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Friday, August 31, 2018

'Time After Time' Blu-ray: Trifecta of Jack the Ripper, Time Travel, & Dystopian Social Commentary

The numerous awesome aspects of the Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1979 scifiromdramedy "Time After Time" hinders deciding where to begin, The audio commentary provides a good starting point both because it reflects the exceptional track record of Archive regarding getting principals of a film into the sound booth decades after a theatrical release and because these extras are an important part of film history. Star Malcolm McDowell and writer/director Nicholas Meyer team up this time to provide the "true Hollywood story" of this classic. 

The musings in the commentaries are comparable to Hollywood royalty attending the annual TCM Film Festival; both provide a chance to get insights from the lions' mouths before they pass away. Thinking of Adam Sandler and Robert Downey, Jr. being the TCM headliners is enough to strike dread in the hearts of cinephiles, The practiced preaching this time is having attended the 2017 festival.

Another very special aspect of "Time" is that this tale of scifi writer/social activist H.G. Wells (MCDowell) using his 19th-century time-machine to pursue Jack the Ripper (David Warner) from Victorian England to 1979 San Francisco is part of a scifi renaissance of the era. "Time" can arguably  thank the "Star Trek" OS films (Meyer is a writer/director or "II") , "Star Wars," and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" for  being greenlit.

The cred. of "Time" includes winning three Saturn awards and the USA National Board of Review naming it one of the Top 10 Films of 1979. 

It is worth noting as well that the amped up audio and video of Blu-ray particularly enhances the bright on-location San Francisco scenes, the 70slicious special effects when the time machine is being used, and the mood-setting soundtrack. One of the most cool moments is watching the machine travel through a subspace-style dimension accompanied by audio from the eras that is is passing. 

Our story begins in Victorian England with Jack the Ripper cutting the night of a lady of the evening short. Meanwhile, Wells is entertaining gentlemen callers when Dr. John Leslie Stevenson literally arrives late to the party. The next few minutes allowing anyone with enough grey matter to solve a "Scooby-Doo" mystery both to figure out that Stevenson is the Ripper and how things are destined to play out does not (ala "Columbo") diminish the joy related to seeing how we get there, 

Stevenson soon puts the bragging of Wells regarding his new solar-powered ride to good use by jacking the time machine to escape to 1979 San Francisco, which also is the 1986 destination of the Enterprise crew. This is not to mention that The City by the Bay is the ultimate destination of a "Trek" crew and a "Stargate" team that are lost in space trying to return home.

Social commentary enters the picture in the form of Wells considering his atonement for aiding and abetting Stevenson having the upside of seeing his envisioned Utopia of a world in which love is free, war is no more, and everyone is thriving and happy. Even 1979 audiences know that Wells is in for a rude awakening. One cannot imagine him being able to handle our 2018 existence. 

An amusing aspect of the restrained wonder of Wells on encountering the tech. of the late '70s is that it looks primitive 39 years later. There are clunky landlines, huge counter-top microwaves, CRT televisions, and very outdated cars in which cassette players likely are considered luxury items. 

McDowell particularly shines as Wells simultaneously tries to curb his enthusiasm regarding the plethora of modern marvels, focuses on not letting his mannerisms betray him, and does his best to properly respond to social cues. 

The flip side is that Stevenson considers the '70s his Utopia. Making his point only requires flipping the channels when Wells initially tracks him down. Every network is showing war, contact sports, Yosemite Sam taking a dynamite blast to the face, etc. Similarly, Stevenson showing Wells his true colors makes it clear that the latter is bring an etiquette book to a knife fight. 

Wells gets a less rude awakening on meeting liberated middle-management bank employee Amy Catherine Robbins. An interesting aspect of this is that Robbins portrayor Mary Steenburgen marries McDowell in 1980. 

A slip  of the tongue putting Amy at real risk of a slit of the throat makes things that much more personal for Wells. This leads to the inevitable showdown that concludes with the fate of Stevenson that is clear within 15 minutes of the beginning of "Time."

The marketing genius of this is that "Time" has something for everyone without emphasizing one element so much that it offends anyone. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In' S6 DVD: Final Season of 'SNL' Predecessor Literally Leaves Us Wanting More

EDITOR'S NOTE: Unreal TV is proud and privileged to announce that '70s child star/"Laugh-In" Cousin Oliver Moosie Drier has granted an interview regarding his experience joining that series in its final year. This interview is scheduled to run during the weekend of September 7, 2018.

The Time Life September 4, 2018 DVD release of  the 1972-73 S6 of "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" provides a chance to see a genuine TV time capsule. This set also allows completing your collection of this musical sketch-comedy show that straddles the line between vaudeville and burlesque in delicately balancing between edgy social commentary and incurring the full wrath of the powers-that-be. 

The larger legacy of "Laugh-In" includes introducing a comparable quantity of catch-phrases and other pop-culture humor as that of the '60s spycom "Get Smart." Would you believe that these expressions include "sock it to me," "look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls," and "The Fickle Finger of Fate?"

We further get genuinely enduring characters. The better known ones are Ernestine the telephone operator and Edith Ann the precious five-and-a-half year-old girl. This is not to take anything away from frumpy Gladys Ormphby and her regular partner-in-comedy dirty old man Tyronne F. Horneigh. We further get the German soldier with the "veeery interesting" catchphrase.

