plan requires prompting Empress Amate to transform into the Ultra creature The War Deity, which is a part of her royal legacy. Psychi further requires control over the Tree of Life on Amate home world Planet Kanon.

A "B-story" regarding a dedicated military officer who is wrongfully accused of betraying his Empress-In-Command contributes a wonderful narrative to the series. An unrelated epic early battle royale is a saga highlight. 

Meanwhile back on Earth, dedicated 20-something Shohei and his sidekick Yui, whose romantic interest in the boss goes comically unnoticed, discovering a seed of the Tree of Life soon prompts moving the action to our neck of the woods. Shohei and Amate developing a psychic bond while still literally being worlds away is a prominent element of fighting them over there not preventing the need to fight them here. 

This being an "Ultra" series, there are battles galore with monsters straight out of camp classic "Lost in Space" and wonderfully cheesy Japanese sci-fi. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

An exceptional team effort during the predictable final battle adds as nice of a note as learning how the power of the Tree of Life extends beyond making existence possible. 

The MCE synopsis of "Fight" does such a good job describing that special feature that the following summary of that battle-laden sequel is copied below.

"The vengeful spirits of deceased monsters provide power to Ghost Sorcerer Relbatos, a new enemy that rises the dead to fight Ultraman Zero and Ultraman Orb! Orb mounts an incredible defense using all kinds of Fusion Up forms."

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

'Trauma' BD: Neo-Modern 'Deliverance'

The Cinema Libre Blu-ray release of the Unrated Director's Cut of the 2017 film "Trauma" both shows that grindhouse and art-house can be compatible and that buying physical media rules. Not only is this version likely more graphic than what shows up on a streaming service or premium channel, the enhanced video and audio of the award-winning cinematography helps make the film compelling. 

Our story begins during the 1974 intense unrest in Chile. A man is brutally torturing his wife, who apparently has a communist lover. This horrific revenge ordeal includes an incredibly perverse rape that is an early indication that "Trauama" takes cues from the '70s cult classic "Deliverance." There additionally are some aspects, including a "hey, Mister. I've got your dog down here" element, that evoke thoughts of "Silence of the Lambs." 

The action soon shifts to 2011; urbanite Julia and her lover Camila wake and quickly prepare for their trip to the country with Camila sister Andrea and cousin Magdelana. We next see these girls riding in a car without boys as they head toward their retreat. Meanwhile, a man with a connection to that '70s horror show is lurking about in his dilapidated lair that does not seem to have been cleaned since that event,

The worlds collide when the visitors quickly antagonize the local rural folks on arriving near their final destination. 

The festivities really start when the women settle in and hit the wine hard; the half-naked dance is fun until someone loses much more than an eye, The prelude to this bloodbath is man-with-a-past Juan and the ill-conceived fruit of his loins crashing the party. This is akin to the locals catching up with the vacationers in "Deliverance,"

The "Trauma" team exceeds expectations by staging the morning after in the labyrinth of horrors that survivalist Juan calls home. The nearly dead woman chained to the wall is only the tip of the iceberg. Of course, not everyone walks out. 

Aside from respectable production values and good acting by the central quartet, "Trauma" is notable for going above-and-beyond regarding a premise for a horror movie. Not many of this films even think about tying in carnage with world events; this is not to mention the quarter-life crises of the prey and the relatively level playing field. 

The bigger picture is that "Trauma" shows that we all can get along; the art-house is large enough to provide every genre of  film shelter so long as it is an appropriate guest. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

'Whiskey Galore!'/'The Maggie' BD: Britastic Double Feature of Ealing Comedy Classics

The Film Movement Classics division of indie-film god Film Movement March 10, 2020 BD double-feature release of "Whiskey Galore" (1949) and "The Maggie" (1954) (aka "High and Dry") once again proves both that funny always is funny and that the Brits kick the arses of Yanks when it comes to comedy. This release also is the third Classics BD of Ealing Studios releases. This site has already covered the Blu-ray of "The Titfield Thunderbolt" (1953) and reviewed the Blu-ray of the 1949 farce "Passport to Pimlico."

These four never-a-dull-moment films make a wonderful home-based classic film festival. The copious in-depth special features that accompany these UK gems aptly give them the royal treatment and are well worth watching. 

One of the many common elements of "Whiskey" and "Maggie" is that the are both from Ealing director Alexander Mackendrick, who is better known for "The Ladykillers" and "The Man in the White Suit."

The following SPOILER-LADEN Classics trailer for "Galore" highlights the award-worthy restoration. This promo also provides a strong sense of the so-near and yet-so-far aspect of a small Scottish island that has its supply of the titular libation go dry at the same time that a ship with a large supply of that nectar rounds aground just off shore. Hilarity galore ensues. 

