Search This Blog

Friday, September 28, 2018

'Queen of Outer Space' Blu-ray: Zsa Zsa Gabor Dispels Myth Men Are From Mars and Women From Venus Do Not Want Them

Warner Archive belatedly goes to camp in releasing the 1958 CinemaScope film "Queen of Outer Space" on September 25 2018, rather than during the summer. The better news is that this wonderful blend of '50s kiddie matinee serials and "Star Trek" OS (in addition to a strong dose of the Hanna Barbera cartoon "Josie and the Pussycats") is well worth the wait. Further, the literally and figuratively alien landscapes and the bright and bold (pun intended) "Trek" style clothes and interiors look fabulous in Blu-ray.

The lack of references to probing Uranus or other mentions of that planet is the only one of two  disappointment regarding "Queen." The second letdown relates to star Zsa Zsa Gabor, who is well known for slapping a police officer in 1989, not slapping any of the men in the movie.

It is hoped that feminists take the amusing chauvinism of the era in context. The literal battle of the sexes and the humor related to the titular monarch and her subjects being voluptuous females are very amusing from the perspective of someone watching the film 60 years after the release.

Knowing that a JOKE that we get a look at a Hillary Clinton administration is sure to cause great offense reflects that our time lacks a sense of humor regarding many topics. Archive deserves tremendous credit for not slapping (no pun intended) the same "reflects the less-enlightened society of the time" disclaimer on "Queen" that are placed on some DVD sets of vintage cartoons.

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Queen" includes every element described above. The video being standard-def. and seemingly not remastered highlights the awesome job with the Blu-ray version.

The kiddie-matinee vibe begins when Captain Nel Patterson (Eric Fleming who is born on the Fourth of July), de facto second-in-command Lieutenant Mike Cruze (cartoon voice actor and comic character actor Dave Willock), and  hunky womanizing Lieutenant Larry Turner get the grunt duty of providing harmless middle-aged Professor Konrad Uber service to the "Deep Space Nine" space station regarding which he literally and figuratively is a principal architect. This occurs in the far-off future of 1985. 

The Saturday afternoon at the movies sense continues with the cheesy effects associated with our quartet approaching the aforementioned space station while that facility is under attack from a ray. That beam hitting its mark destroys the station and makes the ship the next target. 

The aim of the weapon of mass destruction ultimately being true disables the ship and has it crash in one of the best comically low-budget special-effects scene in "Queen." The men soon determine that they are on Venus.

A literal rude awakening occurs when a group of women dressed in knockoffs of '60s-era Starfleet uniforms captures the men and takes them to their titular leader. One spoiler is that no red skirt is harmed in the filming of this scene, 

The glee of our testosterone-fueled heroes on finding themselves the only males among a group of space babes lessens on learning that the queen has made Venus a true matriarchy and comes to the table with an actual feminazi attitude of extreme prejudice regarding earth in general and men specifically. Her policy is to eliminate the threat of the men and their planet before they can attack. 

The literal saving grace of the skipper, the first mate (and the professor) is the character whom Gabor portrays, Talleah is a scientist who is among a group that does not consider men evil per se and does not advocate blowing up a planet as a preventative measure. The potential for offensive humor this time relates to the opening to comment that Talleah and her followers advocate a coup d' tata.

These covert agents aid and abet the enemy noncombatants in a manner that will put the bubble-gum chase music from "Josie" and "Scooby-Doo" in the heads of every child of the '70s. A scene in which the pursued and the pursuing duck in and out of doors in a long hallway is especially awesome in this regard.

This leads to the inevitable Venusian standoff. Our bros and their hos face off against the ruling party. Suffice it to say that that outcome involves very masculine behavior. The epilogue perfectly reflects the time and shows that Kirk is not the only pig in space. 

'Looker' Blu-ray: Michael Crichton Tale of Killer Marketing Strategy

The best of times element regarding the Warner Archive September 18, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1981 Michael Crichton scifi thriller "Looker" is that this chance to see this prime example of late '70s and early '80s lurid noir is a real treat. The worst of times element is Archive making rare gaffes in the presentation of the film.

The first odd choice of Archive is not at least offering the option of watching the network broadcast version of "Looker" that includes an eight-minute deleted segment that is a Blu-ray extra. Archive typically provides an alternative version option in these cases, Additionally, this segment includes the always entertaining villain monologue that ill-advisedly reveals the evil scheme to the hero, who invariably escapees in the next scene.

The other arguably bad choice is not providing the option of watching the modern introduction by Crichton. This spoiler-free statement puts "Looker" in good context.

The most cool thing about "Looker" is that it is a film that both perfectly reflects its time in style and content and is ahead of its time in portraying what evolves from the tech. and the marketing of the dawn of the computer era. This is not to mention the element of weaponizing television.

The underlying concept of seeking absolute perfection for fun and profit is as solid as much of the science that pursues it in the film. Additionally, the collateral damage in the form of the deaths that trigger the central events fall within the range of possibility regarding this type of film. The flawed execution in the form of framing plastic surgeon Larry Roberts (Albert Finney) enhances the entertainment at the expense of credibility.

