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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 28, 2019

'Southern Pride' DVD: Mississippi Flaming

Uncork'd Entertainment takes a break from its always awesome dark and perverse fare to celebrate the true spirit of Pride. The Uncork'd June 14, 2019 DVD of the aptly titled 2018 documentary "Southern Pride" goes beyond rightfully asserting "we're here; we're queer; get used to it." This film shows that folks particularly in the Bible Belt sadly still have a long way to come, Baby.

"Pride" is the follow-up (and equally labor-of-love) of director Malcolm Ingram to his multi-award-winning documentary "Small Town Gay Bar." Both films awesomely expand the perspectives of East and West Coast metrosexuals and homosexuals.

The following YouTube clip of a "Pride" trailer aptly covers both the titular sense of self-worth and the opposing prejudice that can make things tough for folks who are part of the moral 10-percent. 

Much of the focus of "Pride" is on proud and partnered lesbian Lynn, who owns the Just Us bar in the small city of Biloxi, Mississippi. A surprising theme that gets virtually no mention is that the lesbians and the gay men get along very well. This interaction typically makes the average co-existence of dogs and cats harmonious in comparison. 

The titular festival itself takes a backseat to the story of Lynn and of those most near-and-dear to her. These intimates include her Trump-supporting sister, who simply knows when to keep her mouth shut, and trans-gender bartender Daniela. It may well be that the support of Lynn saved the life of her employee.

The inaugural organizing event for the first Pride celebration in Biloxi has the same element as any committee meeting. The practical folks for whom this is not their first gay rodeo strive to keep the expectations of the idealists in check.

Meanwhile, an ill-conceived effort to cash in on Spring break is the first of several setbacks that befall an amazingly resilient Lynn. It seems that the fates constantly conspire to literally or figuratively rain on her parade.

Meanwhile in Hattiesburg, a black gay bar is taking the lead organizing an explicitly black gay-pride event. This portion of "Pride" includes an explanation of the reasoning behind narrowing the focus in that manner. The related theme is the further division in the already small gay community.

As stated above, the impact of "Pride" includes the reminder that many communities are less enlightened than those that haters think of being inhabited by the culturally elite. In many respects, Team Lynn and the guys in Hattiesburg must deal with attitudes that are at least 20 years behind those of most of us. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

'Excess Baggage' Blu-ray: Alicia Silverstone is Clueless, Fast, and Furious

The summer fun that is the plethora of Mill Creek Entertainment retro "I Love 90s" June 4, 2019 Blu-ray releases continues with the surprisingly entertaining 1997 Alicia Silverstone action-adventure-comedy vehicle (pun intended) "Excess Baggage." This group, which includes the already reviewed Pauly Shore funfest "Jury Duty" and the (reviewed) charming Dana Carvey film "Opportunity Knocks," join the (reviewed) hilarious teencom "Can't Hardly Wait" in this portion of the MCE catalog.

"Clueless" star Alicia Silverstone plays to type in playing Emily, who is the spoiled 18 year-old spoiled daughter of a master of the universe. One difference this time is that her shady dad is the polar opposite of the loving and compassionate attorney who is her "Clueless" parent.

A very '90s-style dreamy Benicio Del Toor plays adorably clueless car thief Vincent, who fills the role of the boy from the wrong side of the tracks who reforms and gets the princess. All this occurs to a soundtrack that can be considered K-Tels Indie Hits of the '90s. This is not to mention this relationship evoking thoughts of the Melissa Joan Hart/Adrian Grenier 1999 teencom "Drive Me Crazy." 

Our story begins with Emily in the final stages of her self-imposed and executed kidnapping; she is locked in the trunk of her (of course) BMW awaiting "rescue" when Vincent steals the car without knowing of the titular luggage.

Moderate hilarity ensues when boy meets girl, girl beats boy, and boy handcuffs girl in dingy chop shop bathroom. 

The real fun begins with Emily separately purposefully getting "fixer" Ray (Christopher Walken) onthe trail of Vincent and carelessly getting her downtown man in Dutch with the mob. This results in a raucous road trip for our new couple.

