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Sunday, July 31, 2016

'Schneider vs Bax' DVD Best Dark Hitman Caper Ever

SCHNEIDER VS. BAX DVD & Online Streaming
The Unreal TV theme of new DVD releases filling the voids left at movie theaters continues with discussing the August 2, 2016 Film Movement DVD release of the 2015 Dutch action comedy "Schneider vs. Bax." This twist in this one is that family guy/covert hitman reluctantly takes on an easy assignment gone comically awry.

The film opens with the oblivious wife and young daughters of Schneider waking him on his birthday with a song and a gift. Plans for him to spend the day at home change on client Mertens telephoning with an urgent assignment to kill Bax. The first selling point is that Bax is almost literally a sitting duck in his cabin among the reeds in a marsh area. The second point of persuasion is that Bax is a child killer who will murder again if not stopped.

For his part, illegal substances afficiendo Bax begins his day roughly hustling his belle du jour out the door ahead of the arrival of his adult manic depressive daughter. Suffice it to say that dark hilarity ensues.

Notable bits of mayhem include Bax awesomely putting an adversary in his place, the wife  of Schneider calling at inopportune times, and the daughter of Bax and other visitors getting into the act.

The ensuing complications are too awesome to spoil but involve protected wetlands, a middle-aged prostitute, and a highly entertaining double cross. There truly is not a dull moment.

The skilled portrayal of Bax as an abusive lover, a frustrated author, a concerned father whose solution for depression involves the aforementioned illegal substances, and a man with yet another dark side is attributable to "Schneider" writer/director Alex van Warmrdam playing that role.

"Schneider" works because it adequately remains in the realm of possibility regarding the characters and the situations that they encounter. Many of us have dysfunctional families, and it is easy to imagine most of the events that cause Schneider to have a bad day at work. Further, van Warmrdam executes (pun intended) the pacing well.

As mentioned above, this film satisfies the movie-going appetite for good action comedy that the remakes, sequels, and vehicles for household names is leaving unmet.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Schneider" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, July 29, 2016

'The Killing' S2 DVD: Serial Killer, Military Cover up, and Lund Oh My

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This awesome Australian DVD set, which has not been released in America, will not play on a standard U.S. DVD player. Watching it requires a well-worth buying international player.]

This coverage of the second season of the Danish version of "The Killing," which is the winner of several International Emmy and many other awards, is the second in a series of three on the Madman Entertainment DVD set of the trilogy of "Killing" seasons. These reviews also are part of coverage of the Madman "Nordic Noir" releases that includes the Madman complete series set of the (also reviewed) three-season Swedish/Danish version of "The Bridge."

S2 of "Killing" retains the most compelling elements of the first season in the context of a very different type of case. S2 further has numerous similarities with S1 of "Bridge"

"Killing" S1 revolves around abrasive but effective Copenhagen police detective Sarah Lund investigating the murder of a late-teens woman. S2 commences with Lund exiled as a result of her actions. Aptly named police detective Ulrik Strange seeks her out and recruits her to consult on the murder of an attorney with a military connection.

A second murder of a victim with the same military connection as the attorney and related evidence of terrorist activity by a Muslim group fully sets the S2 drama in motion. The mystery extends beyond the identity of  the serial killer to whether these crimes relate to a military cover-up, rather than terrorist activity.

The government tie-in shifts from the department of education in S1 to the Justice Ministry in S2. Newly (and reluctantly) appointed Minister of Justice Thomas Buch begins his own investigation as part of negotiations regarding a government policy on terrorism. Similar to S1, the efforts of Buch reveals evidence of corruption and other misconduct at all levels of government.

The family element that provides the third perspective in "Killing" in S2 revolves around former squad leader Jens Peter Raben and his wife Louise. The claims of Raben of his team witnessing a Danish military intelligence officer brutalizing an Afghani family in their home in that country has earned Raben confinement in a mental institution and apparently having literally no hope for parole.

In true "Killing" style, each episode roughly consists of one day of the investigation. Each day also typically brings a new suspect and related action by Lund that threatens her professional status. These outing additionally pose a related threat to the political career of the government official who becomes embroiled in the investigation. One difference this time is that Raben is a more active participant than the father of the victim around whom S1 revolves.

The S2 season-ending climax also follows the S1 pattern of a uber-dramatic showdown between Lund and the perpetrator. In the spirit of sequels, this one is more intense than the S1 confrontation.

The quality and nature of "Killing" make it an ideal summertime marathon series; aside from being a darn sight better than "Zoo," it easily passes the one-more test when it is too darn hot for you and your brother to venture outside.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Killing" or "Bridge" is strongly encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

DVD Viewing Guide for Summer of Discontent

This belated post on picks for summertime DVD viewing is particularly apt for a year that ends decades of watching broadcast and cable network fare. Defective Tivos frying both a plasma television and the six-month-old replacement of that set prompted abandoning those devices after more than a decade of using them. The copious commercials, inability to fast-forward, need to start over if stopping a viewing in the middle of a program, highly limited fare, and short window for viewing episodes made Verizon On Demand a pitifully poor substitute.

Recently moving into a home with ample room to organize a library that likely exceeds 10,000 DVD sets facilitated adding a third Blu-ray player to the primary television set-up and leaving current broadcast and cable shows behind.

