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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

'Code Blue: Redefining the Practice of Medicine' DVD: Food for Thought About Lifestyle Medicine

The Virgil Films June 9, 2020 DVD release of the 2020 documentary "Code Blue: Redefining the Practice of Medicine" truly could not come at a better time. This propaganda for lifestyle medicine offers a way to avoid falling into the clutches of shamelessly greedy medical corporations (I'm talkin' to you Lifespan of Rhode Island) with laughable non-profit status at a time that every measure of national health is collapsing. The film also promotes going vegan at a time that meat-processing plants are disease ridden and the one package of steak that we are allowed to buy costs $15/pound, 

The highly personal nature of the topic to narrator/activist Dr. Saray Stancic justifies a brief detour into Blogland to share previously private relevance. Your not-so-humble reviewer has a hereditary disease with a fairly definite expiration date. My highly significant other telling me soon after the diagnosis that only eating vegetables would be beneficial and my replying "yeah, like I'm gonna do that" alone directly speaks to "Code." Coincidentally then eating a bowl of magically delicious Lucky Charms speaks even more directly to the film. On a better note, I have maintained a long-standing habit of using my elliptical machine at full force for one hour a day every other day.

The big picture is that I am adhering to Agnostic Science in that I recognize the possibility that the disease will go away on its own. 

Before returning to our regularly scheduled programming, I will add that the aforementioned avarice of Lifespan and its ilk is preventing getting monitoring and related treatment. Lifespan disregarding the coding of a blood test with a roughly $50 out-of-pocket price and conducting a $6,000 test for which it wanted (but did not get) $2,900 out-of-pocket is consistent with my experience with that company. Sadly my insurance company, which gets roughly $550/month directly from me, and my doctor repeatedly have stated that there are no means to prevent Lifespan from doing the same in the future. Sadly, that behemoth corporation essentially is the only game in town in The Ocean State. 

Stancic expresses similar outrage by clearly expressing anger regarding the very valid point that doctors are not expected to live in poverty but are obliged to not pursue outrageous fortune at the expense of the quality of care that they provide patients. 

The strong advocacy of Stancic for lifestyle medicine stems from an out-of-the-blue (no pun intended) MS diagnosis during the third year of her residency. The not-so-great prognosis begat investigating lifestyle medicine, which begat her activism, which begat "Code."

The early research of Stancic includes reading "The China Study" of T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. Campbell appears in "Code" to discuss his analysis of the dietary habits of the people in several Chinese communities. His discussing the average lifespan of the studied population is akin to a '70s-era commercial that attributes the longevity of people in a Russian village to consuming large quantities of yogurt.

Another medical practitioner amusingly tells of a hospital gift shop selling cigarettes and of the heavy consumption of that product by the doctors on staff. Another general hospital tale is of the highly lucrative practice of performing bypass surgery. This relates to the not-so-hidden secret that doctors and hospitals alike amass large fortunes from operating (no pun intended) pill mills and performing assembly-line level medical procedures. 

Stancic wraps up "Code" with a charming portrayal of the current crop of medical students that are embracing lifestyle medicine. This includes some future physicians taking a course in healthy cooking and a youthfully exuberant student sharing plans to pursue a career of teaching lifestyle medicine. Time will tell if all this idealism survives the burden of long hours in internships and residencies, as well as the lure of the numerous shiny toys that having M.D. after your name provides a chance to buy.

The bottom line this time is that Stancic shows how placing the wants of the few over the needs of the many are putting many of us in premature graves. She seriously is invited to reach out to me if she thinks that she can help. ​

Friday, June 26, 2020

'Temblores' DVD Sensitive Character Study of Middle-Aged Man Coming Out

The recent Film Movement DVD release of the 2019 drama "Temblores" is the perfect Pride Month movie for anyone over the age of 13 who is anywhere along the Kinsey Scale. Writer/director Jayro Bustamante not sugarcoating anything and opting out of a Hollywood ending alone make the film one to watch.