But wait there is more. "Laugh-In" also launches the careers of many household names that include Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, and Ruth Buzzi.

The legacy of "Laugh-In" begins with starting life as a 1967 special that is such a phenom that is becomes the series that is still loved more than 50 years later. The review of the S2 season, post on S3, thoughts regarding S4, and recent S5 article chart the evolution of the series. These musings include summaries of the past, present, and future film and television stars who help make the series so special.

"Laugh-In" paving the way for "SNL" is comparable to "The Simpsons" making adults watching cartoon cool; this impact of that show about a nuclear (of course, pun intended) American family more specifically makes the once-great three-hour "Animation Domination" block on Fox Sunday night possible, 

The comparison continues with "Laugh-In" leaving the air long before any stagnation period that infects any 30-year series. This exit while still strong further allows the copious musical-variety series of the era to fill the gap in the manner that "Bob's Burgers" almost certainly will move into "The Simpsons" time slot when that series completely outstays its welcome on the prime time schedule. 

The numerous changes that are apparent from the opening moments of the S6 season premiere reflect methods to freshen up the series in manners that future shows emulate. This effort that reflects an adapt or perish attitude likely would have included adding Ted McGinley and Heather Locklear to the ensemble if those two actors had been performing in 1972 and were a little older. 

Adding 10 year-old child star Moosie Drier to the cast a few years before Cousin Oliver moves in with the Bradys reflects dual campaigns to bring in fresh blood and to attract more younger viewers. The primary contribution of Drier and another boy is an adorable and hilarious "Dear Moosie" segment that involves reading kid-friendly letters seeking advice and Mossie providing answers that are pure vaudeville.

The season-opener also introduces the audience to the "Laugh-In" cheerleaders who are akin to the Vegas showgirl style Mermaids who join "The Love Boat" late in the run of that classic. This also is the era in which late-to-the-party McGinley joins the cast as Ace the ship's photographer. 

A unexpected diminished amount of political humor and an equally surprising reduction in the edge of the jibes at elected officials in this Watergate era likely reflect a combination of the following considerations., "Laugh-In" may have decided that playing nicer would have helped ratings, they may have been effectively directed to not discuss Watergate, and that scandal may have prompted the American people to decide that the wrongdoings of our leaders have reached a toxic level that no longer is funny. 

We further see "Laugh-In" emulate phenom "The Carol Burnett Show" in a "Laugh-In" version of an audience Q & A session. This version being less kind-and-gentle than the comparable "Burnett" segments  highlights the differences between the series.

The aforementioned roster of A-Liisters begins with incredibly good sport John Wayne, whose history includes a faux refusal to appear in early seasons. The best brains at "Laugh-In" mine wonderful humor spoofing the conservative tough guy image of Wayne. The Duke playing along illustrates that the best guests on any comedy show are the ones who go with the flow. 

We next get Dyan Cannon joking about her recent role in the racy comedy "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice." Her opening bit in which she jokes about playboy host Dick Martin grabbing at her in a dark dressing room perfectly illustrates the era of f**k 'em if they can't take a joke now being a period of f**ked if you tell 'em a joke. The lesson here is to understand the context of humor along the lines of knowing that Ralph Kramden threatening to send wife Alice to the moon is far different then either joking about putting her in the hospital or actually hitting her. 

Star of film and television Ernest Borgnine helps wrap things up in the final episode; his role primarily consists of joking about his well-known roles in productions such as "Marty" and "McHale's Navy." A highlight of the episode is pointing The Fickle Finger of Fate in a surprising direction regarding the final bestowing of that award for reprehensible behavior. In many respects this reflects the validity of giving this award to any individual or entity that cannot laugh at itself,

The good news regarding the series finale is that it maintains the quality of the show and literally leaves the audience wanting more. The bad news is that it seems that Rowan, Martin, and company do not realize that this is the season finale, let alone their very last time together in the spotlight. There are no references to any endings, and a preview of the next (apparently lost) episode literally promises more to come.

Cursory online research does not provide any answers; the probable reason is that diminished ratings and/or NBC making a last-minute decision to put another series in the "Laugh-In" time slot denies this ground-breaking series the final exit that it deserves. Either way, this justifies NBC getting the final Fickle Finger of Fate award. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

'Grimsey' DVD: Spanish Man Flies to Iceland Pursuing Lost Love

TLA Releasing artfully combines travelogues and universal love stories with the recent DVD release of the 2018 drama "Grimsey." The spoiler is that you will ache to board the next flight to Reykjavik on seeing this one. 

The following YouTube clip of the Releasing trailer for "Grimsey" reflects the awesomeness of promos for indie films in that they consistently accurately reflect the themes and the tone of the film., In this case, the scenery and the angst of lost love receive equal attention.

The largest theme this time is the long tradition of a gay man abruptly ending what his boyfriend often thinks is a stable and mutually loving relationship. Combined cowardice and justification that simply vanishing is kinder than confronting everyone from a fuck buddy to a genuine partner with the awful truth prompts simply not returning messages and never seeing the person again. Learning that the love is one-sidedl without discovering why can devastate the rejected boy.

The hut guy in "Grimsey" expresses the above sentiments this in highly relatable voicemails to the one who ran away. Not knowing for sure that the other person is alright and not being told the reason for the radio silence is torturous for a man who has the sensitivity that being boyfriend material requires. 