Of course, ala "Opportunity," the noose begins to tighten from both directions as Ray and the dim-witted thugs of the mob boss narrow in on their prey. This leads to the typical Hollywood ending accompanied by a hit for Soul Asylum, The Lemonheads, or a comparable group.

Taking things back to the beginning, "Baggage" and the other releases are just what moviegoers need in this hot and humid summer that lacks any truly escapist teencoms at the multiplex. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

'The Believers' Blu-ray: 'Rosemary's Baby' Meets 'Kramer vs. Kramer'

An "Eureka" moment perfectly reflects the movie-going public service that Olive Films, which fully embraces its 'Cinema Lives Here' motto, provides. Frequent distress regarding the lack of any desirable options at the multiplex led to thoughts that well-produced thrillers were a dead art form.

Lamenting the loss of quality mysteries coincided with the arrival of the Olive Blu-ray of the 1987 John Schlesinger (MUST-SEE "Marathon Man") thriller "The Believers," which is being released on June 25.

Olive pairing this release with a (reviewed) Blu-ray of the cult-classic '60s beach movie "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" led to recognizing the Olive commitment to keeping discarded subgeenres alive. Those of us familiar with these perfect blends of art and commerce are infinitely grateful to Olive. "Virgins" literally do not know what they are missing, 

The exceptional Blu-ray masters of every Olive release are a special treat to "sluts" who have only seen these films in more grainy versions both on the not-so-silver screen and on even HDTVs.  You definitely will get immersed like you never have before. 

Olive reminds us that the behind-the-scenes cred. of this tale of wonderfully creepy tale of Santeria in the Big Apple extends beyond Schlesinger. Screenwriter Mark Frost is a co-creator of "Twin Peaks." Aptly, a damn-fine cup of coffee is a major plot point in "Believers."

In front of the camera, Martin Sheen delivers a perfect performance as newly widowed and relocated psychologist Cal Jamison. 

EVERYTHING about "Believers" screams Hitchcock. This begins with setting the eerie scares in everyday settings and centering the film around an everyman initially thrown into an somewhat unusual circumstance that develops into a terrifying new normal. 

Our story begins with a typical morning for Minneapolis residents Cal, his wife, and their young son Chris. A common (and typically minor) household accident leads to a horrific death for the wife that Cal and Chris witness.

The need for change prompts Cal to relocate Chris to New York. The common Hollywood magic as to this is that Cal finds a large, bright, and immaculate two-story apartment on a clean and quiet street. On top of this, pretty and nice landlord Jessica lives across the street. It is difficult to imagine such a place existing and any one that does not costing far more even a psychologist can afford, This is aside from having a landlord so close who also perfectly maintains the place, 

The opening scenes also include a very primitive Santeria ritual and a practitioner of that religion playing the Jedi mind-trick on a JFK customs agent. 

The worlds first collide when Chris runs off during a Central Park outing. He scurries behind some rocks and stumbles upon the remains of a ritual sacrifice. The subtext of this scene is amusing to viewers who are woke regarding the ritual in which some young men engage in that area of the park.

Cal fully joins the party on police Lieutenant McTaggert consulting him as to the detective investigating a series of murders of boys. That investigator is convinced that the cult committing the crimes has a supernatural hold on him and is out to get him. Stating that the theory that just because you are paranoid does not mean that no one is out to get you applies is not much of a spoiler. 

Meanwhile, Cal entering a (perhaps bewitching) relationship with Jessica greatly upsets Chris, who also may be under a spell of his own. Ambiguity regarding both the incident that brings Cal back to New York and as to the reaction of Chris to his father becoming closer to Jessica is part of what makes "Believers" so awesome. 

The final piece of the puzzle comes courtesy of the elderly academics who taught the dead wife of Cal; back in the day. ANYONE who has watched the MUST-SEE "Rosemary's Baby" or other similar films knows that any (particularly motherly) New Yorker who seems too good to be true probably is not so nice.

In true Hitchcock style, a perceived threat turns out to be a thwarted savior. We also get the common Hitchcockian element of the all-American boy in the film finding himself in peril and Dad rushing to the rescue. In this case. Chris becomes the chosen one in an unpredictable fashion.