Classics does "Maggie" equally proud as to the trailer for that film. The primary "sit" that provides the "com" this time is that wily boat captain McTaggart responds to desperate times by undertaking the desperate measure of deceptively getting the job of transporting cargo that is very precious to American businessman Calvin B. Marshall. Once more, there is copious hilarity.

"Whiskey" is well-acted movie about eccentric antics of quirky residents of a small Scottish island that evokes strong thoughts of similar fare of days of yore such as "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down A Mountain" and "Waking Ned Devine." This is a nice contrast to the modern formula of placing the matinee or teen-boy idol of the week in a film that relies on crude and/or slapstick humor.

The quaint old world setting this time is the small community of Todday. Although the year is 1943, the only impact of the war is the local pub running out of whisky and not having any hope of replenishing its supply any time soon. The lack of a more serious threat is not stopping the "Dad's Army" style local Home Guard officer from maintaining road blocks and otherwise exercising undue diligence. This textbook self-righteous fool is easily frustrated by the "incompetence" of subordinates and the absurd manner in which the military operates.

The daily life of the Sam Druckeresque postmaster/shop keeper is being complicated by his youngest daughter and earnest school teacher George Campbell wanting to get married despite the strong opposition of Mrs. Campbell, who is the mother of all mothers. The engagement of the older  daughter to a soldier on leave is free of similar drama.

The conflict between the cold warring factions heats up when a ship that is transporting 50,000 cases of whisky runs aground off the shore of Todday. The locals want to salvage the titular beverage for their own use, and the Home Guard wet blanket wants to obey the letter of the law. This results in highly entertaining mad dashes on the land and on the sea, as well as hilarious scenes of concealing whisky bottles.

The humor and the action in "Whisky" is so well presented throughout that the film does not climax so much as it winds down. Some characters are a little wiser, others emboldened, and most quite a bit drunker.

An especially awesome of "Whiskey" is that it is funny because it is (somewhat) true.

"The Maggie" follows a similar figurative path; McTaggart encounters numerous obstacles in trying to deliver the goods, which is needed to literally keep his business afloat. This involves literal and figurative rocky moments; the real fun commences with Marshall literally (but not figuratively) comes on board after McTaggart evades earlier attempts to get things on the right course. The ending this time literally and figuratively is far from Hollywood.

Monday, March 16, 2020

'Leave it to Levi' DVD: Documentary on Hannah Montana of Gay Porn

The TLA Releasing January 28, 2020 DVD of "Leave it to Levi" fully embraces the modern tradition of gay-themed documentaries that fully show the naked truth. The titular model/porn star is Levi Karter; "Levi" is a production of Karter boss/CockyBoys co-owner Jake Jaxson that builds on amateur video by Karter that depicts his life.

The highly explicit opening scenes of Karter engaged in vigorous phone sex is misleading in that much of the film relates to more respectable aspects of the life of Levi. The latter, which is not the most "blue" content in "Leave," reflects the common theme of many films of this genre; the (usually young) pretty boys that we get to know largely are like everyone else with the exception that they use their good looks and sex skills for fun and profit.

Karter largely is a momma's boy, who loses Momma on her learning how her boy pays the rent; these developments are told in a highly amusing manner that has shades of the conspiracy theories regarding the JFK assassination. This dynamic further sets the stage for Momma to deliver arguably the most memorable line in the film; she states that she cannot imagine any parent wanting his or her child to grow up to be a porn star. 

Aside from the incredibly adorable dog of Karter, the scene stealer of "Leave" is Karter roommate/colleague Liam Riley. This guy who personifies youthful exuberance adds incredible energy to the film. His most memorable moment revolves around discussing outdoor sex. 

Things take an unexpected turn halfway through "Leave" when we meet Karter drag-queen alter-ego Sassy Frass. This reflects the gay-lesbian dynamic that is akin to cats and dogs. The basic conflict is that dressing in drag generally is consider the polar opposite of the dominant masculine theme of gay porn. This element of the life of Karter already strains the tolerance of Momma before Sassy has a sort of a homecoming; a scene in which Momma and son bra shop for the latter does lighten the mood. 

The parental relationship and the fact that the Karter can be considered the Hannnah Montana of gay porn is a compelling angle that sets "Leave" apart from the more typical fare that shows that the guys go make a career out of going Full Monty truly are the boys next door. We also see how those distinguishing characteristics impact the "day job" of Karter. 

The copious DVD bonuses include behind-the-scenes footage at the "Leave" premiere that shows that Karter also is a Daddy's boy who likely enjoys a good spanking. 