The underlying '70s wealthy husband-and-wife procedural "Hart to Hart" style premise is that three of four gorgeous television commercial models whom Roberts put under the knife die via a car accident or apparent suicide, The other common element is that these "It" girls consult Roberts at the recommendation of the tech. marketing firm Digital Matrix. The similarities continue with the procedures calling for very minor alterations. Having Roberts explain that he agrees to do the surgeries to avoid the girls resorting to quacks establishes him as a good guy.

The third death literally brings police detective Lieutenant Masters to the door of Roberts, This prompts Roberts to simultaneously begin investigating the crimes and to take former patient Cindy (real-life model Susan Dey) under his wing to help her avoid getting her killed in this year's model from Detroit, 

The first not necessarily nefarious plot that Roberts discovers is that legitimate businessman John Reston (James Coburn) and Digital Matrix executive Jennifer Long (Leigh Taylor-Young) are teaming up to create the perfect spokesmodel to appear in commercials. The realized futuristic element is this including CGI.

The really goofy part enters the picture (pun intended) as Roberts learns of the progress of Reston and Long regarding using television to get the EXACT desired response from viewers. The social commentary includes reaching a point of essentially turning sofa spuds into zombies. 

Roberts approaching the truth prompts arming muscle with thoroughly goofy tech, and sending that hired gun after our hero. Of course, Cindy literally is in tow until she almost as inevitably handcuffed to a railing. One spoiler is that she does not break a heel during a chase, 

The final battle awesomely incorporates every element of "Looker" and includes plenty of dark-humor laced social commentary. The numerous rude awakenings are one of the best aspects of this film.

The additional prophetic element is making television a critical element of presidential elections. This shows that Crichton gets it right regarding how far we come even after the flop sweat of Nixon is a large factor in the 1960 presidential election and Bill Clinton profits from playing the saxophone on "Arsenio Hall" in 1992. 

The bigger picture is that this good blending of elements achieves the scifi ideal of good creativity and a morality tale, 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

'Scarlet Diva' Blu-ray: 2000 Autobiopic of Bourdain Girlfriend Asia Argento Includes Attempted Rape by Harvey Weinstein

The Film Movement Classics division of global cinema god Film Movement releasing the 2000 Italian autobiopic "Scarlet Diva" on Blu-ray on September 25, 2018 proves that movies with a strong message never get stale. This film by writer/director/producer/daughter of famed horror director Dario Argento/girlfriend of late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain Asia Argento aptly is right on the money regarding both the experience of women in the film industry and victims of Harvey Weinstein. The Blu-ray by Movement awesomely captures the bright lights, big city, and surreal aspects of this at times gritty masterwork.

This very meta movie has Argento playing highly sexed rising young actress Anna Battista. Anna both wants to expand her work to behind the camera and dislikes the exploitation of women in film that she considers to especially prevalent in her native land. 

The opening scenes perfectly set the tone of "Diva;" Anna literally is getting royally fucked in her trailer on a movie set when a prod. ass. comes a knockin' despite that van a rockin'. The shock value of the film continues as the interruptus of the coitus prompts a frustrated Anna to try to hastily take things in her own hands. 

This effort to finish herself off prompts the first of a few flashbacks to the childhood of Anna. In this case, it revolves around her mother essentially catching Anna with her hand in the cookie jar. We get additionally scenes of the disturbingly close relationship between Anna and her older brother. Freud literally enters the picture in the form of the real-life mother of Argento portraying her screen mama as a version of Asia. 

The aforementioned Weinstein scene is upsetting independent of the well-publicized despicable acts of that lowlife. The two converge in the form of the depicted interaction in 2000 being very close to the reported tactics of Weinstein. It is equally fascinating that producer Barry Paar portrayor Joe Coleman (who videotapes an interview for the Classics release) looks and acts very much like Weinstein. Although this scene alone fully illustrates the spirit of the #MeToo Movement, Paar aggressively and shamefully trying for a second round on seeing Anna a few months after their first encounter truly drives home the point.

We also get "absolutely fabulous" interaction between Anna and her hard-partying good friend. Our introduction to this Patsy aptly comes when Anna discovers her hogtied naked and deserted for two days by her drug-dealer boyfriend. One spoiler is that it does not seem that any man is positively portrayed in the film; this includes the rock star boyfriend of Anna who leaves her in a bad state.

Even considering the Weinstein element, the brutal honesty is the most striking aspect of "Diva." Few of us who would get the chance to tell our life story on the silver screen would include the time that we did Special K during a photo shoot or our disastrous audition for a film that is destined for the bargain DVD bin at WalMart. 

The copious extras extend beyond the twist-ending interview with Coleman. We get a candid 2000 interview with Argento and her 2000 and 2008 audio commentaries, We further get a "Making-of" feature. An insightful in-depth written essay on Argento and "Diva" rounds out this bounty. There is not doubt that all this will prompt declaring "show me the argento."