Bruno in "Grimsey" has it even worse than usual. Photographer boyfriend Norberto simply does not return from a trip to Iceland, A police investigation confirms that Norberto never boards his scheduled flight home, However, there is no indication of intentional or accidental bodily injury.

A distraught Bruno flies to Reykavik to find his boo but meets local tour guide Aranu, who joins the quest. This being a gay-themed movie ensures that Bruno is the object of the affection of Arnau. However, another truth of gay life comes in the form of Bruno being so obsessed with his mission that he is oblivious that the handsome and sweet guy next to him may be his actual Mr. Right. Most gay men can relate to being on both sides of this type of relationship.

Amusing support for the theory that every gay man knows each other leads to Bruno travelling several hours across Iceland in search of Norberto; although he initially is reluctant to let Arnau tag along, a sweet gesture indicates that Bruno is open to the idea of moving on.

That journey leads to the titular island that literally and figuratively is the end of the road. It is equally apt that this is the point at which Bruno must decide whether he is going to fish or cut bait, The final word on this subject is that the outcome may be that Norberto is the one who gets away.

The relatability of "Grimsey" continues to the the final scenes. The lesson here is the same as the one throughout the film in that a good man is particularly hard to find when your dating pool is limited to 10-percent of the population and many eligible candidates are married. This makes it important to go the extra mile to find Mr. Right. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

'Blue Desert' DVD: Futuristic Psychedelic Vision of Brazil

The Indiepix Films July 10, 2018 DVD release of the 2013 scifi existentialist drama "Blue Desert" shows that the spirit of the LSD-influenced cinema of the late '60s and early '70s is not entirely dead. The surreal images and heavily philosophical dialogue make it no surprise that the Yoko One art book Grapefruit inspires Brazilian filmmaker Eder Santos. The rest of the story that the press materials share that "Grapefruit" inspires the John Lennon song "Imagine."

The stunning futuristic images looks so good when put in a 4K player and watched on a 4K set that one can only image the incredibly beauty of a Blu-ray version of this winner of a Golden Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival.

The following YouTube video of the Indiepix trailer for "Desert" provides a strong sense of every aforementioend attribute of the film. 

 "Desert" completely revolves around 20-something everyman/narrator Ele. The first sense that we are not in Kansas anymore comes on this Millennial discussing earth now having two moons. We quickly learn that the second moon is a gift that Ele compares to the Statue of Liberty.

Much of the rest of the film evokes strong thoughts of the Steven Spielberg film "Ready Player One" in that the populace often wears VR glasses while going about their business in this (mostly blue) heavily neon world. Much of the fun of the film relates to trying to figure out whether something is real or merely virtual. Ele meeting the girl of his dreams relates to the best of both worlds.

The title of the film refers to the activity of  a spirit guide of Ele; An insightful observation regarding the nature of reality that this man shares with Ele is one of the most trippy scenes in the film.

The overall theme is Ele frantically seeking enlightenment; this quest involves a great deal of introspection and affirmative efforts to transcend.

The almost equally surreal Terry Gilliam film "Brazil" makes setting desert in that country very apt. It is a very techno-future world in which it seems that not every form of public transportation actually moves you from Point A to Point B. 

The takeaways from "Desert" are that the future is not necessarily completely bleak and that the path to enlightenment is paved with good intentions.

Monday, August 27, 2018

'My Life With James Dean' DVD: Charming MUST-SEE French Film on Indie Flicks and Gay Boy Coming-of-Age

Breaking Glass Pictures impressively outdoes itself regarding the August 28, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 French dramedy "My Life as James Dean." The only criticism is that Breaking does not make this beautifully shot film with a solid soundtrack available on Blu-ray. 

The best way to think about this one is that it retains all the style and humor of a classic French film while adding a splash of a Michael Chabon or John Irving novel. We get outrageously comical characters going to extremes to pursue overlapping passions. 

The mention regarding accolades this time is that the lack of them is astonishing; one cannot imagine festivals passing this one over. 

It is not surprising that relatively new indie filmmaker Dominque Choisy knows of what she speaks regarding the film screening aspects of "Life." It is surprising that a woman has the depicted insight regarding regarding young gay love.

The metaness of "Life" begins with this film having the same name as the fictional film of 20-something first-time director Geraud Champreux around whom the Choisy film is centered. Personal metaness relates to frustrating efforts to arrange screenings of an exceptional indie film of a 20-something righteous dude.

The opening scenes are of Champreux riding a bus to a small Normandy town to host a screening of his film about a man who believes that he is Dean. The comic misadventures begin with losing a modern lifeline when he arrives at his destination.

The audience next gets a glimpse at the life of a first-time indie filmmaker when no one is there to greet Geraud. His subsequent encounter with locals at a bar is the first of many "Northern Exposure" style incidents that reflect the personalities of quirky small-town folk.

Our man temporarily without a country manages to find the theater where his film is to be shown only to be told that his appearance is a surprise and that no screening is scheduled. This discussion includes commentary on the overall sad state of modern cinema in which commerce typically trumps art. 

The next stop it the hotel that is the best guess regarding where the woman behind the invitation is putting up Geraud. This brings him in contact with disaffected Jill-of-all-trades hotel employee Gladys,. Her amusing lazy dismissive approach to her job is very familiar to frequent travelers. 