The thrilling extended climax is pure Schlesinger. The unexpected twists galore are a treat in this era in which the conclusion of most movies is obvious in the first 15 minutes. Team Schlesinger goes above and beyond in upsetting the apple cart one more time in the final minutes.

The most important takeaway from "Believers" is that it is scary because it mostly could be true. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

'Cherry Grove Stories' DVD: 70 Years of Gay Pride and Prejudice

Breaking Glass Pictures and filmmaker Michael Fisher team up for the sugar daddy of films that embrace the Pride spirit regarding the 2018 Fire Island documentary "Cherry Grove Stories." Queer as folk cinephiles and other friends of Dorothy who missed this movie on the pink film-festival circuit can get it on DVD. 

The broadest relatable bit of this film is the recognition that Pride is about much more than hairless anorexic 18 year-olds only wearing Speedos and roller blades and hirsute far-from-anorexic middle-age men in drag that makes clownesque Mimi from "The Drew Carey Show" look like a natural beauty. Pride primarily is about community and showing that guys who connect with Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now are just as respectable as breeders. 

A similar note that is even more in tune with the theme of "Cherry" is it evoking memories of hearing stories of regulars at JRs Bar in Washington, DC fully toning it down to watch "The Golden Girls" on the bar TV every Saturday night. To those guys at that time, friends as flawed as you in their own way somehow forming a family presents an ideal that endures 30 years later. 

A related tale of the capital city is even the '90s being a time that hearing your named called out in a gay bar can cause angst, especially when the performers provide entertainment that prompts recent crackdowns.  The rest of that story that involves a surprising impromptu high-school reunion is not fit for this family friendlish forum. 

The following YouTube clip of the "Cherry" trailer barely scratches the surface as to the copious vintage clips and titular boys-to-men tales by the guys who enjoyed the heyday of the scene.

The opening scenes consist of the scores of talking heads, who share the dates of their first trip to Cherry Grove. These begin in the post-war years and span to the recent past. 

Our panel of experts also speculate about the origins of the name of the island; one theory is that pirates would set fires to attract prey. Although there does not seem to be definite proof of buccaneers ever calling the island home, it is indisputable that a certain form of pirate favors that locale and will continue doing so for the foreseeable future.  

The titular lore closely reflects societal attitudes toward gay men. The early days especially were a period of liberation during which the guys could more easily socialize, dance together, and do everything else that gay men do together mostly free of legal repression and almost universal disapproval of friends, family, and employers. This is akin to the next generation who could enjoy the community and the celebration of the early days of Pride parades. The classic Lisa Simpson quote "we are used to it" shows that all of us have come a long way, Baby,

Speaking of repression, the folks who were there tell of the distressing ways in which the real world invaded one of the few places that men could openly express their friendship (with or without benefits), love. and lust for each other. Milder forms of this included quickly having to change to a dance partner of the opposite sex when the cops came by.

Worse tactics relate to an aspect of Cherry Grove that be considered the best of times and the worst of times. Men who wanted to hook up in the pre-Grindr era would cruise the Meat Rack just off the beach. (Tales of the lesbian equivalent the Doughnut Rack seem to merely be rural legends.) That cruising area dying off in the Internet Age is one of the many examples of Cherry Grove reflecting the times.

The cops would go beyond well-orchestrated raids. They would handcuff the arrested man (some of whom presumably still were in various states of undress) by the dock for early risers to see. The humiliation would continue with publishing the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of theses boy who just wanted to have fun in the newspaper in an effort to ruin their personal and professional lives. 

On a lighter note, an amusing story that involves the perspective of two persons with a role in a "blocking" incident at the Meat Rack is a "Cherry" highlight. This one comes very close to literally being a case of biting the hand that feeds you. 

The award for best story essentially involves the raconteur discussing essentially having a monkey whom he shocks on his back. The rest of the story involves a form of trauma and drama that is typical of most gay friendships. The pattern is offense provided, offense taken, and then adequately forgiving to maintain the relationship but never forgetting. 

The relate bigger picture is that this labor of love by Fisher helps ensure that this important aspect of gay history never will be forgotten.

