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Thursday, August 31, 2017

'The Daydreamer's Notebook' DVD/VOD: 40 Years of Art Films by Gay Director Michael J. Saul

The numerous options for viewing the short films from the 40-year career of gay director Michael J. Saul in "The Daydreamer's Notebook" eliminate any excuses for fans of expressionistic indie films to not watch these works of art. TLA Video released a DVD of this Michael Saul Productions movie in June 2017, it is available on Amazon Instant, it debuted on TLA Video on August 29 2017, and it is debuting on the gay-oriented Dekko streaming service within the next several weeks.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Daydreamer" highlights the inter-related personal and avant-garde elements of the film.

Saul provides good relatable context for the seven experimental films in "Daydreamer" by narrating an introduction that shows that the wandering mind of this auteur that leads to his films dates back to his elementary school days. He candidly shares his deplorable report cards that include comments such as that he rushes his work and does not play well with others. The amused tone of Saul in sharing these marks and comments indicate that not much changed in the following 50 years or so.

Saul opens this mini-festival with his 2011 film "Nightcrawler." This presumably auto-biographical silent color movie tells the tale of an 11 year-old boy whose nocturnal hunts for the titular worms triggers horrific nightmares.

The 2014 black-and-white film "Euphoria" essentially is an R-rated Calvin Klein ad; it features two svelte swimmer-body 20-something guys intertwining in various configurations with a comparable woman in an Eden-like setting.

A particularly clever film has a teen boy mug for the camera while literally holding a mirror up to the cameraman during much of the film.

Saul saves the most noteworthy for last in wrapping up the retrospective of his work with a remastered version of his 1981 16mm  thriller "The Cipher and the Boar," which is the first widespread release of this highly stylized largely silent black-and-white film. This one centers around two orphans experiencing a waking nightmare that includes a terrifying discovery of the home of a taxidermist.

The short that follows "Cipher" and that concludes "Daydreamer" is a "making-of" feature in which Saul discusses filming that movie on returning home to Ohio after failing to establish a Hollywood career.

The tales of Saul regarding finding eager local talent and other strong support for the project reflect the nature of funding independent film decades before Kickstarter is very interesting; the manner in which Saul is able to have "Cipher" see the light of day in 2017 reflects the power of social media on which art house films rely these days.

The larger picture (pun intended) regarding "Daydreamer" is that it reflects the emphasis of art over commerce that sadly is lacking these days. As the terms expressionism and daydreamer indicate, Saul artistically uses film to communicate the thoughts that run through his brain as his mind wanders. The awesome thing is that doing so enriches his audience.

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

'Inventing America: Rockwell + Warhol:' Rockwell Museum Exhibit Celebrates Not-So Unlikely Friendship

Applying the catchphrase "Trust me; I know what I'm doing" from the '80s sitcom "Sledgehammer" applying to the "Inventing America: Rockwell + Warhol" exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts through October 29, 2017 provides a nice tie-in to a site that celebrates unreal TV.

Former Warhol Museum curator/current Rockwell Museum Curator of Exhibits/Expert Exhibitionist Jesse Kowalski essentially requests that leap of faith regarding displaying the work of a leader of the Pop Art movement at a museum dedicated to an artist who is closely associated with wholesome institutions that include the "Mayberry" lifestyle, The Boy Scouts of America, and The Saturday Evening Post. Like the titular sitcom police detective, Kowalski proves that he is worthy of the requested trust.

Before delving into the surprising parallels between Rockwell and Warhol, Unreal TV would like to join the Rockwell Museum in thanking The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge and the Hayseed Hill Foundation in Great Barrington, Massachusetts for being sponsors of this exhibit that extends beyond the art of Warhol to include his paint-splattered "skinny" jeans that warrant a Jonas Brothers joke.

The award for coolest item in "America" goes to an autographed publicity photo of Shirley Temple that she sent a young bed-ridden Warhol, who spent his childhood time contending with St. Vitus Dance amassing a ginormous collection of fan magazine and signed photos of celebrities. Kowalski shared that it was thought that the Temple photo was lost until it was surprisingly found among other possessions of Warhol.

The runner-up for best item is a subversive Picassoesque painting from the student days of Warhol. The personal aspect of this work that was banned from the competition for which Warhol painted it was the adviser of the grad. school thesis of your not-so-humble reviewer loving that analysis but advising sending it to a British scholarly journal (which published it) because it was too incendiary for publication in the United States.

Kowalski on Warhol and Rockwell

Kowalski shared that his interest in Pittsburgh-native Warhol (nee Warhola) dates back to the Kansas high school days of the curator. Kowalski noted that the nature of Warhol included that "he never gave any thought to the legacy of his work; he just went with the times."

Kowalski stated as well that his reasons for attending the highly non-traditional The College of That Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine included wanting to get far away from Kansas. He added that an internship at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh during his studies led to a job after he graduated.

Discussions regarding producing a Rockwell exhibit at the Warhol Museum provided a taste of things to come for Kowalski.

Other than the story of Warhol growing up poor in Pittsburgh, most of the biographical information that Kowalski relayed about Warhol demonstrated that this man who was known for purposefully looking and acting very odd lived a surprisingly Rockwellesque private life. These wholesome characteristics included living with his mother and a gaggle of cats much of his adult life. Learning that Warhol was a devout Catholic who attended Mass every Sunday and several times during the week was even more surprising.

Kowalski noted as well that the life of thrice-married (including one divorce) Manhattan-native Rockwell did not fully match his public image much more than the perception matched reality regarding Warhol. Kowalski further added that this dad of three who often painted scenes of fathers being active in the lives of their children worked every day of the year, except for taking one-half day off on Christmas.

As an aside, family guy Kowalski is a terrific father; his young son John was a delightful member of our party.  A highlight of interacting with Kowalski Jr. was getting him to almost admit to that he would trade in his highly allergic older sister for a dog or a cat.

Resistance is Foolish

Kowalski stated regarding making his vision of a Warhol exhibit at the Rockwell Museum a reality that "Rockwell purists" initially opposed the idea. Telling these folks and others that "he [Warhol] built a persona that was not who he was" was the first step in getting support for the exhibit. This led to enthusiasm that Kowalski described as "by the end of it, they all loved Warhol."

Rockwell + Warhol

The expertise of Kowalski regarding the parallels between Rockwell and Warhol came through loud-and-clear during our discussion, in touring the exhibit, and in reading the exhibit catalog that Kowalski and Rockwell Museum Deputy Director/Chief Curator Stephanie Haboush Plunkett co-authored. This show of knowledge began with Kowalski stating that Warhol never met Rockwell but liked his art to the extent of commenting during a 1962 exhibit of Rockwell paintings that he influenced the work of Warhol.

The catalog adds the context that Rockwell artistically made art for the common man out of high concepts and that Warhol transformed the ordinary into "high art." An awesome photo in the exhibit and the catalog shows a bemused Warhol with a cart full of Brillo pads, Campbell soup cans, and other household items on which he based some work in the aisle of a New York grocery store.

Kowalski shared as well that Rockwell and Warhol separately began their art careers in advertising; both his comments and the exhibit highlighted their different approaches to that work. Further, the catalog noted that the conservative button-down world of 1950s Madison Avenue not being a good personality match with Warhol did not prevent him from regularly winning major advertising awards.

One topic that the discussion with Kowalski, the exhibit, and the catalog all covered that perfectly illustrated (no pun intended) the contrast between Rockwell and Warhol was the portraits by each artist of a pre-Jackie O Jackie Kennedy.

The Rockwell painting (which Warhol owned and that the Warhol museum loaned the Rockwell for "Amercia") was a 1963 portrait that Rockwell painted in traditional Rockwellesque style several weeks before the JFK assassination. The Warhol portrait (which hangs next to the Rockwell painting in "America") is in the famous two-tone silkscreen style of that artist.

Kowalski noted that that subject and style reflected the art of Warhol of that era. This curator aded that Warhol painted a series of "Madonna figures," who were "women who either were dying or in grief." Other subjects included Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, but not Liza.

A cool "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" connection that Kowalski revealed was that the art instructors who taught either Warhol or Rockwell could be tied to an Italian artist from 1400.