Monday, March 9, 2020

'The Miracle of the Little Prince' DVD: Classic Children's Book Gives Dying Cultures Royal Treatment

The Film Movement December 3, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 documentary "The Miracle of the Littlel Prince" serves the noble purpose of reminding us that so many world cultures have been lost as more dominate entities have moved in and taken over, The bonus is a multi-lingual reading of a WWII-era classic. 

A benign relatable example in the United States is the massive numbers of children, especially from Asia, who come here with their families and speak their native tongues at home only to struggle with having to speak English at school even in this age of ESL and overall greater cultural sensitivity. Of course, a big difference is that the US powers that be are not trying to kill off any other cultures. 

The following Movement trailer for "Miracle" expertly conveys the theme and the tone of the film. We see that the translations are as much of a labor of love as the movie itself.

Movement does just as well describing "Miracle" in writing as it does in the trailer. A passage from the text on DVD back cover states: "There are now versions of the beloved children' story in over 300 different languages. In this emotionally rich, globetrotting documentary director Marjoleine Boonstra travels to Morocco, Scandinavia, El Salvador, and Tibet to find people from diverse backgrounds and linguistic regions who have all chosen this cherished book to help keep their endangered languages and cultures alive."

The above also reflects the meta element of "Miracle." Making a film that highlights all but dead languages and their cultures helps prevent those things from entirely dying out. 

Although every segment in "Miracle" is strong and unique, the El Salvador story is the most interesting in that it centers around a ground of older woman helping keep the translation in in their traditional language as accurate as possible. An example of that it that language being able to describe a red flower but lacking a word for rose. The horticulture history lesson as to that is that the Spanish explorers introduce roses to the Americas.

The engaging man who is heading up the effort to translate "Prince" in Tibet also achieves the documentary ideal of being equally entertaining and educational. We also get a strong sense of the level of oppression in that country.

The true legacy of these efforts go back to when man first adequately evolved to communicate in a manner that helps keep early culture alive, We may have come a long way, Baby, but the folks featured in "Miracle" show the value of going old school.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

'Church & State' DVD: LDS v LGBTQ

The Breaking Glass Pictures January 21, 2020 DVD of the 2018 documentary "Church & State" provides a look at an early days of the campaign for marriage equality. It also reminds us that the religion of the Osmonds and Katherine Heigel is evil. 

The below trailer for "State" reveals the flaws that prevent loving it. Two of the biggest issues are that it does not break (pun intended) new ground and does address a (for now) moot point. A related observation is that the fight for marriage equality is so recent that the 10-percent have not forgotten the prelude to going to the chapel where they're gonna get married. 

Further, as the film points out, marriage advocate Mark Lawrence is not a very appealing spokesperson. He acknowledges this in the context of the literal poster boys whom he chooses as the face of the campaign. 

Additionally, directors Holly Tuckett and Kendall Wilcox provide PLENTY of talking heads and archival footage but no entertaining graphics or amusing clips from films and television shows. This does keep things dry. 

On a broad level, "State" focuses almost exclusively on the passage of an anti-marriage-equality law in Utah and the subsequent legal battles to overturn it. Some mention is made of Hawaii legalizing same-sex marriage, but nothing is said of the lawsuits in Massachusetts and other states. Further, Team Tuckett does not touch on the numerous valid reasons that civil unions are not an acceptable option to marriage.

"State" deserves more props for addressing the need for a rush to the altar (or city hall) on the Utah court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. A related issue is legitimate concern as to having those marriages declared illegal either pending the outcome of an appeal of the decision or a reversal of it.

Personal experience is being on alert in Massachusetts to attend a wedding within minutes of a favorable judgment in the state in that case. 

Discussing the principle of states' rights is another positive aspect of "State."

On a more narrow level, it is difficult to imagine anyone being surprised to hear either that the Mormon church is ant-gay or that it is controls the Utah legislature. This is reprehensible but is no different than any other "largest employer" in a state dictating the policy in that jurisdiction. 

A clip of the Mormon pope does nicely illustrate a main point of "Church,"  This latter day saint has a huge smile on his face and is laughing while telling the tale of a Mormon elder who is physically beaten for propositioning his partner during their missionary position. 

The mouth of the Mormon says no no regarding this punishment for the guy attempting to get into the magic underwear of his friend; conversely, the eyes of  that chosen one say yes yes. A very sad aspect of this is that the Mormon faith holds that that guy will go to Heaven. For the record, your not-so-humble reviewer wants his next existence either to be in Dog Heaven or to be a vengeful spirit. 