'Young Sheldon' S1 DVD & Blu-ray: Back to the '80s in Setting and the '50s in Tone

Over analyzing the Warner Archive separate September 4, 2018 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the first season of the CBS sitcom "Young Sheldon" is consistent with the premise of this amusing program. The titular boy genius is the nine-year-old incarnation of pop culture god DR. Sheldon Cooper ("Young" producer Jim Parsons) of the companion CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory." "Theory" is  commencing its 12th and final season as "Young" enters what one hopes is not a sophomore slump that sophomoric humor characterizes.

Like his 40-year-old version, "baby" Sheldon (Iain Armitage) is a brilliant outcast who is much more project than people oriented. Unlike "Theory" in which adult Sheldon has the support of a group of like-minded (and somewhat similarly attuned) friends, "Young" focuses on the related themes of odd boy out Sheldon and his overall average family often struggling with achieving mutual peace, love, and understanding. His mother trying to get this younger son to work and play well with others provides additional fodder for "sits" that create "com." A second-season episode of "Theory" that reflects a common element of both series (and sets the stage for the S10 season-finale cliffhanger) has adult Sheldon compare the intellect of graduate students to that of labradoodles. 

In this regard, the dynamic of "Theory" and "Young" is somewhat akin to the relationship between the companion CBS '60scoms "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres." The analogy continues with the evolution of the modern series,

​Just as the redneck Clampetts slowly adjust to life in Beverly Hills and transplanted (pun intended) white-shoes attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas comes to better understand and accept his hick neighbors in "Acres," young Sheldon starts learning how to better interact with his older high school classmates and adult Sheldon increasingly understands the value of illogical social conventions that include giving a friend a birthday gift in exchange for receiving an item of equal value from that person. 

The following YouTube clip of the CBS extended promo. for "Young" offers a good primer on the characters and the themes of the program. It also demonstrates that the range of series creator Chuck Lorre extends beyond the crude shock-value humor of "Two and a Half Men" and "Mom" that is kinder and gentler in "Theory."

The bigger picture begins with "Young" reflecting the wisdom of a real-life boy genius. Alan Spencer is a teen when he creates the HILARIOUS ABC '80s com "Sledgehammer," which is a parody of the "Dirty Harry" films about a violent rogue cop. "Sledeghammer" helps pave the way for "Young" to have neither a live (as opposed to dead) studio audience nor a laugh track. The reasoning of Spencer regarding not using canned laughter is that viewers are smarter than labradoodles in that humans have the necessary intellect to know when something is funny without the producers making it obvious. 

The broader perspective is that "Young" more closely represents the nuclear (pun intended) families around which many traditional '50scom revolve than "The Simpsons," which satirizes that dynamic. This is nice in an era in which broadcast and cable networks largely reject "TV Land" style shows. Placing the Cooper clan in the not-so-enlightened region of East Texas in the Bible Belt contributes additional humor that traditional sitcoms literally or figurative set in the everytown of Springfield lack. On a related note, "Young" explains why adult (and boy) Sheldon lacks a Texas accent. 

"Young" dad George Sr. (Lance Barber) is a brighter Homer but still no theoretical physicist. This high school football coach can relate to elder son "Georgie," who is a smarter and more athletic Bart but far from a Rhodes scholar.

Like many reel and real father, George loves the son regarding whom he struggles to relate. In this case, it is because Sheldon is much smarter and does not share any of the interests of his father. The broader perspective encompasses a father who is prejudiced against gay men struggling with his thoughts on learning that his boy likes other boys.

Sheldon twin sister Missy reflects the young girl side of Lisa while Sheldon represents the advanced intellect of that bright girl. The sassy nature of Missy contributes to the traditional sitcom vibe of "Young." She also is an element of an odd (and arguably creepy) aspect of the series, Although the pilot explicitly states that the testicles of Sheldon are undescended, it seems more apt to have Sheldon and Georgie share a room than have the former and his sister bunk together. 

Mother Mary aptly is the Marge of "Young." The analogy extends beyond Mary being religious up to a point and getting married after George knocks her up in high school. Her labors of love include being the glue that tries to keep her actual kids and childish husband happy and compatible.

A cool casting note is that Mary portrayor Zoe Perry is the real-life daughter of "Roseanne" and "The Conners" actress Laurie Metcalf, who plays older (and seemingly more religious) Mary on "Theory." The history of this mother-daughter dynamic continues with Perry playing a younger version of the Metcalf character Jackie on flashbacks during the original broadcast run of "Roseanne."

Like this fan favorite from the '70s, Cooper family grandmother Meemaw (a.k.a. Connie Tucker) clearly is the Fonzie of the series. This analogy continues with the dating life of this senior citizen being age-adjusted equivalent to that of that mechanic/diner owner/high school teacher/fixer. This character being the zany oddball neighbor makes perfect use of the quirky talents of Annie Potts, who is best known for the original "Ghostbusters" film franchise and the CBS '80scom "Designing Women." The final note in this regard is that Meemaw being oft mentioned in "Theory" but only appearing once makes her a sitcom staple, ala Jenny Piccolo in early seasons of "Happy Days." 