The strongest recommendation for the summer unfortunately requires an international DVD player. The good news is rumor has it that a CD-ROM drive on a computer can easily be adapted to play DVDs that are coded other than the Northern American Region One for this format.

  • Malcolm In The Middle: The Complete Collection Box Set - Seasons 1-7 [DVD] [2000]

Revisiting the hilarious 2000-2006 Bryan Cranston Foxcom "Malcolm in the Middle" has been a delight. The variation on the family sitcom this time is that the titular "Jan" of the Wilkerson clan is a child genius in a family of moronic and/or sadistic parents and brothers. Malcolm and his bros constantly engaging in hilariously destructive stunts contributes additional humor. Bombing a performance of rapping grannies with Diapers of Mass Destruction is a highlight.

Cloris Leachman as especially bitter Old World grandmother Ida is a particular treat. An episode in which Ida keeps a wealthy man drugged so that he will marry her is one of shining moments that also include telling 21 year-old rebellious slacker son Francis that he does not have anything between his legs.

Product Details
A chronological viewing of the "Star Trek" series coming to the Clinton-era "Star Trek: Voyager" just as the presidential primary season wrapped up iss an awesome coincidence. Current "Orange is the New Black" star Kate Mulgrew playing the very butch Captain Janeway prompts referring to this show as "Hillary." Having the second officer assert an American Indian heritage further contributes to hilarity during viewings. Product Details
Being virgin blood regarding "The Vampire Diaries" reflects both the scifi/fantasy tone of much of the summer viewing and the value of DVDs. This format allows watching episodes at an individual pace without having to worry about Internet connections or whether a subscribed-to streaming service will lose the license to provide the series.

The amusing teen angst of this show about a human girl and feuding 150 year-old brothers prompts references to "Pretty Little Vampires" and "Dracula's Creek."Product Details
"Vampire" star (and "Laws of Attraction" scene stealer) Ian Somerhalder also stars in the cult ABC hit "Lost," which is the series of choice for every other day summertime elliptical machine workouts. The similarity of this viewing habit to a "The Simpsons" episode is purely coincidental.

The fun here relates to the "I know something you don't know" aspect of recognizing the significance of events as they happen on this lore-laden series about airplane crash survivors on a mystical island.

A '60s-centric list in not particular order of all-time favorite "desert island" complete series sets based on the programs themselves, the extras, and the packaging of the set is:

1.  "Get Smart"
2. "The Flintstones"
3.  "Lost in Space" (Blu-ray set)
4.  "Batman" '66  (Blu-ray set)
5. "The Twilight Zone"

Anyone with questions or comments regarding this list is encouraged to either email me or or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

'Lazer Team' DVD: 'Community' Meets RvB

  • Lazer Team
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Unreal TV will run an interview with angry young man/ Rooster Teeth god/"Lazer Team" star Michael Jones the first week of August 2016.]

The August 2, 2016 Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD release of the Rooster Teeth Productions (i.e., the guys behind the legendary long-running (and Unreal TV reviewed) web series "Red v. Blue" RvB) nicely compensates for the absence of summer comedies that rely on good goofy humor. This coming from the same guys who build RvB around adding animation and teen boy humor to footage from military-style video games is not surprising. One can only help that the cocky boys of Rooster follow up this inaugural effort at a feature-length film with similar fare.

The following YouTube clip of "Team" does a good job presenting the premise of the film and sharing some highlights. Omitted great bits include one of the dorks hilariously adopting a British accent and the aforementioned angry Jersey boy in full swagger.

The titular team is a group of small Texas town losers whose knuckleheaded antics inadvertently get them possession of alien tech. that humans need to fight off big bads from outer space. This group (played by Teeth principals) consists of comically inept and proportionately disrespected Deputy Hagen (Burnie Burns) , uber-arrogant high school QB Zach (Michael Jones), badly aging former high school football star (and Hagen teammate) Herman (Colton Dunn), and geeky high school waterboy Woody (Gavin Free). Woody being a fairly close clone of "special" soldier Caboose of RvB is one of nearly countless ways that "Team" seems like an awesome-live action version of that completely CGI series.

The RvB vibe continues with several video-game style battles that come complete with bickering and wisecracks among the team. This is not to mention the numerous online elements in this film in which YouTube plays a major role.

The primary earth-based foe of this group is super-soldier Adam, whom the Army has been training for this mission since his early childhood. His resentment extends beyond having the team hi-jack his literally one goal in life to having them represent everything that he despises.

The core group consisting of losers of varying ages spouting pop culture references and regularly reminding each other of their failures evokes thoughts of the awesome mid-2000s Must-See NBC sitcom "Community." They even have a black guy as the former high school football hero.

The Teeth style really shows through regarding the nature of the alien gear, which is based on the powers of the Greek gods. Boots give the wearer super speed, a helmet bestows extraordinary intelligence, a shield repels anything literally thrown at it, and an arm band shots lasers.

The net (pun intended) result of all this is just over 90 minutes of teen boy-oriented fun that is clever and goofy enough to also appeal to the rest of us.