The bottom line is "so far, so good" regarding the Trump Administration not trying to undo marriage equality; as such, "State" is not so timely in any regard. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

'The Mindy Project' CS DVD & BD: More Girl Power From MCE

The Mill Creek Entertainment January 21, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray complete series sets of the Fox and Hulu sitcom "The Mindy Project" (2012-17) are perfect additions to both the MCE catalog  of both traditional and too-cool-for-TV Land sitcoms (e.g., "Community" and "Happy Endings") and the growing MCE collection of Girl Power series. The latter includes the recent (reviewed) "Charlie's Angels" BD CS set and upcoming BD CS sets of "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and "30 Rock." "Rock" particularly  can be considered the older sister of "Project." 

IMDb perfectly describes "Project" by stating that the concept is that "a young Ob/Gyn balances her personal and professional life surrounded by quirky co-wokers in a small office." The rest of the story is that the series provides the relatable concept that someone whose personal life is a figurative and personal mess still can be a highly member of his or her profession. 

This concept shows that titular Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling of "The Office") is whom fellow New Yorker head-comedy writer Liz Lemon in "Rock" would have been had she gone to medical school. The numerous parallels between the women include being chain daters (ala smokers who light up the next cigarette before finishing with the current one) whose romantic partners either are out of their league or are not good enough for them.

These career women also run into their exes far more than is believable and almost inevitable are doomed to repeat their histories with them. "Office" mate/co "Project" producer B.J. Novak particularly shines as a beau with an unusually close friendship with his female best friend; this leads to a double date that is a series highlight.

Striking a balance between completeness and a timely review requires stopping watching "Project" near the end of an especially strong S3. The list of not-so-gentlemanly callers (almost always portrayed by cult faves that include Bill Hader and Anders Holm) include an oral surgeon, two attorneys, an arts-and-culture journalist, and a pastor/DJ/event planner/sneaker mogul. This is not to mention cases of fellow doctors dipping their pens in the company ink.

The supporting cast also is particularly strong. Beth Grant of the "Sordid Lives" franchise shines as raunchy middle-aged support staffer Beverly.

Although the plethora of perfectly delivered TMI comments by Beverly greatly contribute to the show, her arguably best line is "its not a kiss unless its below the belt." A close second for the best Beverly moment is her very first appearance in which she doubles down on losing blood samples in an especially hilarious way by labeling those vials with vile descriptions of the patients.

Ike Barinholtz (currently of "Bless the Harts") also deserves special mention for his portrayal of oversized manchild ex-con nurse Morgan Tookers; his "Rock" counterpart is bizarre naive NBC page Kenneth,

The highly enthusiastic leap-before-you look Morgan largely is there to goad the doctors into toxic behavior outside their comfort zones. His redeeming qualities include an obsessive love of dogs and a seemingly incurable optimism. He also neither realizes nor cares when he is not welcome. 

Although an S3 highlight is an episode in which the male doctors in the practice and Morgan have their good deed comically misinterpreted when they travel to Spanish Harlem to do free breast exams, an even better one follows a few later. Both Mindy and the current object of her affection are very anal about an expansion of their sexual activities. A joke about the clergy sex abuse scandal alone makes that outing memorable.

The appeal of "Project" is that it presents the taboo subjects referred to above, as well as MANY others that include race and religion, in an playfully inoffensive manner. The fact that this takes "Rock" to the next level reflects a positive evolution in television comedy.

A broader perspective is that both "Project" and "Rock" can be considered more realistic versions of their "grandmother" "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which centers around the mother of all career women who is one of the guys. Ala "Project," one can easily imagine not-so-pure Mary Richards having a Bob Crane style sex film of hers leaked to her colleagues or perhaps accidentally aired during the WJM News.

The DVD extras include deleted scenes and a gag reel. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

'Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!' DVD: What the Cluck, Morgan Spurlock?!

Reasonable expectations regarding both the 2004 documentary "Super Size Me" and its auteur make the November 2019 DVD of "Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!" a major disappointment. One should be able to expect more of a guy who has proven that he so much better than this on EVERY level.

The solid asserted (but almost certainly pretextual) concept of "2" commences with a fast-food chain contacting Spurlock to appear in ads due to his documented "Super Size" attempt to only eat McDonald's food for a month.

This allegedly is what motivates Spurlock to start a new chicken restaurant from scratch (pun intended) and to document this effort. In other words, he profits from both the film itself and the publicity that it generates for new business venture Holy Chicken.

One not so-surprising spoiler is that the film prompts investors to approach Spurlock about creating a chain of Holy Chicken restaurants. Another spoiler is that your not-so-humble reviewer has adequate integrity to pledge to NEVER eat at any location regardless of how peckish (pun intended) he becomes. 

