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Monday, May 11, 2020

'Gunsmoke 65th Anniversary' CS DVD: What Becomes A Legend Most

Doing justice to the CBS Home Entertainment May 5, 2020 epic CS DVD release of the complete-series 65th Anniversary Edition of the 20-season "Gunsmoke" is impossible as to the limitations of these posts. As such, these musing are based on the first handful of the 1955 episodes and the Final Four from 1975. An awesome aspect of this is that last are just as sublime as the first.

Hope for a better tomorrow that is slightly easing Covid-related angst include thoughts of watching every "Gunsmoke" episode in a post-pandemic world that is more conducive for properly savoring gems from The Golden Age of Television. 

CBSHE shows its usual overall integrity and its love for "TV Land" shows by simultaneously releasing "Gunsmoke" S20 on DVD on May 5, 2020. A major peeve of your not-so-humble reviewer is home-video companies releasing all but one or two seasons of a series and subsequently releasing that program in a CS set that REQUIRES either buying several duplicate seasons or forgoing the whole enchilada.

Sincere advice as to "Gunsmoke" is to treat yo self to the sturdy and stylish CS gift set and pass along individual season sets either to current fans or to "non-believers" who suffer from the past prejudice of your not-so-humble reviewer as to Westerns. "Gunsmoke" is a prime example of oaters being about so much more than cattle rustlers, saloon fights, and high noon showdowns.

The numerous timeless themes, such as prejudice and the conflict between the law and justice, in "Gunsmoke" evoke thoughts of a fellow TV Land classic. Comedy deity Carol Burnett has said in a recent interview that her eponymous variety show aces the test of time because funny always is funny.

"Gunsmoke" also reflects the wisdom of another couch potato god. The wisdom of Garry Marshall as to "Happy Days" is that a sitcom that is made in the '70s and the '80s that is set in the '50s never will look dated. The expertly digitally remastered "Gunsmoke" episodes that make even the S1 offerings look and sound crisp and clean validates the Marshall Plan.

S1E1, which is in awesomely sharp black-and-white and is 30-minutes. starts with an A-List endorsement that the syndicated version likely omits. The opening scene is of western movies legend John Wayne praising the work of James Arness, who plays U.S. Marshall Matt Dillon in all 20 seasons of "Gunsmoke," in this new series. 

Another twist is that S1E1 next opens in a manner that seems to disappear within a few episodes. We hear voice-over narration of Dillon pontificating as he walks through the cemetery on the hill above his home turf of Dodge City, Kansas. 

S1E1 then sets a tone to which the series remains true for two decades. This one revolves (pun intended) quick-draw Dan Grat facing justice for gunning down a man whom Grat did not know was unarmed when he acted with extreme prejudice. Grat going on to plug Dillon early in their first contact is one of likely hundreds of times that Dillon takes one for the team during the run of the season.

A young but still cranky Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), who is with "Gunsmoke" to the far-from-bitter end, is on hand to patch up Dillon and to fail to persuade him to let his wounds properly heal before returning to work. Long-time saloon owner Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), who gets out of Dodge in S19, also is on the scene. Watching her pursue a largely unresponsive Dillon is odd from the perspective of their subsequent close relationship with probable benefits. 

Although deputy Chester (Dennis Weaver) is on the payroll, it is surprising to see him be not-so-dedicated and to have a contentious relationship with the boss. Comic relief deputy Festus (Ken Curtis), who is the Barney Fife of "Gunsmoke," is not yet in Dodge. 

The next few S1 episodes further test the value of Dillon and his inner circle. These include convincing "upstanding" citizens that a neer-do-well will receive justice of a variety other than the frontier kind to which he is most deserving. 

The beginning of the end, which is brilliant living color and is a full hour, has Festus front-and-center when a prisoner transfer leads to his contributing sweat equity to the building of a church that an older pastor wants to build for members of a tribe that only recently has made peace with the settlers that oppose that project. 

"Manolo" continues the long history, including an S19 episode about Jewish settlers sticking to their own values, of cultural sensitivity that is a common "Gunsmoke" theme. This time the story centers around a group of Basque shepherds maintaining a coming-of-age tradition that conditions a son becoming a man on administering his father a major beatdown. As we learn, this practice does not make any allowance for pacifists. 

Team Dillon wraps up their saga-length run with the aptly titled "The Sharecroppers." This one also features Festus, who is conned into working the land despite being the injured party as to a duped innocent being tricked into buying the beloved mule of Festus. This truly leaves the audience wanting more and provides a strong sense that life in Dodge continues the same after the production team  rides off into the sunset.