This aforementioned lengthy discussion of the concept of "Young" and how it reflects television history precludes discussing the dimwitted "Nelson" and the nerdy "Millhouse" who provide the stereotype of weird sidekick as proudly as Skippy Handleman of the classic '80scom "Family Ties," We also have very limited room to discuss the episodes themselves. 

"Young" being a consistently amusing series that typically has at least one hilarious moment per episode puts it ahead of most modern broadcast and cable sitcoms. Further, the stories and the action seem credible.

This is not to mention Lorre et al. deserving credit for including elements of the 1989 time frame without either being satirical or unduly bashing the viewer over the head regarding this element. The bigger picture this time is that setting the series in the past reflects the wisdom of "Days" creator Garry Marshall that setting a '70scom in the '50s and the '60s precludes having that show ever look dated. 

The arguably best "Young" episode has Meemaw gleefully tormenting George regarding not sharing her recipe for what apparently is the best ever brisket. Watching her mercilessly dangle this secret in front of him and making him literally and figuratively go to great lengths pursuing this knowledge provides numerous hilarious moments. This resulting in serious family conflict brings in a disturbingly dark note, but the clever comeuppance in the resolution is very true to the series and awesomely satisfying. 

Meemaw further is featured in INARGUABLY the MOST hilarious S1 moment. Sheldon and Missy being left home alone aptly leads to setting up booby traps, Meemaw getting caught in one is priceless for reasons that include seeing the reaction of Potts. The extra analysis this time begins with the classic rule that watching someone get seriously hurt in a comical situation delights the viewer. The bonus observation is that this reflects the philosophy of comedy legend Carol Burnett.

Burnett repeatedly notes in discussions of her CBS variety series that the humor of the show holds up because it reflects concepts that are funny in any era As aspect of this in "Young" is not having episodes that revolve around plots such as Georgie emulating MC Hammer or Sheldon commenting that he is much more qualified than Dan Quayle to be vice-president.

The biggest picture of all is that "Young" is one of the few modern sitcoms that the entire family can watch and enjoy together. Kids may consider it cool that Mom and Dad (or Mom and Mom or Dad and Dad) remember "Theory" premiering. Additionally, the minimal adult content is as family friendly as the numerous references to the "dating" life of Fonzie, not to mention the expression "sit on it" having the EXACT same meaning as go fuck yourself. 

The delightful bonus feature "Young Sheldon: An Origin Story" has Lorre and Parsons discuss how a real-life science fair inspires the series. We also hear from the cast regarding their relationship with the characters. This shows that that seemingly illogically named Texan Montana Jordan IS Georgie.

Speaking of Jordan, this teen largely sits and rolls his eyes in the "Sibling Revelry" bonus. It has Jordan, Armitage and Missy portrayor Raegan Revord discuss their roles and their relationships with each other. The biggest treat is seeing Armitage drop his rigid facade and act like a typical kid; Jordan making Armitage seem like a labradoodle is a highlight. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

'Ancient Aliens' S3 V1 DVD: History Channel Doc. Series Proves We Are Not Alone

The Lionsgate September 25, 2018 S11 V1 DVD release of the History Channel docuseries "Ancient Aliens" amazingly adds more credible evidence to the mountains of proof that "Aliens" uncovers regarding humans (and household pets) not being the only highly sentient beings in our universe and that visitors from other planets (and perhaps Pluto) are among us. The Unreal TV review on the recent MASSIVE S1-10 DVD set discusses the prior seasons of this popular program. 

The overall theme of "Aliens" is that there is ample direct and indirect evidence of aliens coming here and helping us at least since King Tut was born in Arizona and moved to Babylonia. This extends well beyond sonogram-quality images of fuzzy glowing objects in the sky. The "Aliens" teams present their findings in a manner that makes anyone whose mind is at least ajar wonder about the existence of brothers from other planets. The bigger picture is the validity of the theory that it is unlikely that earth is the only planet on which a perfect storm makes a developed civilization possible.

The first of six episodes in the S11 V1 set is titled "UFO Conspiracy;" it opens with dramatic POV footage from a fighter jet. The small blurry object is relatively clear, and we hear the excited utterances of the pilot regarding this odd sight. The focus shifts to the history of the federal government funding investigations into UFOs; one can see the humor of the honesty related to using tax dollars to probe Uranus. 

We soon getting a smoking gun in the form of a report on a 2017 New York Times  article on the federal Advanced Aviation Threat Identification (AATI) program. Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, military brass, and MANY other talking heads discuss AATI,predecessors that go back decades before that program. 

The analysis expands in a manner that evokes thoughts of the "Stargate" scifi franchise. That 'verse centers around the titular U.S. Air Force team that explores strange new worlds and that seeks out new life and new civilizations. That group often finds itself allied with or battling a private aerospace firm that helps create space-worthy tech. or utilizes or abuses the tech. of proverbial little green men. 

An "Aliens" segment discusses the UFO-oriented work of Bigelow Aerospace. The scope of this coverage includes head honcho Robert Bigelow fully going on the record to assert that UFOS exist. 