The special features include deleted and extended scenes, blooper, and a breakdown of the effects in the film.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Team" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

'Grantham & Rose' DVD Jake T. Austin's 'Showgirls'

  • Grantham & Rose
The July 26, 2016 Monarch Home Entertainment DVD release of the (most likely PG-13) drama "Grantham & Rose" is notable for being the equivalent of the adult-oriented film "Showgirls" starring former "Saved By the Bell" star Elizabeth Berkley. The portrayal by Austin of (often shirtless) blue-haired semi-hardened 17 year-old delinquent clearly is his effort to show that he no longer is little brother Max Russo of the Disney Channel kidcom "The Wizards of Waverly Place." 

The following trailer nicely shows the dynamic between our main characters in the context of a fairly comprehensive synopsis of the film.

The crimes of young offender Grantham in response to his hard-knock life has landed him in a St. Louis juvenile detention facility where he is far from a model prisoner. He soon comes to the attention of volunteer social worker Rose, whom '70scom veteran Marla Gibbs of "The Jeffersons" plays with unexpected but effective restraint. 

The dedicated but highly eccentric Rose  determines that the best way to get through to Grantham is to coerce him into accompanying her on a road trip to Atlanta, which is a former home of both of them. 

Grantham soon becoming a literal partner-in-crime with "older woman" 20-something Wallis results in her joining this reverse "Driving Miss Daisy" duo on their road trip that they hope will be bountiful. Wallis having as much emotional baggage as her travelling companions helps her fit in.

Highlights of the trip include this group consisting of an elderly black woman, an emo teen boy trying to act gangsta, and a free-spirit 20-something woman requesting a motel room with one bed, Rose slowly revealing her interesting life experiences, and the typical arguments associated with having an elderly and a teen driver vying for control of the car.

Austin does a decent job as Grantham. We believe him as a troubled kid with a fairly smart mouth and unrealized potential but do not get caught up in his rare moments of youthful exuberance or deeply connect with him, Gibbs does better in playing Rose as a strong-willed woman who has reached an age where she feels entitled to say and do as she pleases.

The fact that all this plays out like a Hallmark Channel movie is not a bad thing. It holds your interest, has good movements and provides a look at the current careers of Austin and Gibbs.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Grantham" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, July 25, 2016

'The Greatest Ears in Town: The Arif Mardin Story' DVD: Music Producer is True Turkish Delight

  • The Greatest Ears In Town: The Arif Mardin Story
The Film Movement July 26, 2016 DVD release of the Grammy-nominated documentary "The Greatest Ears in Town: The Arif Mardin Story" is the latest in an ongoing series of Movement releases of non-fiction films about notable modern artists.

"Mardin" is most closely related to the (Unreal TV reviewed) documentary "Imber's Left Hand." The scope of these films respectively deal with the effort of record producer Mardin to record a late-in-life album and for painter Jon Imber to be as active as possible before his ALS renders him completely inert. Further, each movie shows how the peers of the subject greatly love and respect him.

The comprehensive biographical scope of "Mardin" includes an extensive discussion of his childhood as the son of a very prominent Turkish family, his coming to America to study at the Berklee College of Music, his charmingly unique courtship with his wife, and his influence on his son.

The seemingly literal cast of 1,000s of current and future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members handle the roughly 85-percent of the film that discusses the career of this man who is known for collaborating with musicians while also giving them the freedom to do what they best know how to do. This tribute begins with footage of the '60s rock group The Rascals performing the hit "People Got to be Free" that Mardin produces. The legions of rockers who contribute modern interviews to "Mardin" includes an original Rascal.

We additionally hear from the horses' mouths how Mardin changes the music style of the BeeGees, creates the "Chaka Khan Chaka Khan" lyric, makes stars out of Hall & Oates, forms close professional collaborations with Starbucks faves Jewel and Norah  Jones, etc.

We additionally hear from the Divine Miss M herself both in the form of reminiscing about her collaborations with Mardin and in performing the song that gives the documentary its name. This performance is as much a love letter to Mardin as is Midler singing to Johnny Carson during his final night as the host of "The Tonight Show."

Aretha Franklin earns the award for most entertaining contributor; she is quite lively and clearly has exceptionally tremendous respect for Mardin; the documentarians save the best of her for last regarding a segment featuring her that appears during the closing credits.

Like "Imber's," a love fest near the end of "Mardin" provides an awesome climax. In this case, it is "We Are the World" style star-studded recording session of "All My Friends Are Here." The most notable difference between this and "World" is that there is no need to remind the singers to check their egos at the door regarding this genuine labor of love.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mardin" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Danish/Swedish Version 'The Bridge' S1 DVD Awesome Nordic Noir Follow-up to 'The Killing'

These initial musings regarding the Madman Entertainment DVD release of all three seasons of the joint Danish/Swedish production of the original "The Bridge" series aptly spans the recent Unreal TV review of S1 of the original Danish version of "The Killing" and an upcoming review of S1 of fellow Nordic noir series "The Protectors" from the Madman catalog.

Like "The Killing," the 2011 S1 of "Bridge" focuses on a a single case and builds to an exciting showdown-driven climax as the numerous red herrings give way to the actual perpetrator. In the case of the former, this is especially unexpected and terrifically dark. The series additionally have U.S. remakes in common.