The penultimate piece of the puzzle comes when Geraud meets box-office worker/projectionist Balthazar. This canard odd can be considered the very late-in-life brother of mop-topped tall and lanky slacker-type character actor Hamish Linklater. 

Another meta moment occurs when the first moments of the fictional film mesmerize Balthazar to the extent that transference results in his falling in love with an unresponsive Geraud. This innocent small-town boy also most likely never having felt the touch of another man is another factor.

The final piece of the puzzle comes when booker Sylvia van den Rood belatedly shows up and subsequently ensnares Geraud in her personal drama that is responsible for neglecting him. This coincides with a sweet declaration of love by Balthazar. 

Balthazar outdoes himself in putting himself on the line by showing up uninvited for a booty call. Being given the boot not deterring him is another notably sweet moment in the film. This is relatable to the perk of being a gay man in the form of sometimes being the pursued one in a relationship. We all desire to feel wanted and loved.

The subsequent screenings set the stage as our core group of three and various hangers-on travel through the area. 

The biggest surprise comes when casual conversation with the parents of Balthazar leads to a surprise reveal that is a potential game changer. The subsequent developments reinforce that the French are amazingly much more casual about sex and nudity than Americans.

Choisy keeps the fun going to the end as Geraud helps two fugitives as he figuratively rides off into the sunset. The final scenes fully seal the deal regarding the quirky charm of "Dean." 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

'Masters of Sex' Blu-ray and DVD: 'Ripped From the History Books' Saga of Mad Men Style Sex Researchers

The Mill Creek Entertainment separate August 21, 2018 DVD and Blu-ray complete series releases of the 2013-16 Showtime docudrama "Masters of Sex" coinciding with the (reviewed) Creek CS releases of the ABC sitcom "Happy Endings" provides Telephiles plenty of viewing pleasure while waiting for the new TV season.

Candor in the spirit of "Masters" is a factor in confessing that August being a particularly busy month for home-video releases and other factors are reasons for pulling out before completion in that this review is based on the first two of the of the four seasons in this series about real-life pioneer sex researchers Dr. Bill Masters and (twice-divorced) Mrs. Virginia Johnson. A desire to see what comes next is the excuse for not reading ahead, The real-life Masters and Johnson will agree that not providing complete satisfaction is a valid basis for complaint.

The fact that "Masters" gets 52 nominations and only 6 wins also reflects the spirit of this program about a highly passionate Masters striving to educate the public about physical aspects of sex and every factor that make it either satisfying or anti-climatic. The excuse this time is that the 100s of networks and overall good quality of television dramas the past few years make the competition much more stiff than back in the days of only three commercial broadcast options and PBS.

The majority of the wins deservedly go to future Oscar winner Allison Janney for her portrayal of Margaret Scully. The highly stressful marriage of Margaret to university official Barton Scully (Beau Bridges) makes that woman a '50s housewife a rebel with a very righteous cause. 

Cursory on-line research shows that the series predictably stretches the truth regarding the main characters and their work but remains relatively true to the source material. An assumption is that the incidents in the lives of the supporting characters mostly are designed to entertain and to  provide a context for depicting social issues of the day.

The pilot episode of "Masters" provides a strong sense of the direction of the show right from the beginning. The opening images are of inter-titles that state that Dr. Williams Masters (Michael Sheen) and former night-club singer Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) team up to publish a ground-breaking sex study in 1966. The next image is of an inter-title that establishes the year as 1956.

We first meet Masters working solo as a peeping Tom with a scientific purpose in a very basic version of his research. This leads to his using his clout (and a touch of blackmail) to move his work to Washington University Hospital where his literal day job includes star status. He initially hires Johnson as a secretary but more fully integrates her into the work and his life as the season progresses. 

The S1 season finale predictably is climatic as an oblivious Masters presents his preliminary findings accompanied with intimate footage of study participants to his peers in 1957. Although not touched on very strongly, the perception of the film as lewd rather than as a valid element of scientific research relates to the issue of what is pornographic; part of the answer is that the determination must reflect the intent behind the making and the showing of the images. One spoiler is that this controversial production is not very erotic.

S2 begins with the fallout from the aforementioned presentation. Masters understandably considering the unwarranted outrage further enhances his inability to work and play well with others. This leads to the same conclusion that often applies regarding exceptionally intelligent and talented people that they do better working for themselves than being a wage slave.

The more unsettled nature of the study coincides both with a patient-of-the-week format and episodes with sometimes unduly preachy social issues. The first featured patient is a 20-something genuine nymphomaniac facing surgical sterilization. Many of the social issues revolve around race in the context of Masters working in a black hospital and his wife Libby having a young black woman help her around the house. 

The season ends with CBS making a documentary about Masters and Johnson; related interesting aspects of this are dumbing down the material and the issue of the seven words that George  Carlin informs the American public that cannot  be said on television in any context. Modern relevancy is at "SNL" and "South Park" separately running with the concept when at least two of those words get approval for use over the air, 

It is assumed that Season 3 addresses both the increased fame (or notoriety) associated with the documentary. We further can expect to see the personal relationship of our researchers evolve in the wake of Master showing Johnson great vulnerability in the second season. For her part, Mrs. Masters becoming a more liberated woman likely will impact the home front. 