The second episode speculates about aliens influencing the work of Leonardo Da Vinci. The scope extends beyond the oft-discussed topic of Da Vinci being ahead of his time regarding modern inventions that include the helicopter. We get looks at his paintings from the perspective of an alien influence. This includes one work that speculates about the origin of Christ, 

We additionally get a study of the "Last Supper" painting by Da Vinci. Tying this masterpiece into a Spielberg film is great fun. 

The self-explanatory title of the third S11 V1 episode is "The Alien Protocols" This one studies the preparedness of the U.S. and the rest of the world for formal first contact. The spoiler is that we are not very prepared.

The other central focus is on close encounters that range from the region of the moon to the side of a rural highway, One of the more compelling tales is that of an Apollo astronaut reporting an odd craft accompanying him on solo lunar orbits.

The titles of the remaining three episodes in this set are almost as self-explanatory as the third. We get "Earth's Black Hole," The Desert Codes," and "Area 52." "Area" most likely expands on the segment on Area 51 in "Protocols."

As mentioned at the beginning of our program, "Aliens" makes a good case for "visitors" interacting with humans. Assuming that the films and other evidence is accurate, the rest of the story is that we simply do not know the truth about aliens and likely will not until a thoroughly independently verified "E.T." goes public. 

A not-so-absurd alternate explanation for at least modern encounters is that hush-hush military or private projects literally or figuratively come on the radar or that scientists crack the pesky time-travel problem in the future and come back to check us out. The good news either way is that the tech, and/or help from the stars is a good thing until otherwise proven. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

'The Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Special' DVD: Comedy Stars Come Out to Honor Mother of Television Sketch Comedy

One of the most awesome things about the Time Life September 25, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 CBS prime time special (from the original "Burnett" set) "The Carol Burnett Show: 50th Anniversary Special"  is that this Stephen Colbert hosted event fare exceeds fairly high expectations. Sofa spuds who are old enough to fully appreciate Burnett by watching the show during its 1967 - 78 run are old enough to recall the cheesy tribute and reunion specials of the era that are little more than clip shows and vanity appearances by has-beens. The Burnett special is notable for learning from history, rather than repeating it. 

The following YouTube clip of the Colbert introduction on the special speaks for the aforementioned Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. It also helps Millennnials and Gen Yers a sense of the experience that this DVD and other "Burnett" sets convey.

The Unreal TV review of a Time Life 50th Anniversary compilation of "Burnett" episodes and a post on a Time Life release of lost "Burnett" Christmas episodes provides an additional sense of the literally timeless appeal of Burnettt and her co-stars. This gang consists of the uber-talented Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, and incredibly good sport Lyle Waggoner. (Lawrence and Waggoner participate in the special.)

A special note regarding Lawrence is that the segment in which she and Burnett discuss the girl power of the show with female comedians such as Amy Poehler and Tracee Ellis Ross includes discussing how a teen Lawrence comes to join the cast. This topic touches on Lawrence going from playing the younger sister of Burnett to portraying her mother. The reviewed Time Life CS DVD of the hilarious '80scom "Mama's Family" shows how that redneck matriarch endures in pop culture.

The lovefest that Carol has with the boys includes arguably the two most endearing moments in the special. Jim Carrey discussing being a 10 year-old applying to join the "Burnett" cast in 1972 virtually literally sets the stage for re-enacting his receipt of a response from Burnett. This leads to a couple of wonderful close encounters.

The interaction between Burnett and Martin Short in this segment arguably best showcases the current sharpness of the former. Short immediately launches into the celebrity insulting persona of his talk show host Jiminy Glick character. Although momentarily phased, Burnett plays along and lets Short run amok.

The poise and sharpness of Burnett evokes loving thoughts of a still gorgeous 80-something Barbara Feldon at a Paley Center panel for her '60scom "Get Smart" several years ago. The boys look their ages and have minor age-related cognitive issues, but Feldon is fully alert and makes a hilarious quip.

Another highlight has the woman of the hour and former "Burnett" show guest Steve Martin sitting in a set that looks like a darkened movie theater. The chemistry between them is so strong that one yearns for a film co-starring them. Additionally, Martin puts the wry version of his humor on full display. 

We do get clips, but they do not dominate the special; they do demonstrate the graciousness of Burnett by focusing as much (if not more) on her cast as on her. The finale to the special is equally apt for the series. 

The best way to wrap up this discussion of the special is to note Burnett channeling fellow '70s-era CBS star Polly Holliday of the sitcom "Alice." Holliday was know for responding to fan requests to state her catchphrase "kiss mah grits" by saying that the admirer has heard her utter that phrase many times and that Holliday wants to hear the other person do it. The Burnett twist is having her guests imitate her Tarzan yell.

The truly special features includes a booklet with a gracious note by Burnett and a printed selection of the adorations by modern-day comedians. The best filmed extra shows Burnett engaging the studio audience during commercial breaks in the special. We also get unaired video love letters from the aforementioned admirers. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

'The Illustrated Man' Blu-ray: Do NOT Call Body Illustrations Tattoos

The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1969 scifi film "The Illustrated Man" aptly is a time capsule of that film genre from that era. It has the distinctive wonderful earth tones and surreal quality that makes classics such as "The Omega Man" so timeless.