The 13 festival wins for "Temblores" further speak to the quality of this film that IMDb describes as follows. "The coming out of an evangelical father shatters his family, his community and uncovers a profoundly repressive society."

The below Movement trailer for "Temblores" highlights the live-stage vibe of this compelling story about upper-middle class middle-aged Pablo choosing a relationship with working-class Francisco over his life with well-heeled and well-bred wife Isa and their two children.

Our story begins on a highly melodramatic note; a clearly frantic Pablo rushes home and ignores the intervention-style gathering of relatives to lock himself in his bedroom. This, of course, prompts great concern by the assembled group. Many who are familiar with real or reel gay trauma and drama can predict that the cause of death-of-a-beloved level angst relates to a gay issue. Blatant symbolism as to this includes a literal tremor literally threatening to bring down the house as Pablo and his family contend with his new normal. 

The resulting bedside confrontations range from heart-felt sympathy to not-so-righteous indignation as to Pablo being a fallen man in this particular sense of that term. The fact that that Pablo remains stricken and distraught without overdoing it is a primary example of Bustamante keeping it real.

The action then shifts to somewhat grungy bar where Francisco simultaneously introduces his new significant other into both his life and "the life." Although Pablo does not seem to have buyer's remorse, it is clear that he is experiencing an especially rude awakening. This relates to the frequent "Temblores" theme of many gay men not having it easy. 

All this leads to Isa prohibiting Pablo from having any contact with his children; this coincides with a wolf in sheep's clothing not-so-subtly moving toward filling the Pablo-sized void in the life of Isa; truly no double-entendres are intended.

A relative calm in the middle of the film leads to a rebuilding of drama as the true sexual orientation of Pablo increasingly is seen as an addiction by his family. Intense distress as to all that he has given up prompts our family man to enter conversion therapy that ironically seems as if it would result in even the most straight man in the world to lose all interest in women. 

This leads to the aforementioned not-so-happy ending in which Pablo decides the extent to which he will sacrifice the needs of the few to satisfy the needs of the many. 

Movement supplements "Temblores" with the short "Black Hat," which is the Film Movement Award winner at the 2019 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. This less dramatic look at a family man on the gay end of the Kinsey Scale uses the titular head covering as highly symbolic as a religious item and the public persona of the man. The hat coming off allows him to be more true to himself.​

Friday, June 19, 2020

'Star Trek Short Treks' DVD and BD: Boldly Going Where No 'Trek' Series Has Gone Before

The CBS Home Entertainment June  2, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "Star Trek Short Treks" lets non-subscribers of CBS All Access enjoy these these charming streamisodes of "Star Trek: Discovery." Each of the 9 shorts allows characters great and small a chance to shine. A glaring omission is Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, whom everyone's favorite rent-boy Anthony Rapp seems born to play.

The icing on the cake is the truly special features, which include "making-of" bonuses, with which CBS pairs each short.

All Access awesomely does some of the heavy lifting for this post; it perfectly describes this series as follows. "'Star Trek: Short Treks' are approximately 10-15 minute stand-alone short stories that allow fans to dive deeper into the key themes and characters that fit into Star Trek: Discovery and the expanding Star Trek universe."

The following 2019 ComicCon trailer for "Treks" expertly conveys the strong production values and great underlying humor of these films.

The earlier shorts, which begin with quirky Ensign Tilly in an equally odd story, have strong merits that fully reflect the "Trek" spirit. However, the later ones that jump ship and move to the Enterprise are personal faves. 

A favorite among this group is the fantabulous "The Trouble With Edward." Former Enterprise science officer Lynne Lucero is the new captain of a science ship when mad scientist in the truest sense of that term Edward Larkim (H. Jon Benjamin of "Bob's Burgers" and "Archer" fame)  commences the trouble with tribbles. The morals this time are that you should not mess with Mother Nature and that over population can be a deadly problem.

​Larkin easily has the best of countless memorable moments when he cops an epic "not my problem" 'tude despite being the architect of the threat. 