The more-than-three-hours of bonus material include behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes, and "The History of Sex."

Friday, August 24, 2018

'Bound' Blu-ray: Incredible Remaster of Wachowskis' Classic Neonoir

The Olive Signature division of art and cult film god Olive Films once again shows its love of the best of the best with the phenomenal must see to believe remaster of the 1996 Wachowskis Brothers ("The Matrix and "Cloud Atlas.") classic neonoir "Bound." The adoration begins with including both the theatrical and unrated versions of this steamy mob drama that centers around illicit lesbian lovers whom Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly portray.

The artful contrasts (such as bright-red blood on gleaming white tile and perfectly laundered white shirts) and the overall cinematography look incredible in Blu-ray; the audio that plays an equally key role sounds crystal clear, The A-list group that provides the audio commentary includes the three stars and the bros. 

Gershon plays butch ex-con bull dyke lesbian Corky; Tilly is seductive femme fatale lipstick lesbian Violet. Fans of classic sitcoms will respectively think of Jo and Blair of "The Facts of Life."

It is love at first sight when a tank-top and jeans wearing Corky and dressed-up  to the nines Violet exchange glances at the high-end condo. building where moll Violet and gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) are shacking up in the unit next to where Corky is doing a major renovation for a client., The good humor begins Violet using one of the oldest ploys in the book to seduce Corky. This scene including Corky grabbing a pipe with her bare hands and ripping it loose is equally symbolic and humorous.

Our girls are enjoying unwedded bliss on the side when Caesar obtains temporary possession of $2M of mob money; the seduction is on the other Birkenstock when Corky convinces Violet to make that custody even more temporary than planned.

The ensuing mayhem follows the Leonard Snark (a.k.a. Captain Cold) four rules of planning  such a caper; make a plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan.

Mob boss Gino Marzzone (Richard C. Sarafin) and his son Johnnie (Christoper Meloni) who proves the theory about a family business failing when the third generation takes over making a booty call plays a big role regarding the third rule. The already discussed bad blood between Johnnie and Caesar is one of many elements that makes this a notably intense and entertaining scene. This is not to mention Gino discovering the limits of his influence. 

"Bound" next becomes especially Hitchcockian as the police arrive to investigate; the ode to that auteur includes a bath tub body dump and rinsing blood down the drain. The quick and efficient temporary cleanup suggests that this is is not the first trip to this type of rodeo.

It is equally inevitable that Caesar discovers the truth and obtains leverage; what ensues next is so unexpected and clever that it shows why The Wachowskis soon come to be in heavy demand. Part of the mastery is greatly honoring classic noir while keeping things fresh. 

The final result stays very true to the spirit of the old and the new. A strong reflection of this film being in a neo-code era is that not every malfeasor ends up in a shallow grave, in the river, or behind bars.

The standard feature-quality bonuses that Signature includes are equally exceptional this time. Particularly notable ones are two film experts sharing their thoughts on neonoir, Meloni discussing his character, and Gershon and Tilly providing insights regarding femme fatales. 

We also get a booklet with an essay by actress Guinevere Turner; her perspective is the positive role of "Bound" regarding portraying lesbians in films. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

'The Terror' S1 DVD & Blu-ray: Ridley Scott AMC Series About 'The Thing' Terrorizing Real-Life Arctic Expedition

The Lionsgate August 21, 2018 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the current Ridley Scott produced AMC horror series "The Terror" provides a warning to anyone who thinks that is safe to go back into the Arctic. This ripped-from-the-history-books drama is based on the novel of the same name that is a fictionalized account of the real-life mid-19th century effort by Sir John Franklin to locate the Northwest Passage.

The incredible sets and beautiful on-location scenery that includes The Northern Lights make full use of Blu-ray technology. Just watching the frozen landscape in such detail during a hot and humid summer provides relief. 

The title of the series and the book refers both to the name of the British naval ship that leads the two vessel expedition and to the events around which the series is centered. The film "The Thing" about a creature preying on scientists in Antarctica seems to provide most of the rest of the inspiration for the series. An interesting casting note is that Richard Harris son Jared Harris plays Captain Francis Crozier, who is the "good" captain. 

This show that is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes also is notable for having debuted as the number one new cable series premiere.

"Terror" opens with a spoiler in the form of a rescue group asking natives for information about the crews of the HMS Terror and the sister ship the HMS Erebus. The spoiler part relates to the action throughout the season including folks in London with horses in the race campaigning for the rescue. The actual story is that nothing is known about the real events or even the fate of the actual Sir John Franklin and his men.

We also get other pre-expeditions flashbacks and scenes from the home front during the period that are concurrent with the primary events of the series. 

Things are sailing long well when we first meet the crews; the primary exceptions are Sir John not being especially popular and the crew experiencing an unexpected medical problem.

The real trouble begins with an ill-fated decision that gets both ships solidly locked in ice. This leads to the first of many explorations of the land, which leads to the first of many encounters with the aforementioned creature. The series remains true to the tradition of quality horror in taking its own sweet time showing the actual beast. One spoiler is that he is a fan of biting off heads. 

Heightened tension in the wake of the first attack leads to accidentally killing a native man in the presence of his daughter. She, in turn, becomes a person of interest. The perceived threat that she poses includes a sense that she controls the beast. 