Much of the fun of "Gunsmoke" is akin to watching "The Love Boat" in that virtually every past, current, and future television star  (as well as a few film stars) who is a SAG member during the run of the series guest stars. Bette Davis arguably is the most notable one; we also get Ron Howard, David Wayne, Joan Van Ark, Bruce Boxleitner, etc.

The plethora of special features include the CBSHE staple of episodes promos. We also get a tribute to Arness and  a very special feature that is a discussion with "Gunsmoke" experts Ben Costello and Beckey Burgoyne. 

The bottom line this time is that the truly do not make 'em like this anymore. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

'Alastair Sim's' School for Laughter' BD: Fantastic Four of Classic British Comedies

The Film Movement Classics April 14, 2020 Blu-ray release of "Alastair Sim's School for Laughter" awesomely continues this division of art-house god Film Movement giving timeless British comedies their due. This release also expands the Classics catalog of Ealing Films that are reviewed in the Movement section of this site. 

The scope of "Laughter" is akin to the recent (equally bonus-features laden) Classics BD collection "Their Finest Hour." This reviewed set of five films showcases Ealing WWII- themed productions that include the original version of "Dunkirk." 

The following Classics trailer for "Laughter" expertly schools viewers in each of the films in a manner that showcases the wonderful deadpan humor of Sim, who arguably is best known for his standard-setting portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol." 

The fun begins with the wonderfully titled farce "The Belles of St. Trinian's" (1954). Sim plays the dual roles of the headmistress of the titular girls' boarding school and her neer-do-well brother. The success of Sim in pulling off this feat is one of many examples of this skills in this set.

The overall theme of the "Belles" is that the student body is comprised of a group of feral females that strikes fear in the hearts of the locals. For her part, headmistress Millicent Fritton must contend with both the wolves of Wall Street constantly at her door looking for loan payments and a faculty that is comprised of a highly disgruntled rogues' gallery.

These factors (in addition to the new "Eastland" girls) converge in a perfect comedic storm that drives much of the "Belles" action. A faction that figuratively has a horse in the race is competing with another faction that literally and figuratively has a horse in the same contest.

The central conflict results in there being a dorm resident who is a real nag. 

Next up is the original "School  for Scoundrels" (1960). This wonderfully dark comedy has Sim shining as Stephen Potter, who runs the titular "College of Lifemanship" that teaches decent folks who repeatedly are victimized by "scoundrels" to learn how to get the larger end of the stick.

"Scoundrel" Delauney (Terry-Thomas of "Munster, Go Home" fame) repeatedly being the Bluto (or Brutus) to the Popeye of Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) prompts the latter to engage in continuing education so that he can school his rival and regain the primary affection of "Olive Oyl."

Although the dead-pan classroom aspects of "School" are highly entertaining, the best scenes are the "before" and "after" ones between Delauney and Palfrey. Watching these men alternatively get the upper-hand over the other is timeless classic comedy.

The bonus features include an charming and insightful modern interview with a film critic. 

"Laughter in Paradise" (1951) arguably has the most social commentary in this quartet. Sim plays one of four potential heirs in this variation of both versions of "Brewster's Millions." The right of each named beneficiary in the will to collect his or her share of the loot is conditioned on completing a 28-day task that is directly contrary to his or her nature. 

The mission of secret pulp-fiction novelist Denniston Russell (Sim) is to commit an offense that will make him a guest of the Queen until 28 days later. Watching him question local law-enforcement as to what crime will result in that specific amount of time is amusing. A shoplifting effort that goes comically awry is hilarious. 

Classics aptly wraps things up with "Hue and Cry" (1947), which is the first Ealing comedy. Sim once again plays a paperback writer, whose fiction provides the basis for actual heists by a criminal gang. This tale centers around a teen Hardy boy and his gang that must thwart the bad guys on their own.

The surprise ending truly is that. The less good news is that it involves a serious beatdown of our excitable boy, who already has experienced undue physical and emotional batterings in his quest for truth, justice, and the English way. 

Classics supplements this with trailers and "behind-the-scenes" features on the films. We also get the usual, but far from typical, written essay on the topic du set. ​

Monday, April 27, 2020

'Top 3' DVD: Animated Tale of Young Gay Romantic

The TLA Releasing March 10, 2020 DVD release of the cute and charming 2019 animated film "Top 3" is an amusing tale of the course of the first relationship of a young gay romantic. This amusing creatively drawn movie from Sweden with love tale clearly shows that love may not be enough to keep us together.

Anton, who is a student in his early 20s, has a habit of composing the titular short lists. These include things such as whom to tell the first time that you do not go home for Christmas, excuses for not going out on a Friday night during a low period, and the notable things to not do on your last night with your future ex-boyfriend. 

Anton experiences love at first sight on meeting younger-man David at the library near the end of the undergraduate studies of our hopeless romantic. This leads to a sweet courtship despite the resentment of Anton's hag Miriam.