"Man" is the film version of the book of the same name by peerless scifi author Ray Bradbury. This film about body illustrations (do NOT call them tattoos) with minds of their own is based on the novel of the same name by peerless scifi author Ray Bradbury.

"Man" simultaneously sets the scene by having young Depression-era drifter Willie arrive at a pond to bathe and swim while voice-over narration makes a prophetic statement regarding the nature of knowledge. Titular inked-up middle-aged drifter Carl (Rod Steiger) soon shows up with a bloodlust for the femme fatale who put him in this condition. 

The aforementioned tale is one of boy gets horny; boy goes on what he hopes is a booty call; boy meets girl; girl grotesquely inks up boy; girl puts out to persuade boy to let her finish the job; boy endures walk-of-shame marked torso to feet with tramp stamps.

The rest of the story follows the format of the anthology horror series "Night Gallery" in that Carl calling the attention of Willie to a particular living illustration on his body leads to a story that it represents. The theme of these tales either is the encounter of Carl with the woman who done him wrong or a futuristic story.

One of the best tales of the future is the Bradbury story "The Long Rain." This has Steiger playing the leader of a space expedition that gets stranded on a distant planet, Rather than fire, the quest is for the sun domes that promise shelter from the storm and longed-for pleasures. 

We also get two "Jetsons" style tales of a nuclear family with a husband (Steiger), a wife, and two children. The first installment has the kids in trouble both for using the tech, in a playroom to transport themselves to the African jungle and then lie about it. The lesson for 21st century teen boys is to ALWAYS clear your browser history and delete any incriminating texts and e-mails right before  logging off. 

The second installment of the "Jetsons" is a bit darker. It is the end of the world as the clan knows it and Dad does not feel fine.

"Man" has an epic ending on a couple of levels. A gap is filled, and the aforementioned prophecy comes true in a wonderfully graphic manner. One moral of this is heeding the wisdom of pop star Rick Springfield and not talk to strangers. 

The extra special bonus feature is the short documentary "Tattooed Steiger" that discusses the making of the film in general and the massive inking of the star in particular, 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

'Lucifer' S3 DVD & Blu-ray: Devil Raises Cain For Truth, Justice, and American Way

The Warner Archive August 28, 2018 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "Lucifer" S3 is part of the recent embarrassment of riches regarding such releases of the most recent seasons of procedurals ahead of the upcoming new seasons. Lukewarm off the presses examples include a review of the Archive BD release of "Riverdale" S2 and a post on this week's Warner Prime BD release of "Supergirl" S3. 

In the case of the Jerry Bruckheimer series "Lucifer," Netflix is resurrecting this Fox cancelled show. A downside of this bonanza is that it requires basing this review on 23 of the 26 S3 episodes. Things really heating up toward the season (and anticipated series) finale is prompting watching the final three during the next several weeks. All signs point to complete reveals and a satisfying climax that is worthy of The Prince of Darkness.

The underlying "Lucifer" premise of the titular literal handsome devil/night club owner (Tom Ellis) teaming with L.A. detective/former T & A  actress Chloe Decker (Lauren German) to solve the murder of the week makes the S3 episode "The Angel of San Bernardino" especially awesome. This one is notable for the somewhat similar long-running Fox procedural series "Bones" playing an integral part in solving  this "Lucifer" case involving a TFB who is found DOA. 

Having a civilian with a unique expertise and a law-enforcement officer of the opposite sex and temperament join forces (and ultimately naughty bits) is an increasingly common basis for shows such as "Bones." Lucifer seeing the similarities between that fiction and his reality leads to an "Angel" solution that demonstares that there are not any coincidences. 

The review of the S1 "Lucifer" BD release provides a good primer on this show that has the King of Hell come to Los Angeles for a vacation five years ago and decide to stick around. The series starts with a combination of our hero wanting to punish the guilty and having some form of Hell hound in the race. The post on the S2 BD shows how the lore expands. 

S3 opens in the immediate aftermath of the S2 cliffhanger that finds Lucifer half-naked, alone, and as afraid as the devil can get. The means by which he execrates himself from his immediate predicament sets the stage for the S3 theme of old foes, friends, and characters with elements of both reappearing in the lives of our main ensemble. Another throwback element is an episode that shows the early days of Lucifer on earth and proves that when he met Decker it was murder. 

The element of unwanted seeming divine intervention adds fuel to the hellfire in the form of the daddy issues that Lucifer has with God.

S3E1 also marks (hilarious pun for those familiar with these episodes) the addition  of "Smallville" Clark Kent Tom Welling to the cast. He plays tough new police lieutenant Marcus Pierce, Although Welling portrays Pierce well, a mid-season reveal regarding Pierce suggests that "Lois and Clark" Clark Kent Dean Cain may have been a better choice. 

The first few S3 episodes revolve around the hunt for the Sinnerman, who is a person of interest regarding a mission from God. This introduces a villain who gives truly bedevils our  hero.