The shipboard action during this period provides the most fascinating insight; the below decks area overall seem realistic but cleaner and more roomy than the general perception of those accommodations. We further learn about the diet of the men and the potential role of their food supply regarding the mayhem in "Terror."

Although there is no hint of the men  adopting an any port in a storm attitude in the complete absence of women for several years, one crew member gets a brutal literal bare-ass whipping while all look on., This brings new meaning to a variation of the expression take it like a man.  

In true horror fashion, the threat and the tension among the men proportionately increase. Both lead to events that prove that desperate times lead to desperate measures. A compelling part of all this is that the challenge and the stakes are much higher than typical. This is even without an unearthly predator having a strong appetite for seafood. 

Things come full circle in the season finale and offer a big surprise before adopting a cliche from another genre by having a character walking off into the sunset. This leaves the door wide open for the second season that is scheduled to run in 2019.

​The Blu-ray extras include actual character studies, a look at the series itself, and a "horse's mouth" feature with Scott. 

'Dead Envy' Theatrical/VOD: Rocker Turned Hair Stylist Experiences Misery at Hand of Biggest Fan

The ONLY criticism regarding the thriller with comedic overtones "Dead Envy," which opens theatrically at the Arena Cinelounge Sunset in Los Angeles on August 24 before hitting VOD and cable platforms on September 3, is that "Curl Up and Die" is a much better title. The press materials stating that this tale of an aging rocker turned hairstylist unwittingly letting a crazed fan into his life is semi-autobiographical for writer-director Harley Di Nardo makes Di Nardo an especially interesting person to get to know. Any incidents that involve hobbling are particularly intriguing, 

The following YouTube video of the Random Media "Envy" trailer provides a good taste of the old-school elements of '80s-style rock and psycho-thrillers from that era.

Di Nardo stars as David Tangiers, who is the "has-been" front man for former top of the alternative pops band Katatonic Spin. He does not have much more success as a stylist at the salon that he owns with toxic aging hag Dawn,. Tangiers spouse Cecily is the salon receptionist/bookkeeeper.

Early scenes clearly establish that rockertude is incompatible with the pampering associated with mainstream mid-level salons. 

David is focusing more on staging his comeback than on running his salon when Javy Bates manipulates himself in his life in a manner that results in this man who seems unqualified to groom a dog talks his way into a stylist position, His early efforts support the credo of salons that if you don't look good, we don't look good. A demo CD further suggests that this wannabe should quit his day job. 

In true thriller style, Javy increasingly shows his roots in manners that extend beyond his very creepy home life that likely involves copious use of body lotion. His putting David in a highly compromising position is a highlight that leads to an even better "morning after" scene.  

It is amusing that things go fully old school as David sees the Dawn. His partner gets him to wise up just as Javy fully goes off the deep end as part of his wanting a new romance. This leads to the inevitable showdown with one of the equally inevitable conclusions. Who ends up dead on the floor or the hospital involves almost the final chord. We also get treated to the aftermath. One spoiler is that Di Nardo makes watching the closing credits worthwhile. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

'2 Stupid Dogs' V1 DVD: '90s Neomodern Approach to Retro Cartoons Proving Ground for Best 21st Century Animators

The Warner Archive August 14, 2018 three-disc DVD release of "2 Stupid Dogs" V1 coinciding with the (soon-to-be-reviewed) Blu-ray S2 release of the current CW edgy teen drama "Riverdale" is an iota of the buckets of proof that the Archive catalog extends far beyond DVDs of Golden Age films. As the "Warner Archive" category of this site shows, that distributor truly has something for everyone. 

A post on a past Norman Rockwell Museum exhibit of Hanna-Barbera animation provides includes information that enhances appreciation for "Dogs." The gist of this is that the concept, the style, and the format of the 1993-95 TBS series "Dogs" pays homage to the Hanna-Barbera mid-60s "talking animals" fare with three shorts, as least one of which features the star anthropomomphic critter. This give ways to super hero fare that includes reviewed sets of "Space Ghost" and "Bird-Man" that the "Architects of Saturday Morning" produce in response to Spider-Man and his amazing friends invading the turf of Secret Squirrel and his peers.

Speaking of Squirrel, updated adventures of this cool 000 gadget inspector from the Golden Age of Bond occupy the center square of "Dogs." The tales (pun intended) of the titular talking canines sandwich the exploits of  Squirrel. 

The general idea of "Dogs" is that these nameless pals have hilarious misadventures that typically ensue as a result of the dachshund, who is the excitable "Little Dog," seeking food. Future "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Brad Garrett puts his trademark deadpan style to good use as the very chill sheep dog "Big Dog." For his part, Squirrel continues his tradition of battling the Bond-style super-villain of the week.

The retro vibe commences in cold opens in which legendary narrator/"Laugh-In" star Gary Owens announces developments that fit right in with the clips from that episode but that have nothing to do with the plots. Further retro fun comes via essentially "We'll be right back" and "We're back" bumpers that appear immediately before and after commercials during the broadcasts. 

The following YouTube clip of the opening credits for "Dogs" illustrates (pun intended) the '50s/early '60s animation style of the series.