Spurlock commences this venture with the effort that is the primary focus of "2.." The search for a source for chickens and a place to raise them sets the stage for an "expose" of "Big Chicken" that does not reveal any information that has not been relatively well known for decades. These include that the big boys, such as Tyson and Perdue, use their strong grip on the industry to harm both competitors and chicken farmers who end up on their bad side. We also hear the same (but still highly distressing) stories about inhumane conditions at the big chicken facilities. 

Spurlock does deserve credit for some new information. We learn about the laughably low government standards for making assertions about chickens. For example, claiming that your birds are "free-range" essentially only requires giving the flock the option of going out on the front porch. A scene in which Spurlock fails to convince his fine-feathered friends to poke their beaks out the door is a "2" highlight. 

The parallel effort of Spurlock to develop a theme and a menu for his restaurant is more interesting and insightful. His product development consultants introduce us to terms such as "health halo." We also hear the "awful truth" about grill marks on fast-food chicken and learn why crunchy replaces the industry "f-word."

Subjectively, a scene in which checking out the competition shows the Burger King "crunchy" chicken sandwich is hollow is a "2" highlight. Having the perspective of having had the college roommate from Hell, whose many sins include watching while I gulped a large glass from a water container that he had filled with vodka, makes that scene even better. That former student is now a Greek tycoon that inherited every Burger King franchise in Rhode Island from his father. No, those places (and the other Janco locations) do not get my business.

The bigger picture is the sloppy manner in which our veteran documentarian makes "2." This begins with repetition in the form of "sandwiching" the beginning and the end of the film with the same footage of local news promoting the new restaurant. 

Spurlock further slides to the bottom by borrowing the old ambush the industry guy trick that fellow sadly diminished colleague Michael Moore puts in all his films.

An early scene has Spurlock "outed" as a guy with an agenda; this leads to a "leaked" memo much later in the film. This correspondence is from an executive with the chicken lobby warning chicken farmers (ranchers?) that the effort of Spurlock to acquire a flock as part of a nefarious scheme. 

Subsequently, Spurlock arrives unannounced at the office of the "suit" to delver an invitation to the grand opening of Holy Chicken!. Of course, he is left waiting in the hall for several hours and ultimately is politely asked to leave. An inadvertently amusing aspect of this is baseless speculation early on that the prey is in the restroom.

The relatable aspect of this is that very few of us even let unexpected visitors who lack any adversarial intent into our homes. 

Of course, the ultimate irony as to "2" is that it follows the Spurlock film "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" about product placement and similar forms of advertising. I literally am not buying it this time, Spurlock. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

'Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts' DVD: Asian-Style 'Kill Bill'

Icarus Films once more shows the immense value of world cinema as to the DVD release of the 2017 Indonesian feminist drama "Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts." This compelling movie with a strong live-stage vibe shows that Quentin Tarantino does not have the monopoly on Amazon warrior revenge films.

The 17 wins and 25 additional nominations for "Marlina" show that director Mouly Surya has all the right stuff; these accolades include numerous honors at the 2018 Film Festival Indonesia and Best Cinematography at the 2018 Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

The following Icarus trailer for "Marlina" clearly shows the Tarantino and classic Western influences on this must-see film.

The titular felon is a relatively recent widow living in relative isolation on her farm; as is typical for good storytelling, the extent of her woes is revealed throughout the film.

The nightmare begins within the first moments of "Marlina." Bad hombre Markus shows at her door and immediately plays cat-and-mouse. The horrible truth is soon shared when the interloper matter-of-factly tells his hostess that his gang is on their way to steal all of her livestock and to rape her if they have time after that theft. He adds insult to those imminent injuries by ordering her to start cooking dinner for the group.

As the film title indicates, things do not go as planned. This leads to the second act that centers around Marlina taking the long journey to the nearest town to report the crimes and her response with extreme prejudice. This trip involves both "persuading" a bus driver to co-operate and an overdue pregnant woman with her own man troubles to join the crusade. 

The response of the police is true to factual and fictional patterns; any viewer with a soul will want to smash the typewriter of the cop who takes the statement of Marlina over his head. 

The long arm of the law coming up short leads to showing that you sometimes must send a woman to do the job of a man. The even more sad truth as to this is that it demonstrates the limited extent to which the phrase "you've come a long way, Baby" applies. 

All of this leads to a climax that brings the action back full circle to the beginning of the film; the sad messages as to this are that things never change and that you often much take matters into your own hands.

The bonus features include behind-the-scenes coverage and an interview with Surya.