"Q&A" awesomely has Ethan Peck (Spock) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) pair up as the latter greets the former on his arrival on the Enterprise to commence his service on that vessel. The best is soon to come when the "Treks" writers resort to the old "stuck together in an elevator" trope. Suffice it it to say that emotions do run high. 

"Ask Not" is another very strong outing; this one features Captain Pike mercilessly testing an enterprising wannabe. It fully shows how it is determined if someone has the right stuff to serve on that crew. 

The bigger picture this time is that "Treks" allows Trekkers, Trekkies, and the unenlightened alike a solid two-hours (plus extras) of stories that each are worthy of full-length episodes.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

'Seeds' DVD: Dickensian South-of-the-Border Coming-of-Age Tale

The TLA Releasing DVD release of the 2017 Mexican drama "Seeds" (nee "Cuernavaca") shows both that everything is relative and that relatable growing pains can be traumatic. The accolades for this Dickensian coming-of-age tale include the Best International Feature Award at the 2018 Borderlands Film Festival and three honors at the 2018 Films Infest. 

The following YouTube clip of a "Seeds" trailer provides a sense of the angst of central character Andy; the glimpse of the wonderful cinematography reinforces the hope of a future Releasing Blu-ray of the film.

Tween Andy is a Dickens stereotype in that he is small, quiet, pale, and classically blond. Sadly, nothing about him even early in the film supports the theory that people with that hair color have more fun.

Andy literally is clinging to a connection with his absent father in the opening scenes; his early interaction with his essentially single mother is very reminiscent of the parent-child relationship in "The Sixth Sense." This is down to Mom picking up a despondent Andy after a typically depressing day at school.

Rare mutual joy in the lives of Andy and his mother is short lived. Their grand afternoon out is continuing with ice cream when a "sliding doors" moment leads to Mom, rather than Andy, becoming the victim of a violent crime. This contributes to especially strong survivor's guilt.

The Dickens vibe initially picks up on the authorities being unable to locate the father of Andy to care for him during the hospitalization of his mother. This leads to the boy travelling to the titular rural suburb for a temporary relocation to the guava orchard of his firm but fair (functioning alcoholic) grandmother Carmen. The DVD liner notes state that Carmen portrayor Carmen Maura has a history of collaborating with Pedro Almodovar.

The eccentric members of the household include an aunt with Down's Syndrome, who provides a herd of cats with unnecessary ongoing medical care. There also is young fieldworker/kitchen helper Esmeralda, who essentially is child labor. 

The guava of the eye of Andy is teen gardener Charley. Part of the artistry of "Seeds" is ambiguity regarding whether the younger boy sees the older one as a cool guy, a brother figure, a substitute father, or an object of carnal affection. Similarly, the feelings of Charley toward the boy are not very clear for much of the film. 

One clear aspect of the Andy/Charley relationship is the latter taking advantage of the other. The boy being relatively wealthy, lonely, smitten, and otherwise vulnerable paves the way for Charley to con him. The aforementioned susceptibility to being taken includes Andy being desperate to reach his father to rescue him from his unfortunate circumstances. This includes the very Dickensian threat of boarding school. 

Charley also provides context for the form of class divide that is common in Mexico and not unheard of El Norte. His modest home in his working-class neighborhood is just beyond a symbolic gate in an equally symbolic wall on the estate of Carmen. Further, Carmen heads an unofficial group of "respectable" members of the community that is seeking to run Charley and his kind out of town.

Twin drama ensues as Charley persuades Andy to fully betray his grandmother at a time that the prodigal son at least is back for a short visit. The two lessons here are to not invite the beast into the parlor and that a leopard never changes his spots.

The impact of all this on caring and trusting Andy is adequately heartbreaking to set "Seeds' apart from more cookie-cutter coming-of-age stories. Those films typically have the boy with at least strong gay tendencies end up with the right person and come out the other end of a traumatic experience wiser but not permanently sadder. 