Kowalski mentioning Warhol promoting his celebrity status in the '80s to the extent of appearing in the very special 200th episode of that Saturday night ABC anthology sitcom "The Love Boat" prompted watching that episode on YouTube. A truly awesome scene involved "Happy Days" co-stars Tom Bosley and Marion Ross (who played a very Cunninghamesque married couple) discussing the art of Warhol and the Bosley character commenting that the deceased Rockwell was the only comparable artist to Warhol.

Uncle Andy

A portion of "America" that sadly must remain unsung for the moment is "Remembering Uncle Andy," which is a collection of paintings by Warhol nephew James Warhola. In addition to the Warhol connection, this exhibit is apt because the combination of folksy style and Pop Art in the work of art make Warhola the artistic child of Rockwell and Warhol.

A highlight of the "Andy" art is a painting of a surprised Warhol opening the door of his New York factory to see his unsophisticated brother and family there for an unannounced visit. Kowalski noted that that was an actual case of art imitating a common real life event.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

It is nice to think that the public Warhol persona would have enjoyed the exhibit if only because it disproved his cynical prediction decades before the reality TV population explosion that everyone in the future will have 15 minute of fame; "America" awesomely shows that the fame of that artist and Rockwell potentially is eternal.

The same can be said regarding the subjects of the upcoming Summer 2018 exhibit at the Rockwell titled "Wyeth, Parrish, and Rockwell: Keepers of the Flame."

On the subject of being eternal, this article on the exhibit and the related written portraits of the artists could reach that state. Once again channeling the spirit of Warhol in both senses of the word, readers are encouraged to adhere to the principle of RTFM and just go see the exhibit.

Anyone with any questions regarding any of the topics in this article is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'The Island of Dr. Moreau' DVD: Lionman, Tigerman, and Bearman Oh My!

The Olive Films August 29, 2017 DVD release of the 2017 scifi drama "The Island of Dr. Moreau" wonderfully fills the void left by a lack of good scifi drama with substance in the summer blockbusters; the same-day (Unreal TV reviewed) Olive Blu-ray release of the 1946 Orson Welles noir thriller "The Stranger" is for folks looking for even more substance. The releases of S1 and S2 of "Flipper" simply are fun.

This classic film based on the equally classic H.G. Wells tale of the same name opens with an homage to the classic Hitchcock film "Lifeboat." Shipwreck victim Andrew Braddock (Michael York) and two fellow crew members are adrift in a lifeboat; an opening scene establishes the great extent to which their situation is dire.

The remaining two man subsequently essentially crash on the doctor's isle, where it immediately becomes apparent that they are in a hostile environment. Braddock soon finds himself the guest of the titular madman with an evil mind (Burt Lancaster) and Maria (Barbara Carrera), the alluring companion of that mad scientist.

Andrew soon learns of the efforts of the not-so-good doctor to combine human and animal DNA to make true hybrids. This leads to encountering the partially successful attempts who have their own jungle society (complete with a threat of Hell) and consider their creator their deity.

The drama amps up when out hero finds himself a unwilling human guinea pig in these experiments. This leads to mayhem that greatly enhances the already strong religious aspects regarding the work of Moreau. The essay "The Island of Dr. Moreau as Theological Grotesque" in a booklet that the DVD includes expands on these themes.

The aforementioned elements of genetic engineering and related aspect of Moreau as God (as well as copious other religious symbolism) make "Moreau" a film with excellent easily digestible death in addition to plenty of jungle-related peril to enter viewers of all ages.

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

'The Stranger" Blu-ray: Orson Welles' A Connecticut Nazi in King Harry's Court

Highly diverse DVD and Blu-ray film company Olive Films continues a strong tradition of delighting fans of all types of classic films with August 29, 2017 releases that include an incredible Blu-ray release of the 1946 Orson Welles film "The Stranger" and a very good (Unreal TV reviewed) DVD release of the awesome 1977 Burt Lancaster scifi drama "The Island of Dr. Moreau." Olive further is delighting fans of unreal TV with Blu-ray releases of S1 and S2 of "Flipper." 

"Stranger" is the subject du jour; "Moreau" is the topic for tomorrow.

Anyone familiar with Welles making good use of black-and-white to show sharp contrasts and utilize shadows and his equal mastery of dramatic soundtracks also realize that the enhanced picture and sound of Blu-ray make "Stranger" look spectacular.

This post-war film by Welles explores several themes that sadly are as relevant today as they are in the era of the movie. Welles plays particularly cruel Nazi Franz Kindler, who is posing as Professor Charles Rankin as part of a master plan to rebuild his party and to make another effort at having what he considers the master race take what he considers its proper place in the world. A memorable monologue that Welles delivers on that topic excellently uses his Shakespearean training.

Rankin is a respected member of the small community of Harper, Connecticut to the extent that he is about to wed the daughter (Loretta Young) of a leading citizen when the arrival of the titular newcomer threaten this scheme. Konrad Meinike looking up his old commander is unwelcome and puts Nazi hunter Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) on the trail of until-then not suspected Rankin.

Rankin dealing with Meinike on the cusp of marrying aforementioned fiancee Mary Longstreet is only a temporary fix. Wilson still is on the scent and Mary is becoming suspicious of her new husband. Further, Mary sibling Noah (Richard Long of the TV series "The Big Valley" and "Nanny and the Professor") never liking Noah does not help the cause of Rankin.

The textbook noir tension builds as the threat of exposure increases; additional drama come in the form of the impact of the events on Mary, who both wants to stand by her man and does not want to face the fact that she is married to a "stranger." As Olive notes on the BD back cover, a very powerful scene has Mary watching horrific actual footage from a concentration camp. 

This escalation and the resulting peeling away of the facade of Rankin shows Welles at his best both in front of and behind the camera. He provides a good sense of what likely is the true mind of a Nazi.

Additionally, the same folks who know that Welles is a master of black-and-white know that his films ooze symbolism. Discovering these is much of the fun of watching this masterpiece. A clock tower is the center of that this time (no pun intended). We further get images of villagers with pitchforks and torches out to destroy the monster among them.

The Blu-ray extras include a booklet with an insightful essay on "Stranger." The scope extends beyond the themes of the film to its place in film history and the works of Welles.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Stranger" is strongly encouraged to email me; you alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvddvguy.

Friday, August 25, 2017

'Life' DVD/BD/4K: Deadpool v. Alien

The Sony Pictures Home Entertainment June 20, 2017 DVD/Blu-ray/4K releases of the 2017 Ryan/Reynolds/Jake Gyllenhaal scifi action film "Life" provides a chance to see this roguish charmer with wonderful sarcastic wit and this darker moodier hunk team up against a parasitic alien. This not-so-favorite Martian makes the titular existence very rough for our boys and their fellow crew members on the International Space Station in the not-so-distant future.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Life" provides a good sense of the great cinematography and sound that make excellent use of Blu-ray; this promo. also highlights the suspense and the humor that make this one worth adding to your collection.

Dynamic "Deadpool" scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick cleverly provide good exposition before delighting in once again getting Reynolds battered and bruised. This background comes via crew members video chatting with adorable elementary school children; the shared information includes the nature of the station, a little about the crew, and the mechanics of going to the bathroom in space.

The action then shifts to a tricky docking between the space craft that Reynolds' Rory Adams is piloting back from Mars and the station. Of course, Reynolds jokes and machos his way through this initial drama.

The precious cargo from the Adams Expedition is a sample from Mars. Initial excitement regarding that then-manageable ALF (or E.T. depending on your preference) turns to panic as it literally latches onto scientist Hugh Derry, whose emotional bond is already at a point of naming this new arrival Calvin. These events give Derry the chance to recreate a classic (and oft-satirized) sci-fi moment.

In typical Reynolds fashion, Adams defies authority (and common sense) in rushing in to to save Derry. The ensuing battle of man vs. outer space jelly fish verifies that mankind is not ready for that particular one great leap into the final frontier.

The quickly evolving ALF threatening the life of the station crew is not the primary concern; allowing this creature to reach earth is a sure means for certain doom for the roughly six billion meat suits down here.