"Bridge" opens with a grisly body dump right on the Danish/Swedish border on the Oresund Bridge. This choice of location leads to forming a joint task force consisting of detectives and officers from Malmo, Sweden and Copenhagen.

The case very quickly blossoms into a complete psychotic circus in which the killer is identified as the "Truth Terrorist" and goes online and communicates with a journalist.This crusade is designed to draw attention to five societal problems that the killer illustrates with perverse crimes throughout S1.

Said commentary include that not everyone is equal under the law, that governments do not provide proper mental health services, and that immigrants are treated as second-class citizens within every sense of that word. Said offenses include slowly bleeding out a mentally ill man and targeting homeless people. Our villain additionally engages in copious other mayhem.

Swedish detective Saga Noren is a wonderful variation of Dane Sarah Lund from "The Killing." Where Lund has a family and knows how to play nice but chooses to not do so when she feels it is necessary, loner Saga (who well may have a dragon tattoo) clearly lacks any sense of how to play nicely with others and does not care to learn. This includes beginning her relationship with partner-in-crime solving Martin Rohde by filing an administrative complaint against him and not grasping the human element of interacting with anyone else. This awesome bluntness really comes through in a scene in which the response of Saga to learning that someone considers her a MILF is to calmly reply that she does not have children.

Similarly Martin Rohde is a slightly darker version of fellow Dane Jan Meyer in "The Killing." Although lacking the same type of hostility with Saga that exists between Sarah and Jan, Martin has a troubled family life that his 18 year-old son from his first of two marriages exacerbates. This detective also has a pattern of marital misconduct that proves to be integral to the case.

"Bridge" particularly shines in narrowing its focus and increasing its already apt pace in the final three of ten S1 episodes. The killer reacts in proportionate to the police closing in on him, and the stakes become personal.

Although not final, "Bridge" and the other two noir series provide a solution to the problem of summertime viewing options being particularly dismal. These series are perfect appointment and binge programs.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Bridge" or the other series is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Friday, July 22, 2016

'Sons of Ben' VOD/DVD Awesome Doc on Fans Creating Philadelphia Union Soccer Team

The true love of Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States that le film du jour reflects extends beyond the subject of the new Rothbury Road Productions documentary "Sons of Ben," which tells of die-hard soccer fans in Philadelphia campaigning to bring a professional team to their city. Gravitas Ventures is coinciding the July 22, 2016 DVD and VOD releases of this awesome film with the start of the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Week.

This timing additionally is apt regarding preceding Democratic hooligans descending on the City of Brotherly Love (and the setting for the horribly maligned '70s Donna Pescow/Robert Hays/Doris Roberts sitcom "Angie.") for their convention. Sanders supporters may out hooligan the most die-hard "football" fan.

It is equally awesome that the appeal of "Sons" extends well beyond sports fans in the same manner that the 1998-2000 Aaron Sorkin sitcom "Sports Night" is a hilarious program that just happens to be set in an ESPN-style newsroom. Each of the founding fathers is a likable guy with whom one would love to have a Philly cheese steak and a Tasty Kake krimpet.

"Sons" tells how soccer mania in the wake of holding the 1994 World Cup in the United States leads to both forming the MLS and to "ordinary bloke" Bryan James and a few other soccer fans beginning their campaign to bring a professional team to Philadelphia. In the spirit of Philadelphia native son Rocky Balboa, this group does not give up even after MLS expansion bypasses their city and Mrs. James becomes increasingly annoyed regarding the amount of time that Bryan is devoting to the SOBs.

One of the most interesting members is a guy who uses the group as a positive outlet for his physical and mental energy as part of his effort to overcome a substance abuse problem. Other SOBs simply love the game and the group. Their discussing their grass root efforts show that they engage in that activity in the truest sense of the word.

One of the most interesting segments in this "its already over?!" film depicts creating the logo of this group that adopts Philadelphia celebrity Ben Franklin as their inspiration. The multiple Franklin elements include a kite, a lightning bolt, and the crack in the Liberty Bell.

Documentarian Jeffrey C. Bell additionally shows the international attention that the SOBs attract. the role of sports executive Nick Sakiewicz in the campaign, and the political and economic aspects of creating a new sports franchise. We further get a look at the inner-city community of Chester, Pennsylvania 20 miles from Philadelphia.

The personal and group ups-and-downs during the campaign for give Philadelphia soccer fans something about which to genuinely cheer will suck in those of us whom "Rocky" (and even "Rudy") merely bore silly. The "characters" are real people whose dedication is infectious. A perfect example of this is seeing "little Fitzy" lead a large group of SOBs in their most daring escapade.

On a larger level, this is a feel-good movie at a time that blockbusters and the real world provide very little reason for optimism. As this review repeatedly indicates, you will want Philadelphia to get a soccer team even if you have zero interest in the game.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Sons" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

'The Outsider' BD: Idealist Out of Vietnam Frying Pan Into IRA Fire

  • Outsider [Blu-ray]
The recent Olive Films Blu-ray release of the 1980 drama "The Outsider" provides an opportunity to  discover this post-Vietnam current Iranian hostage era film that is a great example of the movies of that period that include an important lesson and that show that a Hollywood ending is optional. The titular misfit is Micheal Flaherty, who is a disillusioned Vietnam vet who seeks alternative fulfillment with the IRA only to not have that work out so well either. The primary issue that time is that he is an Irish-American in a land of "true" Irishmen.