Friday, February 7, 2020

'Dear Walmart' DVD: Documentary on High Price of Low Wages

Esteemed indie-flick company Virgil Films shows excellent instincts as to releasing the documentary "Dear Walmart" on November 19, 2019 ahead of Black Friday. This movie tells the tale of righteously disgruntled wage slaves of the titular grandddady of big box stores forming an informal union. 

The following "Walmart" trailer nicely introduces the concept of the film and puts very human faces on the effort to earn an arguably reasonable wage for an honest day's work.

The "Our Walmart" stems from an arguably reasonable "we're mad as Hell, and we're not going to take it anymore" attitude. This relates to the typical pay-rate, wealth-gap, and corporate-policy issues that plague most workplaces. A comparison between the starting pay at Target and at Walmart is a prime (no pun intended) example of this. 

We hear the horror stories of employees across the county; these include empty promises and the  especially egregious experience of a woman who is denied relied-on leave for the most flimsy of reasons. A separate sad story of a woman whose properly documented physical work restriction is aggressively disregarded shows the need to level the playing field as to labor relations at the largest retailer in America. 

The rest of the story is the need of Walmart employees to act somewhat like the World War II era French underground regarding carefully identifying themselves to each other and covertly communicating at work. The predictable reports of retaliation support the theory that just because you are paranoid does not mean that no one is watching.

We also see the obstacles that organized labor encounters when it tries to get involved. Work stoppages at Walmart reflect that influence on Our Walmart.

The bigger picture is that America becoming a nation of "behemoth corporations" with callous cut-throat CEOs (I'm talkin' to you Corie Barry of Best Buy and Robert Iger of Disney) is resulting in abusing their "captive audience" of employees and customers; the sad truth is that both groups have little choice other than to bend over and take it like a man. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

'MacGyver' S3 DVD: Angus MacGyver and the Last Crusade

The Lionsgate January 14, 2019 DVD release of "MacGyver" (2016) S3 provides a good chance to catch up on the rebooted exploits of titular highly resourceful spy Angus MacGyver (Lucas Till) ahead of the February 7, 2020 S4 premiere on CBS. As shown below, a primary S3 theme is out with the old and in with the new (sort of).

The season premiere finds MacGyver living in a small Nigerian village with a beard in the wake of resigning from The Phoenix Foundation, where his ability to rapidly think on his feet as to using available items to save both the day and his hide makes him a star. This lifestyle change is attributable to a rough S2 reunion with his estranged father. Ala the central relationship in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Jim MacGyver (aka "Oversight") has been rough (and secretive) with his boy for what he thought was best for his offspring.

The game-changer is Dad showing up in Africa to get MacGyver to come home to rescue best buddy/co-worker/protector/father figure Jack Dalton (George Eads) from a highly precarious situation involving gun-running with a one-who-got-away nemesis in Eastern Europe. This is ahead of a well-publicized mid-season exit of Eads from the series for "personal reasons." 

One of the more notable father-son adventures has them team up to hunt the hitman (Michael Des Barres, who plays Murdoc in the '80s "MacGyver") who is cleverly snuffing key witnesses in an upcoming trial. As our heroes do a couple of times in S3, our boys take a page from "Silence of the Lambs" by visiting  super-villain Murdoc at the deep black-ops facility where he is being held, The value of the this consultant is his knowledge that is very helpful as to capturing the predator of the week.

Things really get interesting when Team MacGyver learns the extent to which they expertly have been played. One lesson here is to never trust any psychopath.

MacGyver fully gets to do what he loves best in a couple of episodes that have him save innocents despite facing obstacles that involve extreme prejudice. One outing requires especially intense improvising when a mission to deliver crucially needed oxygen to critically ill hospitalized children.goes horribly awry. 

The similarities between the above episode and another in which a car accident diverts MacGyver from his original mission extends beyond an imminent life-or-death situation. He once again for the countless time learns that a seeming innocent may not be so innocent and that people often do the wrong thing for the right reason. 

A favorite moment for past and former student at all educational levels occurs in a "Back to School" episode that has the "kids" (sans "Dad") go undercover at a university to bust a terrorist who is radicalizing the best brains there. This highlight has Angus schooling a professor who tries to both shame him and make him look foolish. 

The rest of the 22 episodes are just as typically another workweek for a group that is tasked with putting right what once went horribly wrong. 

The appeal of this reboot extends beyond Till having the looks and the personality of a farmboy despite always being the smartest guy in the room. There never is a dull moment, and seeing how what is at hand always is enough to "git 'er done" is entertaining. 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

'Imaginary Feasts' and 'Mina's Recipe Book, Terezin 1944' DVD: Tales of WWII Survival

Icarus Films provides a sadly timeless lesson in survival as to its double-feature DVD release of the Anne Georget documentaries "Imaginary Feasts" and "Mina's Recipe Book, Terezin 1944." This message is that mentally escaping a harsh reality is an effective tool for surviving seemingly fatal horrific hardship.