Station commander/Adams verbal sparring partner Ekaterina Golovkina gets her moment in the spotlight regarding a perilous spacewalk to prevent a wandering Calvin from re-entering the station.

Having Gyllenhaal on board as crew member David (rather than Hal) Jordan takes much of the leading man pressure off Reynolds. Jordan begins his not-so-excellent adventure with a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with Calvin. This is part of a heroic suicide mission that hits a few snags.

Reese and Wernikc present all this action and adventure at an apt consistently brisk pace. Ending the movie with a genuine surprise that shows that everything is not Jake screams for a sequel.

The plethora of Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes and a few "making-of documentaries."

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

'Peyote' DVD: Coming-of-Age in Mexico

The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD of the gay-themed 2013 Mexican drama "Peyote" notably is one of the more stylized entries in the vast Breaking library of foreign films that show that boys who like boys are no different than boys who like girls.

The following YouTube clip of the Breaking trailer for "Peyote" offers glimpses of the trauma and the drama of our central characters, who symbolically seem to be the only two people in the world.

The vivid opening scenes show 17 year-old Pablo literally playing with his food in an elaborate good v. evil story; he goes on to check EVERY aspect of his physical development. In other words, our hero is a genuine manboy.

Writer/director Omar Flores Sarabia provides the most blatant symbolism in dressing Pablo in a superhero t-shirt and jeans for a trip to the park where he meets "older man" Marco, who seems to be between 25 and 30. Nice stereotype-breaking aspects of Marco are that he lacks physical attractiveness and charm. His skill at seducing Pablo seems to be based on being older and challenging the male pride of his new companion.

Early despicable acts by Marco include getting the "home alone" teen nervous about plans for a party at his house and inviting him to eat after ruining his food but sticking him with the bill at the end of the meal.

The adventure kicks in when Marco uses his crude powers of persuasion to convince Pablo to accompany him to the Mexican desert to obtain the titular illicit substance. All of us whose youthful escapades include even accompanying a relative stranger in search of a party that that person thinks is in a general neighborhood can relate to things quickly going awry on the way to the desert. The car breaking down in the middle of nowhere is the tip of the cactus.

This being a Breaking film makes it no surprise when Pablo begins making a big deal about having a girlfriend while indicating that she is not the love of his life. The primary twist is Marco being his typical asshole self about the matter to the extent of hijacking a call from the girlfriend with a malicious intent to greatly embarrass Pablo.

Viewers of every age and sexual orientation will spend most of the movie wondering what Pablo sees in that guy and why he keeps returning for more cruelty; the appeal of the older man and the Daddy issues that come out only partially explain it.

Marco becoming more sympathetic near the end of the "Peyote" is another step in the process toward Pablo becoming a man that makes a large stride the night before. However, Pablo both remains the more likable of the two and makes guys with a respectable interest in mentoring boys who have "those thoughts" regarding other boys wish that the lad chooses more wisely regarding his role model with benefits.

The DVD special features include the 2013 Sarabia short "El autor." This well-filmed one has a small group of men incarcerated in an otherwise abandoned Mexican jail in which one of the group knows of the key to their freedom.

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

'Revelator' Theatrical/DVD/VOD: 'The Sixth Sense' Meets 'Chinatown'

The first (and best) chance to experience the highly artistic supernatural thriller "Revelator" is the Los Angeles theatrical run that begins on August 25, 2107. The DVD and VOD releases follow on September 5, 2017.

The following YouTube clip of the "Revelator" trailer wonderfully highlights the incredibly eerie and stylized tone of the film that show that it favors art over commerce.

Writer/director J. Van Auken also stars as "disgraced psychic detective" John Dunning, who fully experiences the blessing and the curse associated with having the "sixth sense" gift of being able to see dead people. The "blessing" is being able to eke out an existence helping the living come to peace with the passing of loved ones; the curse is both constantly seeing the breathing impaired and watching their anguish.

The "disgraced" portion of Dunning relates to his clients typically being elderly widows, whose purely voluntary payments typically earn Dunning the ire of other relatives. Further, the nature of the sightings impair the ability of Dunning to prove his gift.

The "curse" also compels Dunning to move roughly every three years; he always selects a newly constructed apartment building because no one has ever died there. His statement that the first people in such a dwelling start dying after three years explains why that is the average length of his tenancy. This failure to achieve long-term peace of mind also plays a role regarding John valuing an opportunity to live somewhere where no one ever has (or ever will) die.

The passing of regular client Mrs. Bellvue greatly complicates the already challenging existence of Dunning; disgraced reporter Valerie coincidentally showing up to coerce him in to letting her join his daily routine and report on his activities contributes additional drama.

The reference to the "liquid assets" of Mrs. Bellvue is amusing considering that the family fortune is tied to a valuable source of water that that clan sells to Los Angeles; that water being on an island that Dunning inherits from Mrs. Bellvue escalates his threat to the family from being a nuisance to being an obstacle to them continuing to enjoy the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

Bellvue heir Elias wants to use the "stick" approach to get Dunning out of the picture; his uncle offers the "carrot" in the form of offering our gumshoe his desired peace in exchange for solving a mystery surrounding a death.

The ensuing investigation sends Dunning and Valerie into the desert, where Dunning literally comes face-to-face with the consequences of genocide. This soon leads to a larger discovery regarding another otherwise-buried past.

Like the classic film "Chinatown," which also involves the tremendous value of water in Los Angeles, Dunning learning more about the history of the Bellvues both increasingly shows him that everything is not Jake and that no Bellvue is looking out for his best interest.

Van Auken particularly shines both in front of and behind the camera regarding essentially drawing-room confrontations at the end of "Revelator." Not everyone walks away, it seems that the folks who survive pay a high price for what they have, and justice is only partially served.

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

'Teenage Ghost Punk' VOD/DVD: No Sex, or Drugs, but Plenty of Rock and Roll

The recent Midnight Releasing VOD/DVD releases of the 2014 comedy "Teenage Ghost Punk" proves that decent horror and entertaining family fare are not mutually exclusive and that the Disney Channel has a concept for its next teencom. Showing the coolness of the early '80s is a nice bonus.

The following YouTube clip of the "Punk" trailer provides a good sense of the humor and the style of the film.

The titular specter is '80s high school boy Brian who pays the ultimate price for playing the guitar on the roof of (his John Hughes country) suburban Chicago home during a lightning storm. His spirit is living on when 40-something financially strapped divorced mom Carol moves unhappy campers 16 year-old cheerleader daughter Amanda and bright quirky 12 year-old son Adam into that abode 30 years later.

Brian increasingly making his presence known leads to Amanda making a new friend/confidante with a dash of necrophilia. Meanwhile, Carol is too overwhelmed with adapting to her new normal (including a lecherous creep at work) to give much thoughts to the weird goings-on. Adam knows the score, but proof eludes him.

The wacky neighbors are local ghosts from several eras who keep Brian company and play poker with him. These include a greaser from the '50s, an adorkable 19th century farmboy, and an early 20th century gentleman. The villains of the piece include fearsome ghoul Vladimir and bumbling "TAPS" style paranormal investigators. 

The desire of the Dead and Buried Kids to interact with the living and Halloween magic that makes the breathing impaired visible to all on that special night prompts Amanda to invite both the old kids on the block and her new classmates to a party at which her peers know not every guest has a pulse. 

The truth coming out at the party creates turmoil that leads to the Hollywood ending that every family film requires. One not very big spoiler is that the connection between Carol and Brian being revealed near the end of the film should not surprise anyone who is old enough to stay up to watch prime time Disney Channel fare. 

"Punk" succeeds because the scares and freaky occurrences are edgy enough to entertain teens and above who watch the film; further, the depiction of this modern family and the complete absence of unduly perky "Full House" style kids makes the film enjoyable. You will expect much of what happens, tolerate the few brief over-the-top moments, and be surprised regarding the outcome of the After Life of Brian.

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

'Alice' S5 DVD: The Season That The Belle Tolls for Diane Ladd

Fans of the nine-season '70s/'80s CBS sitcom "Alice" and lovers of sitcoms generally have several reasons to rejoice regarding the Warner Archive August 1, 2017 DVD release of S5 of "Alice." The primary cause for celebration is this release ending a nearly four-year dry spell since the October 2013 (Unreal TV reviewed) release of "Alice" S4. This chance to see more episodes of this show by the "I Love Lucy" team of Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Davis also is great reminder of the Silver Age of (Unreal) Television before reality shows dominated the airways.