Lucifer being an especially tortured soul during S3 provides entertaining irony. He struggles with showing his father essentially that he is not Little Nicky and will not eat his vegetables if he does not want to do so. He also has special and undisclosed reasons for objecting to Pierce and Decker dating. 

The efforts of Lucifer to impose his version of what is right on what he considers wrong drives his involvement in several S3 cases. A prime example of this is his frustrating inability to find an effective solution for a problem has him investigating the murder of the author of a successful YA book series so that he can learn the approach of the deceased to writer's block. Another case has him unsuccessfully presenting a facade of focusing on the needs of Decker for an allegedly altruistic purpose. 

A very clever standout S3 episode has a star newspaper reporter/ex-husband of group confidante therapist Linda Martin pursue a vendetta against Lucifer. The narrative technique and awesomely unexpected surprise ending earn this one its 9.4 rating on IMDb.

The prime time broadcast network version of edge (and the related elan of Ellis regarding his devilish role) is what makes "Lucifer" must-see TV. A hilarious sequence begins with Lucifer misinterpreting the purpose of the swear jar of the young daughter of Decker and ends with his showing the girl a loophole. Another episode has a demonic influence responsible for the elderly teacher of the daughter unwittingly eating pot brownies. This is on top of roughly one-half of the cast gleefully running  with the Satanic concept of the series.

"Lucifer" does equally well skewering the absurd L.A. lifestyle. Plot points include a company that kidnaps a "victim" for fun and profit, another business that allows hiring failed actors to play the real-life role of a friend or a family member, and a dating app. that only allows beautiful people to join. On a related note, the bright lights and the big city look fabulous in Blu-ray.

The special features include the Comic-Con panel that Archive faithfully provides in every set of a show that participates in such events. There also is a "Tom and  Tom" extra with Ellis and Welling, a Gag Reel, and deleted scenes. 

Owning "Lucifer" S3 on Blu-ray may not be your deepest desire but does merit a place on the Top 100 list of such wants. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

'The Naked and The Dead' Blu-Ray: Film Version of Norman Mailer Novel Proves Officers Make War Hell

The Warner Archive August 28, 2018 Blu-ray release of the star-studded 1958 Technicolor drama "The Naked and the Dead" proves that war pictures are far more than stories about groups of men shooting each other in the same manner that quality film and television westerns demonstrate that that genre extends beyond stereotypical action that includes saloon fights and cattle stampedes. "Naked" is based on a Norman Mailer novel that examines how an armed conflict can prompt a war of wills with intense collateral damage. 

The first note is that seeing a scene that highlights the beauty of Hawaii and another moment in which a grenade creates a large fireball eliminates any doubt regarding whether buying "Naked" in Blu-ray makes sense and as to the skill of Archive regarding restoring films. 

The second note is that this cast that includes Aldo Rey, Cliff Robertson, and Raymond Massey also has the lesser-known Jerry Paris, Paris is best known as the director of the classic sitcoms "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Happy Days;" he also plays neighbor Jerry Helper on "Van Dyke." All of this is a far cry from Helper playing Jewish WWII foor-soldier Goldstein in "Naked." 

"Naked" opens with the dogfaces enjoying risque entertainment at a Hawaiian den of ill repute. Hillbilly enlisted man/moonshine distiller Woodrow "Woody" Wilson is the life of the party due to his enthusiastic (and requited) love for star "exotic dancer" Lily. The hilariously rude, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior of Sgt. Sam Croft (Rey) clearly establishes that he not only is not one of the boys but does not work or play well with others. We do later learn why he is so bitter and believes that dames ain't nothin' but trouble, 

The party winds down as our excitable boys board a ship for a Japanese-occupied island. Their journey provides the exposition that establishes the characters. This essentially is the cross-section of young American men of that era.

The real drama begins on the group capturing a Japanese soldier on the island. The horrific manner in which Croft treats that POW and his brothers-in-arms justifies giving him the same treatment. However, his men remain loyal. 

Much further up the food chain, commanding officer General Cummings (Massey) is practicing his related philosophies of flaunting his power/privilege and making the enlisted men fear him more than they fear the enemy. His reasoning is that this will cause the soldiers to fight harder.

Lt. Robert Hearn (Robertson) first gets caught up in all this on getting the outwardly desirable assignment of being the aide to Cummings. The perks include some prestige and luxuries. The costs include an expectation that he will be completely loyal to Cummings and not challenge any of his decisions or way of thinking.

An aside is that messing with guys such as Cummings whom the military perfectly brainwashes can be great fun. A highlight of conducting computer training for Air National Guard soldiers was responding to a joking threat by recent OTC graduate that I might have been scared if he was a Marine. He immediately jumped up, and the guys on either side of him almost as quickly stood up ready to grab him. We all were laughing a second later, 

The inevitable absurd showdown between Hearn and Cummings PERFECTLY illustrates the military mindset and literally put Hearn on the front line with Team Croft. An exchange in which one soldier comments that the Army should have promoted Croft if it wanted his platoon to have a lieutenant is just as insightful. A comment in the film that the winning side in a war is the one that kills the most people echoes an oft-stated perspective of your not-so-humble reviewer. 