"Feasts" provides a truly in-depth look at prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, Soviet Gulags, and Japanese prison camps discussing their favorite meals in order to survive near starvation and other atrocities as to their confinement. These include an American soldier and a woman who pays a heavy price for her unwarranted reliance on the principle of diplomatic immunity. 

The main focus is on female prisoners in a concentration camp who take thinking about their favorite foods to the next level; they risk heavy retribution to steal scraps of papers to write down the recipes for those treats. This extends to the contribution of each woman representing the cuisine of her region of her country. It is highly predictable that the French woman are the stars of this project.

A survivor, the ancestors of survivors. a historian, and a chef are among the talking heads who put everything in perspective. In addition to learning about these books, it is surprising to hear even more general information about concentration camps than many of us have known for decades. The relationship between the foods and their native regions is equally interesting.

"Book" tells about the pre-war life and the imprisonment of the author of that tome; we also learn of the post-war path of the book and the importance of it to the persons into whose hands it travels.

As indicated above, the larger impact of these films is how the prisoners used the books to survive when most of us would have chosen a run for the barbed wire as a relatively easy out as to a seemingly unsurvivable situation. It also provides perspective the next time that we endure an hour or so of hunger until our next meal, which likely will be exactly what we are craving at the moment. Even more importantly, fussing because a promised 30-minute wait at Olive Garden is at the 45-minute mark should be shame inducing, 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

'The Titfield Thunderbolt' BD: Keep Calm and Rail On

The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement pairing the recent Blu-ray releases of the 1953 British comedy "The Titfield Thunderbolt" with a Blu-ray of the (reviewed) 1949 Ealing social-commentary-dripping comedy "Passport to Pimlico" provides an excellent chance for a taste of what the "Titfield" back cover aptly describes as the strong contribution of Ealing to the golden age of British cinema. The numerous comment elements of "Titfield" and "Pimlico" include legendary Britwit T.E.B. Clarke being the scribe of both. 

"Titfield" being the first Ealing film shot in Technicolor makes it especially apt for Blu-ray. The British countryside truly looks idyllic. 

Fans of '60scom "Petticoat Junction" will recognize many elements of "Titfield." A primary premise of both comedies is quirky good-natured small-town folk heavily relying on a rail line that operates between their community and a nearby town. Although the Hooterville Cannonball of "Petticoat" fame survives numerous attempts to shut it down, the effort to cease the operation of Titfield rail service succeeds. The rest of the story is that eliminating this competition profits a local bus company. 

The Titfield populace demonstrates their "keep calm and carry on" fortitude by deciding to run the rail service themselves. Getting the initial provisional approval is only the tip of the iceberg as to this titanic endeavor. 

The numerous obstacles as to actually running the train include a lack of necessary experience with the exception of a man who clearly does not work and play well with others. This is not to mention the opposition of those wanting to derail this effort. 

Hilarity soon ensues as to things such as first building up an adequate head of steam and subsequently preventing an overheating that threatens to turn a potential figurative train wreck into an actual one.

In classic film fashion, it seems that a combination of sabotage and ineptitude is leading to an inevitable bad end for the good guys. The ensuing hilarity begins with taking a page out of both incarnations of classic scifi series "Battlestar Galactica." 

This is the beginning of an extended climax in which the train being allowed to continue operating is conditioned on it making a monitored run on time. Of course, hilarity with a heavy dose of keeping "the suit" oblivious to the actual situation ensues. Suffice it to say that Clarke shows his awareness of a Hollywood ending.

The copious "Titfield" BD extras shows the same love for the film that Classic demonstrates for "Pimlico." A written essay provides great insight into the film, the bonus feature "Making 'The Titfiled Thunderbolt'" expands on that. We also get a handful of other "behind-the-scenes' features and the original trailer. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Apple Watch 5: B+ Product Makes A+ Gift

The apt starting point for this post on the Apple Watch Series Five is the 1999-2002 CW sci-fi teendram "Roswell." A central fine young brother from another planet is stressing over what to give his easy but demanding earth girlfriend for Christmas. He is advised to buy her something that she really wants but would not buy for herself; equally insightful but more amusing wisdom comes from similar series of the era "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The pithy remark from that show is "a gift certificate; like money, only less useful,"


The first part of the "Roswell" equation dates back to this summer; the panic of phoneous interruptus occurs when I realize just as it is too late to turn back that I have left my iPhone 8 at home. The consequences of this include cancelling plans to see a movie so as to not lose out on loyalty points by not being able to have the app for the chain scanned.