"Alice" S5 particularly represents sitcoms of its era regarding the numerous on-screen and behind-the-scenes parallels with fellow hit from another network "Three's Company." Like Jenilee Harrison, who has a short tenure on "Company" between the departure of original star Suzanne Somers and the arrival of  long-term cast member Priscilla Barnes, Diane Ladd (who plays Flo in the dramatic film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" on which "Alice" is based) ends her short tenure on "Alice" as returned former waitress Isabelle "Belle" Amanda  Dupree. Also, akin to Somers departing "Company," Ladd not staying awhile on "Alice" after things do not work out has an element of clashing star egos.

Also like Somers, whose ban from the "Company" set has her essentially phoning in her final performances, Ladd is denied the dignity of a proper sendoff. Her final "Alice" appearance consists of briefly calling the diner to share the good news that requires quitting her job.

The "Company" parallel is clear right from the S5 season premiere. Like a similar plot from "Company," hilarity ensues when then-new ATM technology results in an automatic teller spewing out a comically large amount of money for Mel, who owns the run-down diner around which "Alice" is centered.

An early two-part S5 "Alice" episode expands on the recurring theme of Mel losing ownership of the diner and his waitresses/friends coming to the rescue. This time, the sitcom cliche of dingy waitress Vera winning a trip to Las Vegas in a radio contest leads to the whole gang visiting Sin City where Mel gambles away the diner.

The solution to recovering ownership of the diner involves the tried-and-true tactic of Linda Lavin, who plays the titular waitress/aspiring singer, dressing in male drag to save the day. The two-fer (which relates to the regular practice of high-profile celebrity guests on "Alice") is that Lavin impersonates show business legend Robert Goulet, who appears as himself. Another "very special guest star" is country singer Jerry Reed, who makes his second appearance on the series.

Speaking of very special guest stars, comic legend Martha Raye plays her recurring role of Mel's hyperactive mother Carrie twice. Her first appearance has her visiting in the wake of a separation from her husband, and her second S5 episode has her helping a competitor of Mel after fighting with her offspring.

The "Alice" writers additionally serve up another in a series of episodes in which the quest of Alice for stardom clashes with her day job. This time, a highly praised gig prompts our working girl initially to bore co-workers and customers alike with the oft-repeated tale of her glory night and then seriously consider taking her act on the road.

Celia Weston (who currently plays the mother of country gay boy Cam on the ABC sitcom "Modern Family") makes her literally dramatic entrance as Jolene late in S5. Then-trucker Jolene storms into the diner with her then business and driving partner in the wake of that man making another in a long series of unwanted sexual advances in the cab. The ensuing hilarity includes Jolene indirectly being responsible for the main ensemble getting locked in the ladies room at the diner.

S5 ends with the sitcom cliche of Vera wanting to keep a baby whom she finds at the laundromat. The best humor in this one relates to Vera meeting with a confused staff member at an adoption agency.

The good folks at Archive supplement the S5 set with three bonus S6 episodes. This includes the classic episode in which Mel goes ballistic after Vera breaks the well-known rule of not cashing checks.

The appeal of all this is that it is the video equivalent of the comfort food that Mel and company dish out. We know (and love) the diner crew by then and enjoy their hi-jinks because they provide valued escapism.

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

'Riverdale' S1 BD: 'Heathers' Meets 'Saved by the Bell'

The Warner Archive August 15, 2017 Blu-ray release of S1 of the CW teendram "Riverdale" provides those familiar with the series and newcomers to this Sexy Archieverse to respectively refresh their memories or to catch up before the October 11 2017 S2 premiere on the CW.  Choosing Blu-ray over DVD for this series that Variety (and Unreal TV) perfectly describes as "visually stunning" is a no-brainer.

Another of the many great things about this release is that it provides great relief to fans of unreal TV who have been anxious to see "Riverdale" ever since an October 2014 press release announcing adding this series to the Fox lineup. It is undisputed that this edgy and angsty/quirky take on a classic wholesome comic book franchise is better suited to the home of "Gossip Girl," "Gilmore Girls," "The Vampire Diaries," "The 100," etc.

Early accolades for the 13 S1 episodes, which lead into the 22 S2 episodes, include the 2017 Saturn Award for Best Action/Thriller Television Series and a Breakthrough Performance Award for Archie Andrews portrayor/buff dude/New Zealand boy K.J. Apa.

Because the "making-of" story of "Riverdale" is so interesting, it will be the primary focus of this S1 review. Consequently, the discussion of the intriguing storylines will be condensed.

In typical teensoap fashion, much of the action centers around the July 4 disappearance of rich teen twin Jason Bloom while boating with twin sister/Queen B/head cheerleader Cheryl. The related secrets of our central gang as more is revealed regarding that event drive much of the action in this show that derives its themes (and episode titles) from edgy indie films that include "The River's Edge," "The Last Picture Show," and "The Sweet Hereafter."

One can only hope for "My Own Private Riverdale" centering around "lost boy" Jughead having to become a street-corner rent boy to keep at least a little brass in pocket.

The shameful beginning-of-the-school-year return of local girl who marries rich Hermoine Lodge and her teen daughter Veronica is the other primary catalyst for the S1 drama.

The essentially two-part S1 finale maintains a thrilling fast pace to keep the promise in the entertaining (BD extra) 2016 Comic-Con panel of wrapping up the mystery of Jason and his fellow Argonaut. This panel further confirms that the Hollywood bad boy days of Luke Perry are a thing of the distant past.

On a related note, the even more amusing reel of blunders shows that Apa has a wonderful and loving gag reflex when it comes to his cast mates.

The classic lore of "Archie" is that the titular comic book everyteen and his friends at Riverdale High arguably are the grandparents of Zack Morris and his Bayside High classmates of the classic Saturday morning tweencom "Saved By the Bell." Clean-cut boy next-doo/aspiring musician Archie (Zack) hangs around with freaky nerdy best friend Jughead (Screech) and competes in love and other teen pursuits with "villain" Reggie (Slater). The main girls in the group are pretty rich girl Veronica (Kelly) and tomboyish gal pal Betty (Jessie).

The first aside regarding "Riverdale" is that spending summers in Meredith, New Hampshire at a very young age provided a chance to meet oh-so-sweet Bob Montana, who is the creator of "Archie."

The second aside is that tracking down "Josie and the Pussycats" creator Dan DeCarlo in 2001 led to a brief (but terrific) friendship that also led to DeCarlo drawing your not-so-humble reviewer what is believed to be the last of 10,000s of DeCarlo drawings. Having a few conversations with the real-life Josie (a.k.a. Mrs. DeCarlo) was equally thrilling.

The extensive updating of the Archieverse for "Riverdale" follows a long period of making the comic more relevant to the late 20th century and early 21st century. These notable changes include dark edgy storylines and adding openly gay teen Kevin Keller (a dreamy Casey Cott in "Riverdale") to the gang.

Speaking of Kevin, one can only hope that the lack of hate his peers show this boy whose sexuality only slightly affects his personality and level of openness regarding actual and desired sexual experiences accurately reflects high school life in 2017. There is absolutely no gay bashing and even the straightest of the straight boys have no problem publicly hanging out with Kevin, who attends a big dance with his steady boyfriend without raising nary an eyebrow.

A combination of character and actor provide Kevin some of the best S1 moments. His reaction on joining viewers in getting the first look at a shirtless Apa reflect the views of virtually every female audience member and at least 10-percent of the men who are watching. Another good moment comes when Reggie comments about the "good gay kid" in school and a smiling Kevin responds that he is that guy.

"Riverdale" also is notable for engaging in the same alternative casting that enhances many live-stage Shakespeare productions. Although the main teens have similar appearances as their comic-book counterparts, most of the supporting characters get major makeovers.

Elderly spinster school teacher Miss Grundy now is a sexy younger educator with a strong taste for younger men; giving her her own dark past further modernizes the series.