We first meet Michael and the lads on a relatively safe mission relatively far behind the enemy lines in their war. This role of Michael in this successful effort further cements his status as a good and loyal soldier in a struggle regarding which he arguably is one degree of separation. His subsequent active participation in trying a judge with apparent biases further shows the commitment of Michael to the cause.

The audience further soon learns that the motivation of Michael extends well beyond the nature of the current war. The war stories of his grandfather regarding the early days of "the troubles" tremendously inspire his crusade.

As is typical in any war, foot soldier Michael ultimately becomes the victim of circumstances that should not have anything to do with him. The British government using the collateral damage in the form of the death of children during a clash with the IRA prompts IRA leaders to plot to facilitate British soldiers killing Michael. The reasoning behind this is that the United States will support the IRA if the conflict claims the life of an American citizen.

The initial step in the IRA plot is to transfer Michael to the front lines of Belfast. He soon sees Magenta (this will be hilarious on watching the film) on first still being kept on the sidelines and later becoming disillusioned with his adopted cause.

The ultimate betrayal at the end of the film concludes "Outsider" on an aptly cynical note. Suffice it to say, we genuinely feel the pain of Ben.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "The Outsider" is strongly encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

'The Ratings Game' BD: 'Lost' Masterpiece from Danny DeVito & Showtime

  • Ratings Game [Blu-ray]
Olive Films continues establishing itself as a spectacular source of the best cult films out there with the July 19, 2016 Blu-ray (BD) release of the 1984 comedy "The Ratings Game" 30 years after this directorial debut of Danny DeVito has seen the light of day. This film is notable as well as the first made-for-pay-TV movie to air on Showtime.

The essay that is part of the awesome booklet on "Game" that the BD includes explains that Showtime effectively takes an "its not TV" approach in selecting its first original movie. The primary criteria is that this be one that the broadcast networks would not air. This is two years before Showtime brings us the hysterically creative "It's Garry Shandling Show."

"Ratings" further reflects the expansion in quantity (and proportional decrease in quality) as the fledgling cable industry scrambles for content; "Ratings" gives rise to theatrical films, such as the John Ritter/Pam Dawber movie "Stay Tuned" and the Weird Al project "UHF," that center around parodies of television genres.

The subversive premise of "Game" is that New Jersey trucking magnate turned aspiring Hollywood television producer Vic DeSalvo is hysterically peddling horrendous ideas for television shows, such as the "Three's Company" rip-off "Sittin' Pretty," around the established networks only to universally be escorted out by security. 

Not accepting that resistance is futile regarding all this rejection, DeSalvo cons his way into the office of an executive at the blackpoltation UPN-caliber (a.k.a. Underpaid N) MBC network. (MBC even has a 'Diff'rent Strokes"/"Webster" clone series.) The perfect timing of that meeting results in the MBC executive buying "Pretty" for a hysterical reason.

In typical DeVito fashion, DeSalvo finds a way to counter the tactic of the network president to limit the airing of "Pretty" to a pilot. MBC scheduling said pilot to air opposite a World Series game prompts DeSalvo to successfully rig the television ratings so that his show beats the baseball game.

The cynicism behind that successful ploy and the resulting "success" of "Pretty" and orders for several other DeSalvo shows reflects the desire of Showtime for a "not TV" movie. Two of the "best" DeSalvo shows are "Nunzio's Girls" about a pimp and his three hos and the even more offensive "Goombas" cartoon series about a stereotypical working-class Italian family.

Long-time DeVito spouse (and "Cheers" star) Rhea Perlman costars as Francine, the abused ratings company employee who facilitates the scam. As she points out, the reality in the pre-streaming and DVR '80s is that a relatively miniscule number of ratings families essentially dictates what the networks air. Actual quality is completely irrelevant. 

The audience additionally gets the treat of seeing a plethora of current and future (mostly NBC) television stars in cameo roles. The earliest notable one is Jerry Seinfeld as a network executive who hilariously tells DeSalvo which concepts are selling that season. One spoiler is that this list does not include shows about "nothing."

We also get "Seinfeld" costar Michael Richards as DeSalvo's chauffeur/henchman, "Cheers" costar George Wendt as the father of a ratings family. "Night Court" star Selma Diamond as the mother of Francine, etc.

The award for most special cameo goes to "Bowery Boys" veteran Huntz Hall as an elderly legendary comedy film star.

Aside from "Ratings" very belatedly escaping from the vault, one of the most awesome aspects of the film is that it reflects the period before a change in national attitude from "f**k 'em if they can't take a joke" to "f**ked if you tell 'em a joke. (The Unreal TV reviewed) documentary "That's Not Funny" wonderfully documents this. The satirical portrayals of Italians alone may well have kept Showtime away in 2016.

Olive further shines regarding the plethora of special features on the "Ratings" BD. The highlight of these are the four "Ratings" era comedy shorts that DeVito directs. The standout of these is "The Selling of Vince D'Angelo."