This incident prompts the first of many discussions regarding whether buying an Apple watch is worth it; a big pro for this guy who has always worn a watch since the seventh grade is knowing that I never would forget the watch. Related big pluses are not feeling compelled to always carry around the often bulky-feeling phone and the momentary panic associated with the phone not being in the remembered pocket. 

The cost and the inevitable forced obsolescence are big cons; another is the belief that having cellular service for the watch is an additional expense; time will tell if that is so.

The Unboxing 

Unwrapping a gift to find a gleaming white box is as exciting to lovers as tech. as discovering a robin egg's blue box is to a trophy spouse or significant other. Finding that said packaging contains the latest and greatest is even more thrilling. It truly is something that I really want but am unlikely to get for myself,

The same is true as to the AirPods with the charging case with which Apple gifted me roughly a year ago; I still use the wireless Beats headphones with which Apple gifted me a few years ago when flying.

Finding the watch in a protective pouch is exciting; finding the strap in two pieces in a separate sub-box is less enjoyable; it is understandable that some folks want to further line the pockets of Tim Cook by buying custom straps; it is less understandable that that requires the rest of us to suss out how to attach the provided straps in this age that greatly values instant gratification, Even being a "when all else fails, read the instructions" guy rather than a RTFM dude is not an issue when there is no FM.

The first few efforts to attach (and detach) the straps did not go well; even getting it right is not the end of the story. Fastening the watch to your wrist requires blindly lining up a prong on the lower strap with a hole on the upper strap; this is getting a little easier but evokes sympathy for women having to fasten bras. 

A cool element of the Apple watch for Gen Xers is that it looks like a Swatch; having one of those timepieces that is another great gift actually bought in Switzerland being destroyed in a very '80s way during my school days still evokes sadness. I ran it over when it fell out of my pocket when I got the keys to my Mustang out to drive home after renting "Ghostbusters" on DVD; yes, I was wearing Vuarnet sunglasses with a Ralph Lauren cologne and a polo shirt. (Of course, my feet were sockless and clad in Topsiders.) 

The Apple calculator working on the watch evokes thoughts of the nerd de rigueur accessory of the late '70s and eary '80s; the Casio calculator watch. 


The watch nicely pairs with an iPhone after downloading the watch app on the latter; however, not every app transferring to the watch is mildly disappointing; a little online research shows that Chirp for Twitter compensates for the Twitter app itself not being compatible with the phone.

An oddity is that the watch does not seem to be compatible with the Amazon or the Amazon Music apps but does display the Music song that you are playing on your phone; the lack of an app may be be attributable to the Notorious JPB trying to compel people to buy the Alexa that is designed for use in your car. 

A personal choice of having the time, the local weather, the phone, messaging, e-mail, and the battery life display on the "homepage" makes for an equally nice and practical display. The clear and adequately large display is nice for those of us whose eyesight is not-so-perfect.

Speaking of the battery life, it seems that moderate use sucks up 50-percent of the life each day. Also speaking of the battery life, it is disappointing that the watch simply does not have a port for the standard Apple charging cable. 

You must place the watch on an (admittedly cool) magnetic charging pad, which does quickly charge the watch. A big downside as to this effort to facilitate Tim Cook buying Greenland is that forgetting this charger on even an overnight trip (especially if you do not bring your phone) can create a big problem.

The better news is that the voice feature works very well as to both texting and telephoning with a technology that precludes butt dialing except for the occasions on which all of us speak out of that orifice. Although folks familiar with fictional detective Dick Tracy will think of his wrist radio, a very nifty thing is that you do not need to hold the watch very close to your mouth for it work. Further, the text feature is amazingly good at filtering out ambient noise such as music, television, and other people speaking. It would be nice if you could erase part of a message; rather than having to cancel and rerecord. 

One note is that watch technology not being especially widespread will earn you funny looks as people see you seemingly talking to yourself without holding a phone or having a bluetooth device in your ears. (AirPods work AWESOMELY with an iPhone.) 

The fun and functional Etch-a-Sketch style Scribble feature is a good way to avoid questioning looks. 

To Buy or Not To Buy 

Returning to the initial theme of the post, the gift of an Apple watch is guaranteed to thoroughly delight anyone with any interest in tech. It also is a stupendous way to treat yo self to celebrate a big win.

​At the same time (pun intended), this being a pricey luxury item that mostly is a substitute for another pricey luxury item makes running up a credit bill to purchase it foolish; in such a case, there are better uses for your money than trying to keep up with the Cooks.