The first difference here is the nature and nurture combine to make Andy much more delicate than the typical emo twink boy next door who is starting to look at either his childhood friend or the new guy in school in "that way." Our lead seems destined either to spend his teen years locked in his room reading or shooting up the cafeteria at lunchtime. Either way, you cannot help feeling very sorry for him and hoping for the best.

Friday, June 5, 2020

'30 Rock' Blu-ray CS: SNL Meets MTM

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This updated post on "30 Rock" CD BD reflects the enhancement of this MCE release that a desire to timely post an article on prevented including in the original post.]

Mill Creek Entertainment aptly continues to show that it has come a long way, Baby as to the April 21, 2020 complete series Blu-ray set of the "Must-See" 2006-13 Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin sitcom "30 Rock." This release both follows comparable MCE releases of the woman-oriented sitcoms "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and (reviewed) "The Mindy Project." 

Aside from allowing freeing up valuable real estate that the older single-season DVD sets of "30" occupy, the BD versions  of the episodes are much crisper and clearer.

The Rock solid set also makes the MCE roots of producing bargain sets of public domain series a distant memory. This truly is not your father's (or mother's) MCE. 

The numerous Emmy and Golden Globe wins, not to mention the copious nominations, for "30" reflect its talent for walking the tightrope between daring comedy and offensive content. Having a supporting character named "twofer" based on being black and a Harvard guy nicely reflects this.

The series centers around "The Girlie Show" (aka TGS) head writer Liz Lemon, who is an alter ego of Lemon portrayor/"30" creator/producer/SNL alum Tina Fey. Lemon is a neo-modern version of Mary Richards of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in that she is one of the boys in a male-dominated industry and workplace.

Lemon is quick to volunteer information about her unusual menstrual cycle and is equally candid about her horrific eating habits. Viewers also get to see a parade of male suitors that mostly are played by A-list celebrities that include Matt Damon and John Hamm. 

Alpha-male Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is a much wealthier, more sophisticated, and more ruthless version of "Moore" boss Lou Grant. Donaghy being the head of both microwave ovens and network television is one of many ways that "30" lampoons General Electric ownership of "TGS" network NBC; the many ways that "30" doubles down on the subsequent Comcast acquisition of NBC includes pitting Donaghy against a equally ruthless teen rival played by Chloe Grace Moretz.

Much of the aforementioned "balancing act" of "30" relates to Donaghy being a poor Irish boy from Boston made good. Casting series regular/show business legend Elaine Stritch as his bigoted and cruel mother Colleen is a series highlight; an episode in which Jack backs his car over Mom is one of many that makes "30" "must-see." 

A "sit" that drive much of the "30" "com" is established in the pilot. A desire to expand the appeal of "TGS" prompts hiring loose-cannon black actor Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), who can be considered the love child of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.

An S7 episode in which Jordan dreams that he is Morgan is one of the many ways that "30" breaks the fourth wall; a hilarious S1 outing in which actual product placement is heavily featured in a debate about incorporating that into "TGS" is an even better example of the series keeping it real. 

Series executive producer Lorne Michaels also gets his lumps in ways that extend beyond "TGS" portraying the dark side of Michaels' series "SNL." A direct barb at the ego of Michaels further shows a lack of fear as to "30" biting the hand that feeds it.

The copious ethnic humor related to the outrageous personal life, work-interaction, and "TGS" characters  of Jordan is a prime example of "30" keeping the real-life NBC standards-and-practices team on its toes. One can only imagine the bargaining that must have occurred as to allowing a portrayal of Black Hitler. 

The numerous underlying causes of Jordan-related chaos include his arrival triggering hysterical (in both senses of the word) jealousy in former sole headliner Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski). This actress whose talents do not justify her divatude fully shines as to her "Baby Jane" level demands for attention and alternating rivalry and partners-in-crime attitudes as to Jordan. One of her top moments involves purposefully acting out in response to a sense that Jordan is receiving better treatment than her. 