"D'Angelo," which provides the basis for "Ratings" is a mockumentary on a sleazy New Jersey mayoral candidate who is a clone of DeSalvo. The "funny because its true" aspect of this one is that that campaign has a great deal in common with the 2016 presidential race.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Ratings" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, July 18, 2016

'Gun the Man Down' Blu-ray: Western Noir with James Arness and Angie Dickinson

  • Gun the Man Down [Blu-ray]
The July 19, 2016 Olive Films Blu-ray (BD) release of the 1956 Western with a message "Gun the Man Down" is an awesome followup to the recent Olive BD release of the (Unreal TV reviewed) 1946 British noir thriller "Appointment with Crime." The similarities extend well beyond having television icons (James Arness of "Gunsmoke" and the First Doctor William Hartnell respectively) in the leads. Both films deal with a reluctant felon seeking revenge after his two literal partners-in-crime leave him injured and taking the fall following a robbery gone horribly wrong.

The opening scenes of "Gun" closely follow those of "Appointment" in that Arness' Remington Anderson, fellow henchman Ralph Farley, and leader-of-the-gang Matt Rankin are about to set out to commit the bank robbery that will provide Anderson enough money to buy a ranch. Dickinson's Janice spilling ink on the rough diagram that the men are using is awesome foreshadowing.

The Anderson/Janice relationship both wonderfully parallels the romance between Hartnell's Leo Martin and a 10-pence-a-dance bird and ties into great '80s pop culture. The version of Anderson is that former 19th-century prostitute Janice essentially is a waitress in a cocktail bar when he first meets her. His story is that he picked her out, shook her out, and turned her around into someone new.

Janice admits the nature of her career but alleges that she knew even then that she would find a much better place either with or without Anderson. Thus is the fate of the human league.

The rapid turn-around has Farley and Rankin absconding with both the horse and the woman of Anderson, who becomes a guest of the territorial governor. Like Martin, Anderson goes gunning for those who done him wrong following the completion of his rehabilitation.

The ensuing drama has Rankin employing a gun-for-hire who has a history with Anderson to kill Anderson before Anderson gets Rankin, Anderson confronting Janice about her betrayal, and each showdown ending in an unexpected manner.

Great humor exists regarding the exposition that provides a chance for Anderson to interact with the sheriff of the town that Rankin, Farley, and Janice now call home. Anderson rides up the the lawman on the outskirts of the community that has just a few more than one horse and asks which of the six businesses that face each other is the hotel.

For his part, the sheriff is a close second to Anderson in the contest for the best character in "Gun." His opening scenes include commentary that it is hot and is only going to get hotter as the years go by. He further shows himself to be an admirable father figure to his deputy.

This lawman additionally latter shows the patience and common sense that characterize good law-enforcement personnel even in the 21st-century.

On a larger note, "Gun" is a perfect example of the little-known depth of Westerns that keeps many fools away from them for decades. This film (as well as scads o comparable "horse operas" and television series) is FAR more than saloon fights and shootouts.

The extras consist of the terrifically vintage theatrical trailer for "Gun." They truly do not make 'em like that anymore either.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Gun" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also reach out on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

'Model Hunger' DVD: Horror/Comedy to Die For

  • Model Hunger
Wild Eye Releasing provides an especially savory treat regarding the recent DVD review of the equal parts horror and comedy film "Model Hunger." This take on the toll of going from "It" Girl to "Sh*t" Girl in the modeling world takes the classic sickness of "Misery" to a whole new level.

"Hunger" is notable as well as the directorial debut of legendary horror actress Debbie Rochon; the expert toying with potential victims and the reverse boob job are two of many examples that Rochon has been paying attention while making more than 300 films. The scads o' accolades for this inaugural outing include the Audience Choice Award at the Macarbe Faire Film Festival and the Best Feature Film Award at FANtastic Horror Film Festival in San Diego.

Wild Eye aptly describes this tale of deranged titular former cover girl Ginny as "an unsettling, dark-humored critique of the entertainment business." Now living in an otherwise quiet residential neighborhood, Ginny gleefully plays judge, jury, and executioner to the accompaniment of her own warped thoughts.

The first Hansel and Gretel to visit the abode of the witch are two cheerleaders who are being coerced into participating in a door-to-door fundraising effort. The fatal mistake of these two broke girls is accepting an invitation for a cup of tea and a viewing of an awesomely perverse television program featuring a John Waters style trashy obese drag queen.

Ginny also takes it on herself to save a naive young woman who is hitchhiking to New York to pursue her dream of stardom. This time, it is very personal. 

New neighbor Debbie, who arrives with plenty of baggage, quickly assumes a Gladys Kravitz role on moving into the 'hood with husband Sal. Debbie knows that Ginny is engaged in nefarious doings but cannot get Sal or anyone else to take her seriously even after the search for the missing cheerleaders focuses on the street. 

The Debbie/Sal angle further sets the stage for a memorable moment in "Hunger." Suffice it to say that Debbie makes Sal eat his words when she brings the new couple a special treat.

"Hunger" itself is memorable for adequately keeping the gore in check and making Ginny so out there to appeal audience members who come more for the edgy dark humor while still having enough inventive torture and bloodletting to bring purists to the party.

The plethora of extras include a hard-corish music video, a short featuring the model persona of Debbie, and deleted scenes.