A pink film-festival Q & A with Fisher is a highlight of the always special Breaking bonus features. This includes discussing the very apt genesis of the project. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

'How to Stuff A Wild Bikini' BD & DVD: Dwayne Hickman & Annette Funicello Wet Side Story

Olive Film once again simultaneously lives up to its guiding principle "cinema lives here" and proves that we're not worthy with the separate Blu-ray and DVDs releases of two cult classics on June 25, 2019. The 1965 beach-musical "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" is the topic du jour.

The equally good (and equally they don't make 'em like that anymore) occult thriller "The Believers" (1987) is a topic for early next week. Blu-ray does films justice, but the bright and sunny musical "Bikini" particularly looks and sounds spectacular in that format.

Doing "Bikini" any justice at all (pun intended) requires much more space than this forum can provide. Suffice it to so that it has every element (and more) of the beach movies of the '60s. You cannot help but feel good while watching it. This is not to mention the star-studded cast of A- and B-Listers that rivals the ensemble of the 1963 "Cannonball Run" style comedy "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

Comparing "Bikini" to an episode of the wonderfully, zany, madcap kidcom "The Monkees" of the same era provides additional context. Both shows feature the nicest kids in town enjoying the sun and surf of California as they rock out at the drop of a hat while contending with comical villains and square adults. Yes, they are too busy singing to put anybody down. 

The closest modern equivalent is the way-cool movie-within-a-movie "Wet Side Story" that is a major element in the Disney Channel "Teen Beach Movie" franchise starring "Austin and Ally" star/real-life rocker Ross Lynch. The inexcusable delay in releasing the long-promised "Teen Beach Movie 3" is disappointing., 

Veteran beach movie and "Bewitched" director (as well as real-life husband of "Bewitched" star Elizabeth Montgomery) William Asher provides "Stuffed" additional '60scom cred. Further, "Stuffed" centering around the work of Tahitian witch doctor Bwana (Buster Keaton) is only one way that Asher pays homage to his day job. The other connection is too awesome to spoil.

We further get "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" star Dwayne Hickman keeping the TV Land spirit alive. The occasions on which Hickman, as literal man in the gray flannel suit Ricky, breaks the fourth wall evokes wonderful memories of "Gillis."

Beach-movie goddess Annette Funicello rounds out our top three as virtuous beach bunny Dee Dee. This character supports the theory that dames ain't nothin' but trouble.

Our story begins with Dee Dee beau Frankie (Frankie Avalon) serving naval reserve duty in Tahiti; his getting restless with a native girl triggers thoughts that the girl back home may conclude that what is good for the goose may be worth a gander. 

The island girl then brings Frankie to Bwana; the two men strike a not-so-gentlemanly deal whereby Bwana will provide the titular bikini, babe Casandra with which to stuff it as a decoy for the Moondoggies back in Cali, and a deep undercover spy to both keep tabs on Dee Dee and to serve as a rooster blocker. The other side of the bargain is that Frankie makes a daily payment for the rendered services. 

Some of  the rest of the story is that Ricky and madman Peachy Keane (Mickey Rooney) make the scene in the quest to find the girl and the boy next door to be the wholesome image of a motorcycle company. This honor goes to the couple that wins a motorcycle race. Their competition includes reformed biker Eric Von Zipper (beach-movie veteran Harvey Lembeck), who zeros in on Casandra as the one whom he wants. 

Hilarity ensues as Ricky pursues Dee Dee, the beach boys (including Bonehead) woo Casandra, and Von Zipper and his gang enact their evil scheme. 

All of this culminates in the titular contest with strong elements of the cartoon of the era "The Wacky Races." Dirty tricks galore keep the fun going. This leads to the related bestowing of the modeling contract and the right boy getting the girl. One should keep in mind that Frankie getting Annette is not set in stone.

Monday, June 17, 2019

'Return of the Hero' DVD: Hilarious Period Piece of Manners and Lack Thereof

The Icarus Films May 14, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 period-piece comedy "Return of the Hero" fills the void left by Hollywood no longer producing amusing and clever (or at least adequately creative) summer movies. Subtitles aside, "Hero" is so good that you will not even want to look at your phone or other devices while watching it. 