Middle-aged portly white principal Mr. Weatherbee also sheds several years; he additionally is now a buff black man who is much more alert and assertive than his comic counterpart.

Recasting the mostly white girl group/high school students "Josie and the Pussycats" as fierce black girls is way cool and provides good humor regarding their interaction with adorkable white boy Archie. However, one would hope for a reversal "Othello" in having the traditionally white girls Josie and Melody played by black actresses and have a white actress play the traditionally black Valerie.

An even odder choice considering the reimagining of characters is having Cole "Cody" Sprouse dye his well-known blonde hair black to keep with the tradition of Jughead being a brunette. Only the surprise mid-season introduction of the father of Jughead explains the reason for keeping with tradition in this case.

"Riverdale" additionally brings the parents more fully into the act than the comic books. Notable casting regarding this is having "Beverly Hills 90210" bad boy Perry play loving but firmish single dad/construction company owner Fred Andrews. We further get '80s sitcom actress/former Mrs. Mike Tyson Robin Givens as the mayor of the titular small city/mother of rocker Josie McCcoy. '80s teen sweetheart Molly Ringwald shows up in a PERFECT role for her mid-season.

In addition to the aforementioned Comic-Con Panel and gag reel, the good folks at Archive provide a bunch o' unaired scenes and some "behind-the-scenes" features.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

'Manhattan Melodrama' DVD: Goofus and Gallant Take Manhattan

Warner Archive nicely goes the extra mile regarding the August 8, 20117 DVD release of the 1934 Clark Gable/William Powell/Myrna Loy romcrimedram "Manhattan Melodrama." The description on the DVD back cover includes a primer on the historically notable aspects of the film, which extend well beyond this being the first of many screen pairings of Powell and Loy.

Archive further includes an amusing short aptly titles "Goofy Movies #2" and the not-so-politically correct cartoon "The Old Pioneer." Archive deserves further praise for refraining from the wienie move of disclaiming "Pioneer" as reflecting a less enlightened time; all reasonable people know (and understand) that we have come a long way in 80-plus years Baby.

Warner shares as well that this tale of boyhood friends earns a Oscar for Best Original story; the scribes who earn this honor include Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who is the Great Uncle of film expert/TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Melodrama" highlights the 30slicious style promotion of this talkies. In this case, the movie lives up to the hype.

Archivists to whom this film about two men who grow up as brothers only to end up on different sides of the law and to fall in love with the same woman seems familiar are right. The Archive collection includes an August 2014 DVD of the (Unreal TV reviewed) similar John Garfield film "East of the River."

We first meet Ed "Blackie" Gallagher (Gable) and Jim Wade (Powell) as tweens on a boat in 1904. (A young Mickey Rooney plays a young Gallagher with his usual elan.) A shipboard tragedy triggers events that bond the boys for life.

The scenes on the boat also clearly establish that the scheming and fighting Gallagher is the Goofus (of children's magazine Highlights fame) and that studious Jim is the good brother Gallant of the pair. Jim spends much of his shipboard time quietly sitting and reading while Blackie is scrapping with and cheating their peers.

A rapid series of montages shows that the boys maintain their childhood habits for roughly the next 15 years. We see Blackie evolve into the owner of a high-class illegal gambling casino that operates with the tacit approval of the NYPD. Conversely, Jim is a well-respected attorney who is a candidate for district attorney of New York.

The night of the election in the district attorney race is the turning point in the film. Blackie having to attend to business leads to his sending "doll" to this "guy" Eleanor (Loy) to keep newly-elected Jim company while Blackie tends to business. Eleanor and Jim spending a (presumably) chaste night together on that meeting gives Eleanor images of getting married and living a quiet respectable life.

For his part, Jim calmly tells Blackie that there is a new sheriff in town and that the first loyalty of this prosecutor is to enforcing the laws of New York.

The next series of momentous events occur on the New Year's Eve several weeks after the election; Blackie is fulfilling a promise to collect a gambling debt, and a stag Eleanor ends up as a literally 11th hour date of Jim.

Jim subsequently knows (but does not exert much effort proving) that the collection effort subjects Blackie to serious criminal liability; however, friendship is a factor regarding his decision to drop the matter.

Loyalty to his friend (and a sense of honor) subsequently prompts Blackie to support the bid of Jim to move into the New York governor's mansion (a.ka. Casa de Cuomo) in the best way that this gangster knows how. However, this is one time that Jim must not blink.

The brothers from different mothers reach the next inevitable stage of their friendship in finding themselves on opposing sides in a courtroom proceeding; the work of Jim in that trial lands him in the aforementioned governor's mansion and Blackie in another state-operated big house.

The next significant test of friendship comes when Jim sitting in the corner office puts him in a position to have Blackie avoid being given the chair. The manner in which these friends discuss shows why Gable and Powell are Hollywood royalty.

Gable showing "Frankly, my dear; I do give a damn" in a notable speech at the conclusion of the film demonstrates integrity to which all real-life politicians should aspire.

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

'He's with Me' DVD: Gaycom Exploring Dynamics of Homo/Hetero Friendship with Platonic Benefits

The tla releasing August 1, 2017 S1-S2 DVD set of the streaming-service dekko series "He's with Me" provides an entertaining context for exploring the aspects of a friendship between a gay man and a straight dude. Breeder boy Ted and literally drama queen Martin are not so much an odd couple as they are an unlikely friendship.

The Indie Series Awards wins and nominations for "He" reflect the quality of the acting and the writing in this tale about modern yuppie life in New York City, The larger theme is the inverse relationship between approaching 40 and the ease with which you can make friends. The lessons regarding both is that there is a direct relationship between being a beggar and not having the luxury of being a chooser.

The following YouTube clip of an S1 promo. includes a good primer on the concept of the series and highlights the slight Woody Allen angsty New Yorkers element of the episodes.

The writing and directing team of Jason Cici (who also plays Ted) and Sebastian La Cuse get right down to the action with having Ted experience his typical pee shyness while in a bathroom at the wedding of his cop friend Eddie to designer/boutique owner Val. "Cranky Critic" Martin, who is the fag to the hag of Val, soon rushes in with a crisis that typically is of his own making. The pair finding a few similarities opens the door to the ensuing bromance.

The desperation that leads to the desperate measure of the "mixed" friendship of our leads is that marketing executive Ted is the new boy in town, the challenging personality of Martin hinders his ability to maintain friendships, and Val wants to shift the focus of her social life to her new husband.

An early storyline regarding plans to go to a Yankees game is one of the cutest and most insightful in the first season. The figurative dancing around the subject that occurs when Ted and Martin discover that the other shares his interest in baseball and that Ted likely can get tickets is relatable to the early days of any friendship. Neither person wants to either be too assertive or to risk rejection. The element of wanting to avoid seeming like a greedy bastard regarding the prospect of a valued freebie adds another universal aspect.

Nervousness regarding the "date" extends beyond Ted worrying whether Martin may try to get to first base or even further with him. Neither man knows what to wear and have related etiquette concerns. Eddie gets the best line on this topic by stating that getting Martin sexual with a straight man requires a great deal of Jameson and a tube of Astroglide.

The trip to Yankee Stadium going awry initially provides an opportunity to show that the wry sarcasm of a gay man can go over the head of his straight buddy. This leads to amusing efforts to make a "Plan B." That outing (pun intended) helps our boys bond.

Additional insight comes regarding the tolerant within limits father of Ted essentially crashing a dinner party that Martin is hosting. The angst of this middle-aged man regarding the possibility that his son may have switched teams is understandable; his discomfort around Martin simply is hilarious.

The award for strongest sitcom cliche goes to a storyline in which ubiquitous Martin stooge Benny locks his idol and aggressive-aggressive Eddie in a room until those adversaries hug it out. Cici returns to "Three's Company" territory in having a hungover despondent Martin wake up to find Benny in his apartment.

S1 ends on an intriguing cliffhanger that seems less dramatic than a typical season-ending twist.

In typical sitcom style, S2 begins where the aforementioned season-ending surprise leaves off. Cici further follows this tried-and-true practice by quickly resolving the wacky situation in a manner that sets the stage for a season-long S2 story arc.