Anyone with "Model" questions or comments is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Director Peter iengo: The Passion of the "C Street" Auteur

A delightful telephone conversation with director Peter James iengo in the wake of reviewing the new theatrical comedy "C Street,"  which opens theatrically on July 15 2016, is an awesome dividend regarding covering that movie about members (pun intended) of Congress using the apartment of a low-level campaign worker as a lust nest.

The enthusiasm of iengo for his art, and his love of quality comedy adds a terrific dimension to "C." A key element of this is iengo getting his cast, which features Dylan Walsh of "nip/tuck" and "Family Ties" veteran Michael Gross, to make their characters real rather than roles that they are playing. This particularly comes through regarding the portrayal by Walsh of the lascivious Senator Fallon.

Regarding the current emphasis of commerce over art at big studio these days, iengo showed further integrity in stating that "art must win." He added that "art" included the film itself and the message in that medium.

Student Emmy

The early success of iengo included a national student Emmy for technical achievement for a film on which he worked as a senior at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn. iengo shared that that "comedic parody" depicted the new principal at Murrow creating more of a college atmosphere than his predecessor. These changes included granting students more freedom regarding choosing courses and increased unstructured time during the school day.

Wilder Influence

The blatant similarities between "C" and the classic 1960 Billy Wilder film "The Apartment" starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine required asking iengo about the extent to which the latter influenced him while directing the former.

iengo stated that he immediately noticed the similarities between the  films on reading the "C" script. He added that "what I liked about "The Apartment" was it talked about a lot of issues (such as sexism) people weren't talking about" in 1960.

iengo further noted that (like "The Apartment") the (successful) goal of "C" was to make an entertaining movie that included messages. In this case, these lessons were that the power brokers who engaged in what the general public considered to be misconduct did not believe that they were doing anything wrong. He added that that group felt that they were just having fun.

iengo expressed the related thought that "your fear as a director is I don't want to bore the audience."

Turning to an even more highly regarded source, iengo shared memories of a film school professor teaching that Ingmar Bergman noted that great films had to have messages.

iengo volunteered (subtle pun intended) that '80s comedies were a huge influence on him. He noted the adult-oriented films, such as "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" and "Uncle Buck," of John Hughes as examples. He expressed equal love for the Chevy Chase "Fletch" films and noted that going to the movies used to be a much more immersive experience.

Location, Location, Location

A comment in the "C" review regarding the movie being a true indie film and receiving Kickstarter funding prompted asking iengo whether the scenes in the apartment were filmed in the abode of either someone associated with the production or a friend of a member of the production staff.

iengo first revealing that the film was shot in Brooklyn, rather than on Capitol Hill, was a large surprise. He then noted that the location manager understood the importance of finding a Brooklyn neighborhood and apartment that looked like it was on Capitol Hill.

Finding a vacant apartment that met the aforementioned criteria was a great success in itself. Said abode further being railroad (a.k.a. shotgun) style in that each room led into the other was real bonus. iengo explained that that layout helped him film in a manner that supported his goal of not boring the audience.

Grossly Successful

Asking whether a line in "C" was a reference to an awesome (soon to come out on DVD) '70s sitcom related to a scene in which Gross' Governor Appalachia expressed his love for his deaf-mute girlfriend has Appalachia state "love is patient; love is kind." This phrase is a DIRECT quote from the lyrics of the theme song of the sitcom "Angie," which stars Donna Pescow and Robert Hays.

iengo replied that the line is Biblical quote but added that "Michael Gross is such a wonderfully talented comedic genius; I cannot praise his comedic talent more."

He Also Produces

iengo further discussed his role as producer on the award-laden "Cassanova Was A Woman" and the Brooklyn-based drama "Where Hearts Lie." Both films clearly have the same indie flair as "C."

Train to Clarksville

iengo next praised the present and future plethora of superhero films, noting that "comic books and 'Star Wars' got my creative mind going" during the wonder years of this auteur.

When asked about which superhero would be the basis of a dream project, iengo enthusiastically responded "100 percent Superman." He explained that that character provided a great deal of opportunity "to do a lot of interesting stuff" because of the layers of substance associated with the man of steel.

Final Thoughts

iengo (and the other indie filmmakers who kindly grant Unreal TV their truly valuable time) show that hope for good comedy (and drama) still exists in Hollywood. We just need to support them fighting the good fight.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding Lengo or "C" is encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Seacoast Repertory Theatre 'Reefer Madness: The Musical' Rates 4.20 out of 5 Stars

The 2:00 p.m. all-singing all-dancing matinee performance of "Reefer Madness: The Musical" by the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, NH ending at approximately 4:20 is very apt considering the subject matter of this parody of the unintentionally hilarious 1930s propaganda film that provides the source material for this Emmy-winning production by "Desperate Housewives" producer/writer Kevin Murphy.

"Reefer" runs through July 24, 2016 and overlaps with companion production "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" beginning on July 15, 2016. The awesomeness of Seacoast Rep. reaches its limit in planning searches for contraband such as toilet paper, playing cards, and rice at "Rocky" performances. Executive Director Kathleen Cavalaro explains that this mid-sized theater that can lacks the resources to clean large quantities of debris in the interim between a "Rocky" performance ending and the Rep. theater camp for kids getting their rehearsal time on stage.