Hearn leads the group on a scouting mission that is intended to end a Japanese standoff; as predicted, the threat level escalates both regarding the mission and the differing styles of Croft and Hearn. One gist regarding this conflict is that Croft agrees with Cummings that a certain number of deaths are acceptable and that some risks are worth the probability of some of his men getting killed. 

The truly bittersweet outcome of that mission also reflects the flaws of military thinking. Achieving what arguably can be considered a success reinforces what most people deem to be a reckless risk. Hearn essentially gets the last word and is the true voice of reason; of course, no one listens to him.

The outward value of "Naked" is the seemingly overall realistic depiction of an experience that is foreign to most of us. At the very least, this is not a John Wayne War Hero film. 

Digging a little deeper., many of us have worked for someone like Cummings. This is the manager who has an employee get him or her coffee just to show that person who's the boss. On a literally and figuratively higher level, the man or woman in the corner offices generously doles out lavish executive perks while not issuing even COLA raises. Another aspect of this is laying off people to improve profitability and then being lauded as a corporate savior. 

The bottom line is that "Naked" provides an insightful that remains relevant 60 years after its release. An added note it that it will evoke thoughts of the classic television series and film "M*A*S*H."

'An American Murder Mystery' DVD: Documentary Series on Cases Ranging From Natalie Wood to Casey Anthony

National Enquirer executive editor Dylan Howard being both a producer and a host regarding the current Investigation Discovery series "An American Murder Mystery" is very apt for this equally entertaining and educational guilty pleasure. The September 18, 2018 3-disc DVD release "An American Murder Mystery Collection" provides a good chance to relish seven especially intriguing cases that that tabloid television series analyzes. These one-time national obsessions include the Natalie Wood, Scoot Peterson, and Chandra Levy cases. 

These offerings combine archival footage, talking heads that include investigators and prosecutors from the cases, interviews with ordinary folks with a relevant tale, and reenactments of key events. In at least one case, we also get a sit-down one-on-one with a prime suspect. 

"Collection" begins with a three-episode study of the Casey Anthony case; the synopsis of this one is that Floridian Casey is the early 20-something mother of illegitimate daughter Caylee. The drama begins with Casey telling parents George and Cindy with whom Casey and Caylee live that she has not seen her daughter for a month. In a variation of stating that the butler did it, Casey asserts that a nanny is the culprit.
The resulting wild goose chase gets the goat of the po po and puts them on the right track in ways such as poking a sieve worth of holes in virtually every aspect of the story of Casey. The concurrent search leads both to discovering the body of Caylee and to literally putrid evidence regarding the storage of the corpse in the interim between the killing and finding Caylee. 

The soap opera continues with Casey being arrested for the murder and with her trial for the offense, The clear theme is that there is a difference between the law and justice. Under the law, the weakness of direct evidence hinders prosecuting Casey. A related issue is the fact that the legal system does not require that Casey prove that she is innocent; the prosecutor must prove that she is guilty,

The tabloid aspect includes outrageous claims by Casey; one of the most memorable ones is her attorney graphically describing a teen-age Casey attending school as if nothing is amiss after being molested the night before. We also hear an absurd theory regarding the circumstances of the death of Caylee. More guilty pleasure relates to reports regarding the manner in which Anthony compensates her attorney. A clue is that he does not get "gas" or "grass" for his services. 

Refraining from stating the outcome of the trial and the public response to that verdict is for the benefit of folks who are unfamiliar with the case.

The similar JonBenet Ramsey case from a decade before the Anthony murder gets a comparable three-episode arc. The elements that make this mid-90s spectacle noteworthy include it occurring relatively early in our current era of 24-hour cable news networks that must find enough material to keep people watching for hours. It further shines a spotlight on the creepy world of beauty pageants for young girls. 

The tabloid-worthy elements begin with former Miss West Virginia/current trophy wife Patsy Ramsey coming downstairs in her luxurious home the day after Christmas to find an oddly lengthy three-page ransom note. The ensuing investigation leads to Jon Benet father/Patsy husband John Ramsey finding the body of the little girl in the basement of the house.

This one is a tabloid production dream; we get a mother vicariously living through her young daughter having credible circumstantial evidence against her. We also have a pedophile Santa and other creepy men with despicable thoughts toward young girls, and a complete freak who claims to be an eye witness to the death. This odd-looking man who currently does not have any balls is the person-of-interest who grants  "Murder" an interview.

Just as a major theme in the "Murder" coverage of Casey Anthony is the lack of direct evidence, a primary aspect of the episodes on JonBenet is literally sloppy police work. The first cops to respond to the report of the kidnapping neglect to preserve the crime scene. Another surprising early bungle is to meet the demand of Patsy and John Ramsey that they be interviewed together. Sadly, that is not the extent of that part of the story. 

The concept of the national obsession cases and the manner in which the Anthony and Ramsey cases are presented strongly suggest that the other five stories in "Collection" receive similar treatment. The "ingredients" are well-known facts, new revelations, professional insights, and speculation. All of these are particularly suitable for the included story of missing intern Chandra Levy who ultimately is found dead in a D.C. park.