David turning Japanese when his mother moves to Tokyo is the first trauma that causes drama for our leading queen, This leads to a summer of love at the rural home of the grandmother of Anton. This honeymoon period ending is the second bump in the relationship of these nice young men. 

Although these guys presumably have plenty of happy endings, the primary obstacle to them enjoying happily ever after is their different outlooks. Anton speaks for many of us all along the Kinsey Scale in stating that he does not want David to make a significant sacrifice today only to deeply resent his highly significant other a decade from now. 

This being a Swedish film and (presumably) not being one that airs on Logo results in there not being a guarantee of a Hollywood ending. It is guaranteed that the boys (and many viewers) will be older and wiser. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

'Is Anybody Listening' DVD: Timely Documentary on Empathetic Support

The Indiepix Films DVD of the 2014 documentary "Is Anybody Listening" sadly has become highly relevant in our dystopian times that being under house arrest has greatly exasperated. The film discusses the non-profit Listen to a Veteran that "Anybody" writer/narrator Paula J. Caplan operates to give veterans a listening post in the form of open pair of ears and a shut mouth. The overall concept is that veterans know that even civilians with the best intentions in the world cannot understand serving in combat or even being a member of the armed forces. 

The following Indiepix trailer for "Listening" expertly conveys the solid theme and tone of the film.

Listen is the result of Caplan realizing after several retellings over many years that she merely was hearing her father tell the story of his experience as the leader of an all-black group of soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Her valid reasoning is that picturing her father going through that is highly traumatic. One of those soldiers participating in "Anybody" adds a great deal to the film. 

Caplan, who is a psychologist, also understands that veterans are unfairly stigmatized. She states that the conventional false wisdom is that anyone who wants to join the military does so out of a desire to kill. The rest of this inaccurate story is that having to kill and experience the other negative aspects of military life creates a mental illness. The stable and articulate veterans who participate in "Anybody" show that both perceptions are false. 

One especially likable veteran discussing the impact of military life hits a highly personal note that is relatable to most of us. A friend has kindly stated as to my concerns regarding the perception of my behavior during a long period of torment that I was reasonably acting in response to an unreasonable situation, The epilogue to this is choosing my current home because it on a corner lot facing away from other houses; I drive into the attached garage and have nothing to do with the neighbors. 

The bigger picture as to all this is that many of us avoiding "listening" to what we do not want to hear and that all of us need a caring judgmental person to take that hit. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

'Holiday' DVD: High Times' Vacation

The striking images and related spectacular cinematography in the Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 drama "Holiday" alone justify adding this film to your home-video collection. It also makes one wonder why Breaking does not spring for a Blu-ray release. 

The festival love for this entertaining tale of the trophy girlfriend of an abusive drug lord includes numerous top honors. These accolades include Best Picture at the 2018 Austin Fantastic Fest and Best Director at the 2018 Nordic International Film Festival, 

The following YouTube clip of a "Holiday" trailer does not do the style of the film justice but does provide a strong sense of the misogynistic elements and the counter-balancing theme of material girls with blonde ambition considering the boy with the cold hard cash to always be Mr. Right despite the cost of the relationship.

Early scenes have our heroine (pun intended) Sascha getting called out on a damsel-in-distress routine on the cusp of the extended titular vacation with aforementioned pusher Michael, This trip is to pimped-out villa in Bodrum on the Turkish Riviera, Their travel companions are the business associates of Michael and the significant others and children of those legitimate businessmen. 

Although lounging in the sun, playing games at the arcade, and clubbing is fun, Sascha soon learns the same lesson as her "sisters" that anyone who "marries" for money pays a high price for enjoying the lifestyles of the rich and loathsome. This includes having to put out on demand and dealing with a man whose temper (and temperament) essentially precludes finding someone to stick around out of love.

One of the best and most telling "Holiday" scenes has a bored Michael sitting in the bitch husband chair at a jewelry store while Sascha shops. This kept woman selecting emerald earrings aptly provides her a sense that she is not in Kansas anymore. Another way of looking at this is that it shows the intersection of her grasping greed and the combination of the lust of Michael and his desire to have a status symbol other than a tattoo on his arm. 

More drama enters the picture when Sascha strikes up an unsanctioned relationship with a yachting type. Handsome and kind sailor Thomas shares an intimate moment with Sascha, and both of them want more than a one evening stand. This prompts a jealous Michael to lure Thomas to the villa under false pretenses. The feral aspects of that evening show the true natures of both men.

The climax follows when Sascha plays a booty call gone wrong on Thomas; this leads to her becoming a girl interrupted who truly is dazed and confused. This adds to the morality tale aspect of this beautiful and compelling film. 

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.