Another awesome aspect of "Hero" is that it shows that writer/director Laurent Tirard is more than a un trick cheval regarding the even more delightful (reviewed) "Nicholas on Holiday" (nee "Petit Nicholas") about the family summer vacation of the titular French school boy. Other "Hero" cred. relates to Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin delivering another award-worthy performance as the titular soldier who is not at Waterloo when Napoleon did surrender. 

This presumably shot-on-location beautiful film begins in 1809 Burgundy. Captaine Charles-Gregoire Neuville seemingly employs his entire personal staff in preparation for froggy goin' a courtin'. The object of his affection is sweet and innocent girl next door Pauline. She lives on a lavish estate with her adoring parents and her less sweet and innocent older sister Elisabeth (Melanie Laurent).

Neuville seals a chaste deal with Pauline just ahead of being called on to defend emperor and country. Like many soldiers before and since, Neuville makes an empty promise to faithfully correspond with Pauline. 

A combination of motives prompt Elisabeth to forge letters from Neuville to Pauline; the responses to that correspondence shows Elisabeth that her little sister is all grown up.

In true farce/classic sitcom style, the scheme of Elisabeth gets out of hand. Circumstances and her creativity result in increasing elaborate and contrived fictional adventures of Neuville that enrapture both Pauline and the rest of the local elite. 

All goes well until the inevitable titular appearance of a filthy and disgraced Neuville in 1812; Elisabeth being the only one to initially know that that boy is back in town helps move the story forward; this plot thickens on Neuville returning after a brief absence and presenting himself as the man in the aforementioned letters. His objectives include wooing a now-married with children Pauline.

Dujardin and Laurent wonderfully play off each other as she must watch him make fools out of those nearest and dearest to her. Neuville further shows that he is no gentleman in using the vulnerability of Elisabeth for his own fun and profit, 

One of many notable moments involves Elisabeth seeming to get the upper-hand on her frienemy. The manner in which Neuville turns that tactic around to his advantage proves that you cannot con a con man. 

The aptly surprising climax that begins with a desperate act leads to a final scene that is very true to the spirit of the film and that is one of the best endings in any film ever. This lesson this time is that we all remain true to our nature. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

'Opportunity Knocks' Blu-ray: Missing Out on This Dana Carvey Comedy Wouldn't Be Prudent

The crystal-clear video and audio of the Mill Creek Entertainment June 4, 2019 B;u-ray release of thje 1990 Dana Carvey comedy "Opportunity Knocks" is a perfect addition to the MCE "I Heart 90s" series" that is a companion to the MCE "Retro VHS" DVD and Blu-ray releases. Other June 4 "90s" releases include the recently reviewed Paul Shore comedy "Jury Duty" and the soon-to-be-reviewed Alicia Silverstone action-adventure comedy "Excess Baggage." 

Just as "Duty" showcases the weasel persona of Shore, "Opportunity" highlights the impish charm of Carvey. The film providing a chance for Carvey to perform his well-known George HW Bush impression is highly predictable. 

The good news regarding both "Duty" and "Opportunity" is that they put entertaining spins on decent tried-and-trued comic concepts. The better news regarding "Opportunity" is that Carvey is extremely likable. 

The figurative 25-words-or-less premise of "Opportunity" is that Carvey plays small-time con-man Eddie Farrell, whose quasi-youthful exuberance earns him both the wrath of a mobster and a belief that Eddie owes that dangerous criminal a great deal of money. In true teencom tradition, this requires that Eddie lay low until the heat is off. His literal insider information that the owner of a luxurious house is on an extended trip. 

Eddie soon makes himself at home until the mother of the homeowner pays a surprise visit. This leads to a wacky misunderstanding in the form of Mom (a.k.a. Mona of Milt and Mona) assuming that Eddie is housesitter Jonathan Albertson. The rest of the story is that Albertson is a business whiz kid who is the former college roommate of the homeowner.