The animation-yet-to-come aspects of "Dogs" is just as amazing as its nod to the past. Creator Donovan Cook goes on to bring us the edgy and subversive "Duckman" starring Jason Alexander of "Seinfeld." The other "Cooks" include Genndy Tartakovsky of subsequent "Dexter's Laboratory" fame and "Powerpuff Girls" "dad" Craig McCracken, The influence of "Dogs" on these series extends beyond the similar drawing visual style and overall tone. "Powerpuff" fans will recognize the exaggerated sound effects that are more prominent in the later series. 

The modern sensibility is apparent right at the outset with "Door Jam" in the first episode. The tin can of Big Dog rolling behind an electric eye door of a department store leads to Little Dog concluding that getting the door to open requires wearing shoes. The genuine hilarity that ensures includes a trip to a strip club in which Little Dog urges the human "exotic dancer" to take off her high heels, 

A notable later change-of-pace episode has a geeky elementary school boy bringing the dogs in for Show and Tell. The absurd approach of Little Dog regarding getting down off a coatroom hook demonstrates how our boys get labelled as stupid. A later back-view scene in which the aforementioned dork proves to his peers that Little Dog is a boy in a manner that traumatizes the pooch establishes that these are not your father's Hanna-Barbera cartoons; not that there is anything wrong with that.

One more typical outing has the dogs having an incredible winning streak while in Vegas for a hot-dog buffet. One with a nice bit of edge with a great surprise ending has pursuit of ice cream leading to our temporary far-out space nuts launching a space shuttle. 

The primary manner in which Squirrel shows that he is all grown-up is that his sadistic treatment of nerdy sidekick Morocco Mole is much more overt than in the earlier incarnation of their adventures. This begins with making fun of a temporary lisp and coercing him into donning a wig in their initial adventure. Their nemesis this time is Goldflipper, who is using a very powerful magnet to extract gold teeth from victims. 

A "nuts"  joke is apt regarding Squirrel facing Queen Bea involving an effort to pollinate. A tamer but very clever outing has 000 using his brains rather than his toys to outwit a subatomic bad guy named Quark. The outcome should endear "Squirrel" to both Trekkies and Trekkers. 

The special feature is a series of "2 Stupid Facts Collection" that are amusing short shorts that provide filler. ​

Sunday, August 19, 2018

'Village of the Damned' Blu-ray: Masterful Restoration of Thrilling Tale of Immaculate Misconception

Warner Archive provides a good candidate for a Saturday Thriller Theater matinee with the July 31, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1960 classic British horror movie "Village of the Damned." Speaking from personal experience, folks who already own the "Damned" DVD will love the greatly enhanced video and audio of this remastered release. The contrast is much sharper, you literally can see every detail, and the audio that helps set the creepy tone is crystal clear, 

The most awesome thing about "Damned" from a modern perspective is that it is a probable inspiration for most Stephen King fare. (It also is recalled that "The Simpsons" parodies "Damned" once or more.) The English rural village of Midwich stands in for the small Maine communities that attract big bads in King novels, Also ala King, a sudden eerie event early in "Damned" triggers the ensuing well-crafted terror.

"Damned" opens innocently enough with man of letters Gordon Zellaby having a routine telephone conversation with brother-in-law Major Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn). The aforementioned surprise occurence is Gordon suddenly seemingly dropping dead. The typically British response of Alan is puzzlement but not especially strong concern; he merely mentions to his superior that his duties are taking him near Midwich and that he would like to ensure that the husband of his wife is not a rotting corpse. 

On arriving at the outskirts of Midwich later that day, Alan discovers that the area is littered with people who apparently fell in their tracks. Gordon and his neighbors subsequently waking up does not lead to any explanation for the mass narcolepsy. 

The real fun begins on the townfolks learning that Gordon spouse Anthea (Barbara Shelley) and every other woman physically capable of giving birth has a hot-cross bun in the oven. Trauma and drama ensues regarding women such as the "innocent" who claims that she "has never been touched" and the wife whose husband is on a year-long absence when she receives news of the impending birth. 

An abbreviated gestation period and the little surprises physically maturing at an accelerated rate are additional early indications of something weird. The good people of Midwich also soon learn that other communities are having a similar phenomenon. 

Early indications of sinister elements occur when the kids likely are biologically in their terrible twos but seem like roughly 10 year-olds. These youngsters having straight platinum blonde hair, blank stares, a creepy voice pattern, and ability to make their eyes glow begin boldly demonstrating their abilities to read minds and to use mind control to exact revenge on those who purposely or inadvertently do them wrong do not endear them to their elders . The only disappoint in "Damned" is a girl being stopped from putting a bully in his place.

Popular (and talented) British child actor of the era Martin Stephens plays leader of the wolf pack David Zellaby. He shows far more poise and understanding of his role than adult thespians. You really would not like him when he is angry.

The underlying dilemma is that the kids simply want to protect themselves and to understand what makes us foolish mortals tick. The related problems are that the kids merely looking and behaving weird is a large strike against them. Their lack of hesitancy to use their powerful mind-control powers to inflict karma on those who harm or otherwise mistreat them is an additional issue. 

The "enemy" both being children and coming from the women of the village complicates things; their practice of attacking only when provoked is another factor, The Cold War era of the film is reflected regarding the underlying consideration being that the threat seemingly is currently controllable. The debate includes whether to imprison, kill, or find another option regarding the menace. 