It is worth noting as well that Rep. deserves praise for staging these productions in an era in which most regional theaters are timidly limiting their fare to "safer" plays, such as "Annie" and "The Sound of Music." The well-validated logic is that such well-known and popular productions almost certainly will fill the theater if only because kids will drag their entourages to performances. Rep. does sprinkle in some favorites but proves that focusing on art can provide adequate commerce to keep the doors open.

Rep. further embraces the creative side of theater in having a "stoner" section in which "Reefer" audience members can get into the spirit of the show. On a related note, a "Jesus no" look deters becoming part of a bit in which Christ goes into the audience to do a placing of hands on a leper.

"Reefer" focuses on the corruption of 16 year-old scholar/star athlete/model citizen Jimmy Harper. New Hampshire native/soon-to-be senior in the University of New Hampshire theater program Taylor Morrow does equally well portraying the All-American boy that we meet early on and the frantic addict that he becomes on taking one hit off a joint after being lured into a reefer den. He shines best in performing "Mary Jane/Mary Lane," which is the winner of the aforementioned Emmy. This tune  also is the most memorable in the production.

The award for best staged number goes to the early song-and-dance spectacular "Romeo and Juliet." This has the ensemble perform dressed as Julius Caesar, a witch from the Scottish play, and several other Shakespearen characters. This extravagnza comes complete with dueling chorus boys.

The ensemble (as well as artistic director Miles Burns) deserves further kudos for their incredible quick costume changes. They go from drugged-out zombies, to the aforementioned classic literary figures, to stoned orgy attendees, etc within a matter of minutes throughout most of the production. Nineteen year-old Victor Carillo Tracey is a clear standout, who rocks whether he is a Christian guitar player or astronaut. Fans of off-Broadway that is closer than 300 miles from Time Square should look for that name in their Playbills during the next few years. For his part. Tracey may want to take hints from "All About Eve."

The aforementioned troupers and their cast mates and the comedy portion of "Reefer" deliver the hoped-for entertainment that is well worth the price of admission in every sense of the word. Unfortunately, most of the music falls short. It simply does not stick and has large quantities of forced rhymes. An example of this is the lyric "You used to be the brains/now their carpet stains." (Of course, "Rocky" does FAR better in the music department; further, audiences of that one will be treated to Morrow in skin-tight gold lame shorts.)

The only way to wrap all this up is to admit to once finding the kitchen witch doll on a cabinet at the home of a friend's parents hysterical and to share that that friend had paid $40 for a sandwich bag half full of oregano roughly nine months earlier.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Reefer" is encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

'C Street' Theatrical 'The Apartment' Meets 'Alpha House'

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The summer political comedy "C Street," which hits select theaters on July 15 2016 ahead of a larger rollout, nicely combines the 1960 loser with little self-respect and an apartment Jack Lemmon/Shirley MacLaine classic "The Apartment" with the Amazon original series "Alpha House," which parodies the real-life group of conservative lawmakers who share a Capitol Hill home.

Although the sleazy corporate executives in "Apartment" who coerce ambitious ladder-climber C.C. Baxter into letting them use his place as a lust nest call him "Guy," the Baxter counter-part in "Street" actually is named Guy. The apt last-name of this low-level senatorial re-election campaign worker is Poppett.

Poppett is a research assistant for the repulsive in every sense Senator Fallon, whom Dylan Walsh of the television series "Nip/Tuck" plays with wonderful unrestrained cheese. A scene in which Fallon points to a bulge in his American flag boxers and says "Hail to the Chief" provides an excellent sense of this character.

Fallon uses Chez Poppett on Capitol Hill to rendez-vous with campaign worker Haley. Guy surprising Haley one day leads to them bonding in a comparable (but far less dramatic) manner in which Baxter and MacLaine's Fran connect in the abode of Baxter.

The other power-brokers who play at the Poppett pad include prostitute loving Congressman Wood, who seems to be based on  Anthony Wiener of  New York, and Reverend Fink, who takes a very hands-on approach to curing 20-something men of their homosexuality. (The hilarious song "Be Straight for Jesus" during the end credits make sticking around for them mandatory.)

The promised payoff for Poppett is a coveted high-level Senatorial aide job. The altruistic motives for this advancement include helping pass healthcare reform. Of course, the reality of this legislation reflects typical Washington cynicism.

Classic sitcom fans get their first big treat in the form of seeing "Family Ties" dad Michael Gross as Governor Appalachia. His secret love is a deaf-mute woman with whom he seems to have a genuine bond.

The second sitcom treat is Don Stark of "That '70s Show" as the very Mel Brooksesque Eastern European maintenance man of the apartment building. Highlights of his scene-stealing performance include stripping off his jumpsuit to perform a very disturbing ballet.

Seeing the aforementioned reprobates and a few other characters hold what essentially is a frat party at the apartment is as realistic as the ensuing scandal. Of course, the powers-that-be throw Poppett to the media wolves.

The spin doctors behind the scenes wrap all this up with a cute ending that is as realistic as the deplorable behavior that provides most of the entertainment in the film.

The filmmakers additionally demonstrate that Kickstarter, low-impact location shooting (and perhaps using the living and work space of friends) facilitate getting your artistic vision to the public. No one will confuse "Street" with "Apartment," but you will laugh and may feel some emotion.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Street" is welcome to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,