On a larger level, S2 moves beyond the S1 hook of a gay/straight friendship to tales of the city. Martin and Ted become collaborators, Val and Eddie become "parents" and have slightly premature midlife crises. For his part, Benny experiences a metamorphosis that comes with difficult growing pains.

The big sitcom cliche this season is an outing in which tough guy Eddie delivers an almost episode-long soliloquy while at a therapist. This session leads to behavior that puzzles Val.

Cici further goes back to the silver age of television in bringing in a sassy black orphan. Anyone who has watched any '70s or '80s sitcom can predict on Val first mentioning this lad that he is going to end up living with her.

Ted gets the third-act cascading life crisis this time around. This begins with his mother (Debra Jo Rupp of "That '70s Show") picking the worst time and place to reveal a longstanding dark family secret. This devastating news leads to another revelation that makes our straight boy wonder if he can trust anyone in his life.

All of this leads to a season (and series ?) finale that ties things up in a manner that makes one wonder why Cici and LaCuse do not start from there and then go back to the wedding night. It further validates the live-stage vibe of the series.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "He's" (or anyone looking for a new friend) is encouraged to email me; you alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

'The Monster Project' Theatrical/VOD: Wry Edgy Real Creature 'Scooby-Doo'

Epic Pictures lives up to its name regarding the August 18, 2017 theatrical/VOD release of the tongue-in-cheek/poop in pants film "The Monster Project." This edgy live-action take on the evolution of the nearly 50 year-old "Scooby-Doo" franchise has a host/producer of low-budget online horror productions seeking to step up his game by finding real monsters to interview for the titular web series.

The following YouTube clip of the Epic trailer for "Mosnster" highlights the great mix of horror, humor. and homage in the film.

Dreamy former soap hunk Justin Bruening shines as roguish Devon, who is very effective at getting his crew (most of which with whom he has a history) to do his bidding. Declining ratings for his indie creature flicks and a mishap while filming his latest project with cameraman/bud Jamal prompts moving ahead with the next stage of these productions.

Devon begins with placing an online ad that seeks actual creatures of the night to contact him regarding appearing on film. A skinwalker, a girl possessed by a demon, and a vampire answer the call in aptly creepy manners.

Devon simultaneously recruits bitter ex-girlfriend Karen to serve as director and recovering addict/ex-con/Born Again Bryan as a boom operator. Once assembling this band, Devon brings them to the spooky run-down isolated house that he rents to interview his first trio of subjects. Scheduling this for the night of a lunar eclipse nicely coincides with "Monster" premiering a few days before a real solar eclipse.

Eerie home owner Richard and his largely comatose wheelchair-bound wife Martha contribute a great deal to the scary vibe of the dark house that is long overdue for renovations. This portion of the film further provides context for a terrific joke regarding the nature of this handheld camera project about searching for bona fide creatures of the night.

It is very appropriate that the interview with the vampire arguably is the best of the lot. Goth girl Shayla is highly entertaining and makes it incredibly clear that she likes Bryan's type.

Possessed girl Shiori does a nice job expressing her literal inner demon; it seems that her dark passenger is a vital part of her personality.

The Native American skinwalker (once referred to as an Indian werewolf) also seems adequately menacing; filming him in silhouette while he describes the initiation process that obtaining the ability to transform into animals amps up the creep factor.

"Monster" goes new old school when the interviewees revert to their primal selves and terrorize our crew, who desperately try to find a way out of the house. The very dark surroundings facilitate the sudden attacks and corresponding panic.

The final confrontation provides some of the best twists of any horror film; a grand scheme is revealed, and there will be blood.

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

'Smufs: The Lost Village' Blu-ray: Indigo Girls Power

The Sony Pictures Home Entertainment July 11, 2017 Blu-ray release of the fully-animated 2017 theatrical film "Smurfs: The Lost Village" provides a chance to see the latest addition to the current "Smurfs" franchise that includes the (Unreal TV reviewed) "Smurfs 2" and the (also covered) "Legend of Smurfy Hollow." "Village" greatly expands on the lore of these films and the Smurfs in general by initially revolving around sole girl in an otherwise all-male society Smurfette (Disney Channel star Demi Lovato).

The deep rich animation of the well-known Smurf home turf alone is enough reason to buy "Village" in Blu-ray; Sony going full "Avatar" and beyond when venturing into the wilds of the Smurfverse make folks who do not select Blu-ray total Smurfs. The "Avatar" vibe extends to our blue buddies taking flight courtesy of tamed winged creatures.

Although this one definitely is for the girls to the extent that it evokes very strong thoughts of a brownie meeting or the cool girls table in a middle school cafeteria, it has enough Smurfy humor and general entertainment to appeal to all.

As the following YouTube clip of a theatrical trailer for "Village" shows, the film does include another tween boy humor to entertain the little dudes out there.

"Village" starts with basic Smurf lore regarding the members of the Blue Man Group having names that reflect their personality and/or vocation. This soon turns to the existential crisis of Smurfette, whose name and role in the community reflect that she is not much more than the sole pretty face in the burg.

Intelligent and condescending Brainy Smurf (Danny Pudi of "Community"), uncoordinated Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer of "30 Rock"), and macho macho Hefty Smurf (Joe Manganiello) are the primary Smurfs this time around.

The main action begins with Smurfette literally going off the reservation; this exploration equally literally provides an intriguing glimpse of what lies beyond her rather limited world. Essentially literal daddy of all Smurfs Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin) hands Smurfette and the aforementioned boys their Smurfs on a platter on their return from the forbidden zone. He also literally sends them to their rooms without their suppers.

An undeterred Smurfette earns the name Rebel Smurf in soon sneaking back out to learn more about her cousins literally beyond the wall; the boys soon follow.

Our band of explorers soon finding themselves the guests of evil wizard/Smurf nemesis Gargamel (Rainn Wilson of "The Office") and his sidekick cat Azrael (voice-over god Frank Welker) puts this big bad on the hunt for the titular hidden valley.

Adventures along the way include white-water rafting and an encounter with Smurf-eating plants. We also get the requisite scene in which the Smurfs show their nobility in rescuing Gargamel from a probable demise.

A fun ongoing theme in this portion of the film revolves around the brain v. brawn conflict that Brainy and Hefty represent. A hilarious example of this is Hefty showing Brainy the best use for a scout manual regarding starting a campfire.

Smurfette and the boys eventually find the Edenlike "Lost Village" that is reminiscent of Paradise Island of "Wonder Woman" lore. It is an entirely male-free matriarchy that celebrates beautifully drawn nature and other good things and is free  of serious conflict.

The Nazi/snake that our core group inadvertently introduces to this previous Utopia is Gargamel; this intrusion leads to a mission that shows the value of peace, love, and understanding.

Needless to say, all live Smurfily ever after to Smurf another day.

The plethora of extras center around crafts projects. They will teach you how to "Smurfify Your Nails" and draw your favorite Smurf. You further can enjoy a dance Along and enjoy a "I'm A Lady" music video by Meghan Trainor. These are only the French tip of the iceberg.

Anyone who wants to Smurf more about "Village" can either Smurf me or Smurf on Twitter Smurf via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

'Kept Boy' DVD: Gay-themed Tale of Fighting for Your Man/Meal Ticket

Breaking Glass Pictures once more breaks new ground regarding the August 8, 2017 DVD release of the 2017 comedy "Kept Boy;" this one nicely shows that a traditional or alternative trophy spouse is not always in it just for (or even primarily) the money.

The titular himbo is 30 year-old former swimsuit model whose brief career posing in banana hammocks abruptly ends on meeting celebrity interior designer/realty show host Farleigh Knock. Knock quickly rescues Farleigh from the drudgery of prancing around almost naked on gorgeous beaches in front of drooling fans.

We meet this couple as Dennis reaches his expiration date of 30. He is having fun, fun, fun 'til his increasingly stressed sugar daddy takes his Porsche away. This portion of the film has the best line in "Boy." Farleigh states in response to Dennis asserting an ability to get a job that this tarnishing golden boy is only qualified to swill champagne and work out at the gym. Adding that Dennis lately is doing much more of the former and much less of the latter escalates the remark from amusing to hilarious.