The first film homage is to the 1983 Eddie Murphy comedy "Trading Places." The opening scenes in "Opportunity" are of Eddie pulling off the same low level con as the Murphy character. The similarities continue with both characters soon living at least some semblance of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

The other homage is more central to "Opportunity." Ala the Tom Hanks character in the 1988 classic "Big," Carvey is a man-child learning to play with the grown-ups. The similarities continue with Robert Loggia playing the big-hearted mentor to the quirky guy with the unique perspective, In this case, Loggia is bathroom hand-dryer king Milt, 

Milt brings potential son-in-law (no relation (pun intended) to the Shore film of the same name) in the company and his heart. Of course, a pivotal scene involves Eddie bringing the dryer company executives out of their comfort zone and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

It is equally predictable that nooses start to tighten in on Eddie on both sides. The mob boss tracks him down just as he starts to think that he can permanently enjoy his new life. This pressures Eddie to massively betray the trust of his new family just ahead of the exposure of his scam.

The fact that everyone is wiser and happier and order is restored to the universe in the end is especially appealing in our wildly unpredictably dystopian times. This is so awesome that it alone warrants buying the Blu-ray.

Friday, June 14, 2019

'Orange is the New Black to the Max' S6 DVD & BD: Prisoners of Cell Block C & D

The Lionsgate June 11, 2019 separate DVD & BD release of S6 (a.k.a. "To the Max") of the Netflix women behind bars dramedy "Orange is the New Black" provides a good chance to watch this reformatting of this multi-Emmy winning series from the beginning, It additionally is a good chance to see all the action ahead of the July 27, 2019 release of the S7 episodes. 

Also. aside from not having to worry about Netflix dropping episodes from its service, the enhanced BD images look and sound far better than the streaming versions. This is not to mention the awesome home-video special features that include "Litchfield to the Max" and a gag reel.

The following YouTube clip of the official S6 trailer introduces many of the copious primary themes of the never-a-dull-minute 13 episodes. It also shows why this series warrants comparison to the former Showtime boys behind bars dramedy "Oz."

Our (mostly) season-long story arcs begin one week after the quelling of the S5 riot. Our girls in orange aptly find that they are not in Oz anymore. This involves them facing the challenge of adapting or perishing in their new environments, 

Said different worlds from the ones from which they come are the C, D, and "Florida" cell blocks at their new home. The Jets versus the Sharks mentality as to C  & D begins with the C Block girls initially getting all the relatively good perks and privileges while the D girls are the low women on the totem pole.

The "Florida" residents mostly are the older inmates and include others whose mental states are adequately impaired to get them a spot in this coveted area. The rubs as to this include that some outsiders are willing to kill to create a vacancy in the Sunshine State. "Orange" fans should not be surprised to learn that popular character Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren ends up in Florida and constantly irks the Golden Girls.

A long-standing violent sibling rivalry between C and D block residents Carol and Barbara (Mackenzie Phillips) brings the aforementioned simmering bad blood to a boil. Flashback scenes of the joint crime that gets the sisters labelled "The Little Debbie Killers" and that lands them in the joint are season highlights.  They also shine in all their ruthlessly violent interaction and hilarious dispute regarding an incident at a restaurant where they both worked during high school.

Other drama relates to investigations and related proceedings as to holding prisoners culpable for their actions during the riot and for holding folks on the other side of the bars accountable for what they did and did not do during those events. This is not to mention a hilarious run for the border by one inmate who gets away with a little help from her friend,

One spoiler is that the search for closure regarding the riot is just as likely to involve being satisfied with a convenient truth as it is to strive to meet the ideal of truth, justice, and the American way.

This is not to mention central "Orange" character Piper Chapman contending with the absence of her fellow inmate/fiancee  Alex "Boss" Vause, addict convict Nikki facing renewed Daddy issues, and the guards creating a fantasy league that involves proportionately profiting from convict misbehavior of various degrees of seriousness. 

All of this occurs in the context of season-finale kickball tournament that sets the stage for an epic rumble between the C and the D block inmates. In true "Orange" style, this does not occur as expected.

All of this amounts to "Orange" further fulfilling the theatrical ideal by leaving the audience wanting more; fortunately, S7 provides the payoff regarding that.