The entire "30" team earns extra credit for an S7 storyline that curses Lemon with a close ongoing relationship with two persons who hilarious emulate her work problem children.

America's Princess Carrie Fisher is a top contender for a best guest star among a large group that include Paul Reubens and Steve Martin. Fisher plays Lemon idol Rosemary Harris, who is a former female writer for a '70s "Laugh-In" style variety show. Suffice it to say that the decades have not been kind to Harris.

"Laugh-In" also is relevant as to what makes the appearances of Fisher and her peers so memorable. Ala Richard Nixon and other notable "Laugh-In" guests, the "30" visitors fully embrace the spirit of the series. This includes Hamm playing a boyfriend of Lemon who is oblivious to getting special treatment based on his good looks. 

The special appeal of all this is that "30" displays all this 20th-century spirit in a 21st-century era that is characterized by a distressing refusal to recognize the context of "offensive" humor. It aptly is beyond awesome that NBC (and MCE) do not consider that independent spirit a dealbreaker. 

The copious bonus features include a hilarious table read and a studio tour by the always entertaining Fey. 

MCE supplements this with a plethora of bonus features that include interviews and gag reels. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band' Blu-ray, DVD, Digital: One More Waltz for Epitome of Folk Rockers

The star power in front of and behind the camera as to the 2019 documentary "Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band" is enough to make the Magnolia Pictures May 26, 2020 Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital releases of this tribute to that quintet must-see for the broad demographic to which it appeals. The underlying blockbuster-worthy tale seals the deal. 

The aforementioned behind-the-scenes talent includes executive producers Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, and long-time Howard production partner Brian Grazer. Director Daniel Roher gives PBS darling Ken Burns ample reason to look over his shoulder.

The titular frontman is the tip of the iceberg as to the Hall of Fame musicians who make up the talking heads (sans David Byrne) in the film. We hear quite a bit from former "Band" member Eric Clapton, former frontman for the titular band of brothers Bob Dylan, and devoted fans Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel.

The festival love that verifies that "Robertson" gets its material down pat includes a 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival Best of the Fest award for Roher. The 2019 Whistler Film Festival expresses its regard via a World  Documentary Award win.

The following compelling trailer for "Robertson" highlights the charm and insight of Robertson, who narrates the film. We also get plenty of PG stories of sex, and drugs, and rock-and-roll that are de rigueur for any group of musicians. 

Robertson awesomely starts his tale as a Toronto teen in the '50s; this early tales remind us that the adolescents of the Great White North are just the same as the kids living south of their border.

The "When It Began" (apologies to disgruntled father-in-law Dylan) tale continues with Robertson sharing how he and future fellow "Band" mate Levon Helm come to join the Hawkmen of Canadian idol Ronnie Hawkins. The admiration that Hawkins expresses for Robertson in the documentary is one of many examples of a mutual admiration society in this feel-good film in an pandemic era. 

The "its complicated" nature of the relationship between Robertson and Helm drives much of the film; Team Scorsese chooses wisely in initially depicting Helm as an infectiously enthusiastic lad and going on to show how he succumbs to the Bieber Syndrome that seemingly infects every Disney Channel star. 

The Dylan connection also makes for good entertainment; we see how domestic and foreign audiences react to that rock god putting Team Robertson on the payroll; the course of that relationship is another aspect that screams for Howard to make a big-budget biopic about Robertson.

We further learn of the history behind Scorsese adopting this project; a segment in "Robertson" focuses on the "Band" 1976 concert film "The Last Waltz," which turns out to be a swan song for that group, that Scorsese films. A memory of Clapton as to that event further proves that Robertson is a guy with whom one would enjoy sharing a Molson.

The big picture this time is that films like "Robertson" strive for the same goal as this site; namely, to keep American pop culture alive for as long as possible. We are very lucky to be able to hear from this guitar hero. He was there at the beginning, successfully kept up with the times as they were a changin', and is still around to coherently tell his tale. This sadly literally makes him part of a rapidly dying breed.