The Superman element is finding the equivalent of Kryptonite in dealing with a foe that literally knows your every thought and can directly turn your attack against you. The fact that there is the sequel "Children of the Damned" indicates the effectiveness of the final assault. One need not be a mind reader to anticipate that Archive is releasing a Blu-ray of the sequel by the end of 2018.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

'Happy Endings' DVD & Blu-ray CS: Full Saga of Chicago-based Friends with Benefits

The Mill Creek Entertainment August 21, 2018 separate DVD and Blu-ray  complete-series releases of the early 2010s series "Masters of Sex" and "Happy Endings" is wonderful news for current fans of those series and for folks who have yet to experience the good quality of both programs. In what seemingly is backwards on a couple of levels. "Endings' is a review topic before "Masters."

The enhanced video of Blu-ray is tailored made for the truly vibrant and detailed colors that extend well beyond the red feathers of Tyler the racist parrot, The crystal-clear rich sound is a bonus. 

"Endings" producers Joe and Anthony Russo also are the best brains behind the even more subversive cultcom "Community, which Mill Creek is releasing in separate DVD and Blu-rays sets in September 2018. Fanboys know that the Russo brothers go on to bigger (but not necessarily better) things in the form of "Captain America" and "Avengers" films. 

The Russos particularly show that they know their stuff in not adding laugh tracks to either "Community" or "Endings." This reflects the wisdom of Alan Spencer regarding his '80s cultcom "Sledgehammer," which is about a cop who makes Dirty Harry look like Sheriff Andy of Mayberry. Spencer notes that viewers do not need to be told when something is funny. A related note is that the somewhat subtle but hilarious "Endings" joke "Rivers Thicke Johnson" likely would not have triggered the laugh track.

"Endings" begins on a high note for the audience that is a low point for one of the friends around whom the series centers. Future food truckeuter Dave Rose (Zachary Knighton of "Flashforwrd") is standing at the altar with childhood friend/fiancee/failing boutique owner Alex Kerkovich (past literal cougar bait Elisha Cuthbert). The first of an almost "Community" level amount of pop culture references begin with a nod to both "Xanadu" and "The Graduate," A 20-something guy with an open shirt rollerblades down the aisle and turns Alex into a runaway bride. 

The action aptly fastforwards a month to Dave living in the bedroom in the apartment in which gay "chubby" and slovenly college buddy Max Bloom (Adam Pally of "The Mindy Project") is couch surfing in his own shabby loft that has rats in the main living area and a belatedly discovered human squatter in a previously unknown attic space. 

Penny Hartz (Casey Wilson of "SNL") is a childhood friend of Dave and Alex. Her dating Max in college seeming to be the highlight of her romantic history states quite a bit about this current fag hag. She and Max being the Jack and Karen of "Endings" makes having Megan Mullally play her mother apt.

The fifth member of the sextet is Eliza Coupe of "Scrubs" 2.0 playing Alex sibling/ruthless ice queen/successful executive with an initially undisclosed profession  Jane Kerkovich-Williams; the obvious joke comes late in the run of the series. 

Damon Wayans, Jr. proves the truth of like father like son in his portrayal of the object of the jungle fever of Jane. His Brad Williams is almost as successful as his wife but is much more silly. His many shining moments include his role in a "Get Out" plot years that has the third Kerkovich sister engaged to a black man years before "Out" is released. 

The "Endings" characters themselves and the overall series successfully combine the best elements of "Friends" and of "Seinfeld." The likability of our gang falls right between that of the group that sets the standard for this genre of television comedy, and Team Jerry, Especially in the first two seasons, the "sits" that provide the "com" in "Endings" are closer to the "nothing" end of of the plot scale than silly shenanigans that include scouring Manhattan for a carelessly lost baby or getting trapped in an ATM vestibule with a super model. This is not to mention the old chestnut of accidentally seeing a character of the opposite sex naked. 

However, "Endings" specifically mentions "Friends" on a few occasions; the most direct connection is the group once discussing which of them is which "friend." This involving an existential crisis is pure "Endings."

We also get an outing in which Max and Amy rebel against being the "poor" members of the group, A broader connection is the habit of flashbacks that highlight poorly thought out fashion and hairstyle choices. 

The "Seinfeld" connection is stronger. Like Jerry and Elaine, Dave and Alex are exes; one difference is that our current couple are on=again-off-again far more than their predecessors. We further get Max engaging in Krameresque escapades that include using his vintage limousine to conduct comically inept tours of Chicago.

"Endings" goes further back in an episode that has Alex, Dave, and Max playing "Three's Company." Dave wondering why his landlord is so obsessed with the sexual orientation of his tenant is a highlight of that one. 

Notable episodes that fall in between "Seinfeld" and "Friends" include selfish reasons being behind  the rest of the group comically trying to provoke Brad and Jane to fight. That couple playing along contributes to the hilarity. We also get the gang full entering TV Land to help save a struggling toddler play center. 

One highly relatable episode has Brad using a pretense to avoid annual visits by a sorority sister of Jane. Once again, the awesome twists are "must-see" TV.

This new set seems to have the same plentiful bonus features as the (much-more expensive) DVD sets from a few years ago. They go beyond deleted scenes and outtakes to include a hilarious parody song and a fun joint interview with Pally and Wilson.