This threat drives Dennis to seek Long Island iced tea and sympathy from straight-boy Lonnie, who is the May to December former A-List celebrity reporter Deidre, and partially kept straight-girl Paulette. The cliche of Paulette is that she is the "other woman" of a married Congressman. The gatherings of this trio can be considered meetings of The First Mistresses Club.

Farleigh experiencing serious threats to his fame and his related fortune are only two specifics challenges regarding the efforts of Dennis to step up his game before he ends up living on the street corner that he will be required to work. The latest pool boy (who enjoys swimming naked) Jasper may be the new model who replaces Dennis.

The campaign of Jasper to keep his man/meal ticket includes a hilarious variation of a gay and straight porn cliche. A pizza boy comes ready to deliver in an effort for Dennis to show Farleigh that he is worth keeping around.

The hilarity and the related drama escalate on Dennis whisking Farleigh off of an increasingly disastrous trip to Cartagena that involves more than Colombian pearl necklaces. Farleigh already is reacting badly to literally and figuratively being taken out of his comfort zone when he learns of a career-threatening incident back home. Jasper showing up at precisely the wrong time at exactly the wrong time further fouls the moods of man and boy alike.

The Colombia scenes add depth both regarding showing the extent to which Jasper is a hustler and the life traumas that make him this and as to Dennis discovering the extent to which he is hopelessly devoted to Farleigh.

This vacation drama culminates in a gaycom scheme that involves Dennis taking one for the team to demonstrate his love for Farleigh. The extent to which this is a sacrifice is slightly ambiguous.

The nice part of this effort is that Dennis and Farleigh obtain a better understanding of how they feel about each other; this coming too late is sad.

Greater understanding and acceptance wrap up this interesting tale with the related lessons that continuing to show love is important and that a relationship that largely is based on person being younger and cuter always runs the risk of someone even more youthful and attractive coming along.

The plethora of extras include an entertaining Q&A session at the MiFo LGBT Film Festival premiere of "Boy," cast-and-crew interviews, a "making-of" feature, and deleted scenes.

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

'Fate' VOD: Love's Labour Lost in Time

Indie flick company Self-Destruct Films proves that intelligent life exists on the small screen regarding the August 15, 2017 VOD release of the scifi drama  "Fate." This movie is notable both for making time travel seem possible and for explaining the underlying science in a manner that a person of average intelligence can understand it.

Grad student Connor Hughes, who can be considered the 21st century version of physics whiz kid Quinn Mallory of the '90s scifi series "Sliders," seemingly has a good life at the beginning of "Fate." He is engaged to beautiful and caring elementary school teacher April, lives in a townhouse that is much nicer than the homes that most of us inhabit in our 20s, and is on the verge of inventing a safe means of time travel.

The only rift in Conril is that April is increasingly jealous regarding Connor having Lady Science as a mistress. April subsequently having cause to believe that she has a flesh-and-blood rival triggers tragic events just as Connor has a milestone Eureka moment.

The several quantum leaps that Connor makes to try to put right what once went wrong propel the subsequent action. One spoiler is that our hero not falling in the trap of not learning from history does not spare him from repeating it. This pattern provides the basis for the title of "Fate" in that it seems that it is the destiny of April to have her life take the same course regardless of any efforts to change it.

"Fate" further has the standard element of the menacing feds. In this case, it is a group whose oversight of the research includes determining whether to keep grant money flowing.

The other twist is that an increasingly relevant limit on the ability to go back in time exerts additional pressure on Connor to succeed each time that he tries to save April. This leads to an awesome approach that creates drama and suspense to the final minutes of the movie. A related note is that the truly surprising conclusion is not revealed until the end of the closing credits.

The art of the film is combining the elements of time-travel movies in a new and entertaining manner. The butterfly effect plays a large role; we also get the effort to save a soulmate and the related angst regarding having to decide when to effectively pull the plug.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Fate" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvguy.

Friday, August 11, 2017

'The 100' S4 Blu-ray: Serious Fall-Out From Return to Earth

This analysis of the Warner Archive July 18, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 2017 fourth season of the CW teendram "The 100" follows up on a recent marathon of reviews on S1-3 of this series. The S1 review includes the lore of this show about former space-station young offenders returning to earth; the S3 review discusses the events that lead to S4.

S4 is stronger than S3 in that it seems to scale back on "Game of Thrones" style drama related to the former space inhabitants (who are known as Skaikru for his purpose) and the 12 tribes of "Grounders," who are humans who did not allow a little thing like an apocalypse make them abandon earth when the ancestors of Skaikru scampered off almost a century ago. The shifting alliances, betrayals of those agreements, ambushes, assassinations, and titular "civilized" teens going native is hard to follow at times.

This aspect of "100" epicly takes center stage in a "Hunger Games" style battle royale in which first prize is life and second prize is angonizing death. Grounder wannabe/lover of bad boys Octavia represents Skaikru.

S4 opens in the wake of many members of the core group returning to reality after abruptly being yanked from an idyllic state of consciousness. One of the most harsh truths that these folks and their peers face is that the impending fallout from already failed nuclear reactors makes fatal radiation exposure imminent.

The urgency of either finding a means of becoming impervious to the radiation or finding shelter that is both sturdy enough to shield people from that harmful substance and large enough to house everyone who requires that protection drives most of the S4 action. This further creates a regularly requiring need to decide more who must die so that others may have a chance of living, rather than making a tough choice related to avoiding any death at all.

On a fundamental level, having our re-pioneers face certain death from radiation poisoning gets to the core (pun intended) concept of "100." That threat is what drives humans to live in space in the first place. An early (and repeating) story arc regrading determining which 100 people to save further ties into the primary theme of this series.

Once more, teen group leader Clarke is at the center of the struggle to survive (without even any thoughts of thriving) as she attempts to keep her people sedate and to stop the grounders from attacking. One (not so abstract) aspect of this is a sense of "who died and made you queen." Facing selecting a lab rat for a possibly fatal experiment, having word of the aforementioned list leak, and having to adopt a literal bunker mentality are only a few of the challenges that are just another day at the office for this Katniss of the 100verse.

For his part, former government head Thelonious Jaha (Isiah Washington) goes from an S3 obsession with a virtual Utopia to indirectly seeking salvation via a doomsday cult. He, like his peers, further finds himself experiencing distressing deja vu.

Formerly adorkable Jasper continues his emo journey by becoming the leader of a group that chooses to party hearty for a few days and leave a not-so-pretty corpse than to merely survive. He further once more goes full Monty; this time in a hilarious shower scene that also features his repeatedly on-again-off-again pal who shares the name of this slang expression.

The multiple build-ups to the season finale further outshine the S3 (and S2) season-ending events. Knowing that not everyone can be saved brings out the best in some and the not-so-best in others; it further shows that the good deeds of a few do not go unpunished for the masses.

Meanwhile, a small group of far-out space nuts get ready to leave the world that they used to know without any plan of how to return; Raven is there to help them along.

The final scenes take a significant leap ahead in time in a manner that should have new and old fans alike counting down to the early 2018 S5 premiere. Both seeing how things in this new present (which allows the cast to literally act its age) play out and see the events that lead up to them.

The plethora of extras include a feature on the aforementioned Jasper that shows that actor Devon Bostick is just as goofily charming as his character. We further get the standard and always entertaining Comic-Con Panel for the season, equally enjoyable Gag Reel and Unaired Scenes, and a plethora of making-of documentaries.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "100" is strongly encouraged to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

'Demon Seed' Blu-ray Futuristic Tale of Artificial Intelligence Insemination

Warner Archive once again shows its love of far-out futuristic '70s scifi with the March 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1977 Julie Christie film "Demon Seed" based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name. This tale of a '70s housewife being a scifi sexual assault victim makes a good companion to the (Unreal TV reviewed) Archive DVD release of the 1974 Barbara Eden film "The Stranger Within" in which the baby daddy is a brother from another planet.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Demon" shows the good marriage between '70s scifi and the creepiness of Koontz novels.

Christie plays Susan Harris, whose husband Alex Harris (Fritz Weaver) is a scientist. The claim-to-fame of Alex is Proteus 4.0, which is a highly advanced A.I. that Fritz uses as the basis for turning his home into a state-of-the-art smart house. The subsequent terror sets the standard for the automated homes running amok films and shows to follow.

The real action commences on Proteus trapping and fully isolating Susan in the house; he then explains that his need to evolve in ways that include better understanding humans requires fathering a child. This process included inserting the titular baby batter into Susan.

The "sticks' that Proteus employs to coerce Susan to cooperate include turning the house against her and putting innocents who come along at great peril. A scene that weaponizes the door bell creates vicarious pleasure regarding those of who who have Jehovah's Witnesses continue showing up several times after being politely asked to not do so.

The actual artificial intelligence insemination is one of the most entertaining scenes in "Demon;" it comes complete with a laser light show and surely would have included Susan smoking an E Cigarette if made in 2017. This encounter of the cyber kind further leaves no doubt that once you go binary, you never go back.

Discovering whether the weird science experiment succeeds and whether Proetan name their offspring Chip requires watching the film. One thing for sure is that viewers will look at their Amazon Echo in a different light after seeing the film.

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

'The Hudsucker Proxy' Blu-ray: The Coen Brothers Take Stock of Manipulating Financial Markets

The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the deliciously dark and cynical Coen Brothers 1994 comedy "The Hudsucker Proxy" provides many great reminders of the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages of Hollywood that predate the current Talc Age. Les Freres Coen make this hilarious homage to the social-conscience comedies of the '30s and '40s that is set in the '50s in the '90s. The jaded guys, tough dames, snappy patter, and spinning newspapers show that the Coens respect their Golden Age elders.

The increasingly common aside for reviews of Archive titles this time is that the Coens also learn from Silver Age of Television god Garry Marshall; that "Happy Days" creator is spot-on in realizing that a television show made in the '70s but set in the '50s and '60s never looks dated.

"Hudsucker" opens with the related events of Hudsucker Industries Founder and CEO Waring Hudsucker abruptly and dramatically retiring and Indiana rube Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins) arriving in the Big Apple with the ink still figuratively wet on his diploma from a Muncie business college.

The job search of Barnes on arriving in New York is more reminiscent of the Depression, rather than the more prosperous '50s. Barnes landing a job in the frantic and highly bureaucratic "Brazil" like mailroom at Hudsucker is a dream come true for cigar-chomping robber baron Hudsucker executive Sidney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman).

The grand scheme of Mussburger relates to the departure of Waring inspiring a campaign to have the value of Hudsucker stock plummet in order for Mussburger and his fellow directors to buy low and sell (or hold) high. The noble but naive Barnes arriving facilitates executing the portion of the plan that calls for purposefully making an incompetent boob the company president.

Of course, the big idea of Barnes that the board thinks cannot succeed is a massive hit. This both shows how to succeed in business without really trying and answers the question of whether success spoils Norville Barnes.

The requisite dame is fast (and tough) talking lady reporter Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She (in pure '30s screwball comedy style) initially plays Barnes for a sap, has a few changes of heart, and ultimately gets a combination of her man and the real story.

The combination of actual and Hollywood magic at the end of "Hudsucker" awesomely completes the experience of seeing and hearing this highly stylized and Coenesquely scored film in Blu-ray. Seeing that someone is looking out for the good-hearted saps out there and that justice of the poetic and other forms still exist will make you feel better than you have at the conclusion of any film for many years.

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

NH Seacoast Green Bean Restaurants Bring California Vibe to East Coast

The groovy San Francisco area vibe regarding every aspect of the The Green Bean cafes (Bean) reflect the tenure of Exeter, New Hampshire native Lori Whitney in the Silicon Valley city of Mount View. She opened the first Bean there and (to the great benefit of NH seacoast residents) transplanted the Bean when she returned to Exeter in the ‘90s. In this case, Thomas Wolfe was incredibly wrong regarding being able to successfully come home again.
Whitney states that the origin of the Bean name is a genuine inspiration from above. She shared that “I said out loud ‘I need a name;’ it [The Green Bean] trickled out the sky into my head.”
The New Hampshire locations have the bonus of Whitney’s California transplant husband Jeff Turner, who is a prior tenant advocate regarding housing-based discrimination, joining the business. Turner jokes that “we went into business together and then went into therapy together.”
Turner seriously describes the roles of  him and Whitney as “she’s vision, I’m execution.” He adds that he handles contract negotiations and similar business-related aspects of their company.
The first NH location (which is getting a baby sibling in September 2017) is celebrating a china (i.e., 20th) anniversary in Exeter.  Opening a second location at the former Pease Air Force base took 8 years; a (Green Dean?) location at a Portsmouth community college a few years later is "cool, cool, cool, cool."
A highlight of an early August 2017 stay at the fantabulous (Unreal TV reveiwed) Wentworth by the Sea Hotel was taking the five-minute walk to the seasonal Bean location in its sixth season at the New Castle, NH marina. 
The dog-friendly nature of this restaurant deserves mention before discussing this great meal. Whitney states that dogs are very welcome at the Wentworth location and that many people bring their dogs when they eat in the courtyard of her current Exeter location. 
Every Bean serves breakfast and lunch; the Pease and Community Campus restaurants are open Monday through Friday, and the Exeter and the Wentworth locations are open seven days a week. The Wentworth location additionally serves the lunch menu, which includes what Whitney accurately described as “fabulous” burgers, in the evening on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
The Wentworth location is further distinguishable as the Turner and Hooch location because it sells Red Hook and Pete’s Organic beers. Whitney shares that she has Red Hook because that company “donates a lot to charity events.”
My only beef (pun intended) is that Whitney, ala Trader Joe’s, removed an absolutely favorite item from the menu. Her roast beef with Boursin is last-meal worthy tasty, but Whitney stated that there is not enough demand for roast beef to justify keeping it on the menu.
The August (pun intended) feast began with nachos with the "works" that include generous amounts of everything for which one could hope and barbecue pork sliders that a love of southern food puts slightly ahead of the nachos in terms of favorites. The lean meat, tasty sauce with just enough zest, and the whole thing being perfectly proportioned and staying together make it as good anything eaten in several states south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The below "flashback" provides context for getting a bacon cheddar burger with barbecue sauce for my entree. The five-star restaurant quality ingredients, getting all three ingredients in every bite, and the perfect cooking transformed this chain-restaurant staple into an incredible treat. Not being able to finish it due to the aforementioned appetizers and wanting to save room for the chipwich (which I refused to share) with ginormous homemade chocolate chip cookies was distressing because no valid excuse exists for wasting food this good. 
The promised context for selecting a burger from the menu that required a choice much tougher than any decision that Sop[hie ever faced was that Whitney immediately picked up during the visit that featured the (now sadistically discontinued) roast beef sandwich that I would not accept her statement that her burgers were “fabulous” without trying one. 
The quality of the other food, Whitney sharing that getting ground chuck that a Kittery Maine meat shop ground fresh each day, and Whitney adding that the burgers contained a “secret ingredient” created optimism regarding her claim of awesomeness. Whitney just smiled when I referred to Sweeney Todd in response to her "secret ingredient" comment.
The "doggy bag" cheddar and (homemade) chipotle mayo burger was incredible. Despite being refrigerated for a few hours before being nuked for dinner, the burger lacked an iota of congealed fat. It also was one of the best burgers that I have ever had despite the punishment of being cooled and zapped.
The chipotle mayo was an ideal blend of those tastes, and I allowed the coincidence of John Belushi’s disgusting cafeteria scene in “Animal House” coming on while eating to justify using my hamburger bun to mop up the little bit of the mayo that dripped out. I had enough willpower to resist licking my plate clean.
The Bean’s desserts are just as good (but even more addictive) than the sandwiches and burgers. The chocolate chip cookies, which I believe also include a “secret ingredient,” are truly the best ever. Whitney was kind enough to send me home with a beyond generous stash of these cookies during the recent visit. 
Turner perfectly sums all of the above in describing the Bean’s philosophy as “we try to make everything fresh and wonderful.” In my humble opinion, they far exceed that goal.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding the Bean (or who want to join a campaign to reintroduce the roast beef sandwich) is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. If you visit, tell them that Matt sent you.