'Jeff Beck - Live at The Hollywood Bowl'
(Jeff Beck / Blu-ray+2CD / NR / 2017 / Eagle Vision)
Overview: In the summer of 2016, Jeff Beck celebrated 50 years of his musical career with a special concert at the famous Hollywood Bowl. The set list reached back to his first recordings with The Yardbirds in 1966 and came right up to date with tracks from his most recent album, Loud Hailer.
Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the know, although they must rank in the few, Jeff Beck is an English rock guitarist. He is one of the three noted guitarists to have played with The Yardbirds (the other two being Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page). Beck also formed The Jeff Beck Group and Beck, Bogert & Appice.
Much of Beck's recorded output has been instrumental, with a focus on innovative sound, and his releases have spanned genres ranging from blues rock, hard rock, jazz fusion, and an additional blend of guitar-rock and electronica.
Although he recorded two hit albums (in 1975 and 1976) as a solo act, Beck has not established or maintained the sustained commercial success of many of his contemporaries and band mates.
Indeed, Beck appears on albums by Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Morrissey, Jon Bon Jovi, Malcolm McLaren, Kate Bush, Roger Waters, Donovan, Stevie Wonder, Les Paul, Zucchero, Cyndi Lauper, Brian May, Stanley Clarke, Screaming Lord Sutch, ZZ Top, and Toots and the Maytals.
As the evening progressed he was joined by many of the great musicians he has collaborated with over the years including Billy F. Gibbons, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Hall, Jan Hammer, Beth Hart and Steven Tyler.
The show climaxed with the guests all joining forces for an exhilarating encore performance of Purple Rain in tribute to Prince, who had passed away a couple of months before the concert.
Blu-ray Track Listing + CD 1:
1) 'The Revolution Will Be Televised'
2) 'Over Under Sideways Down'
3) 'Heart Full Of Soul'
4) 'For Your Love'
5) 'Beck's Bolero'
6) 'Medley: Rice Pudding / Morning Dew'
7) 'Freeway Jam'
8) 'You Never Know'
9) 'Cause We've Ended As Lovers'
10) 'Star Cycle'
11) 'Blue Wind'
12) 'Big Block'
13) 'I'd Rather Go Blind'
14) 'Let Me Love You'
15) 'Live In The Dark'
16) 'Scared For The Children'
17) 'Rough Boy'
18) 'Train Kept A-Rollin'
19) 'Shapes Of Things'
20) 'A Day In The Life'
21) 'Purple Rain'
Running at an incredible one hour and 40 minutes, the 73 year-old Jeff Beck is still as incredible a guitar player as we was in his so called prime. Incorporating some rather excellent duos with Jan Hammer and the amazing Steven Tyler and Billy F. Gibbons, my only whine is that they were all much too short. I wanted them to go on much longer than their gone in the blink of an eye sets.
That said, Beck is a genius guitar player and here surrounded by exceptional talent on stage, let alone the special guests that came and enhanced the occasion, each and every single one of the songs played this night at the famed Hollywood Bowl were untouchable.
Directer and Editor if the video, Jim Yukich, showcases Beck perfectly, never letting this new age need for jaunty camera angles and flash from one musician to another in hot seconds enough to make you dizzy to take center stage. Just trying his best to preserve the magical ebb and flow of Beck and companies rising energy throughout, he lets the music do the talking.
Personally, for me the stand out highlights would include Stevie Wonder's 'Cause We've Ended As Lovers', which has to be quite easily one of the most entertaining tracks that Beck has undertaken, and Steven Tyler's vocal turn on the 1968 beauty 'Shapes of Things.'
Released via Eagle Vision as both a Blu-ray+2CD and a DVD+2CD set, Jeff Beck - Live at The Hollywood Bowl is one of the finest visual and audio releases of this, or the past few years. Buy it now and discover it for yourself. You won't be disappointed. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Night of the Living Dead - 50th Anniversary'
(Judith O'Dea, Duane Jones, et al / Blu-ray+Digital / NR / (1968) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: There is panic throughout the nation as the dead suddenly come back to life. The film follows a group of characters who barricade themselves in an old farmhouse in an attempt to remain safe from these flesh eating monsters.
DVD Verdict: That's right, boys and ghouls, George A. Romero's cult classic returns for it's 50th Anniversary! The indie horror masterpiece changed movies and the genre forever with its gleaming gore and terrifying twists and now it's been lovingly restored in HD. So prepare for the frightening tale of five strangers struggling for survival against the walking undead, but now in uber crisp Blu-ray!
George A. Romero's 1968 cult classic 'Night of the Living Dead' could arguably be one of the most revolutionary horror films of its time. It may not have been the first zombie film ever made but it's the first one that actually made an impact on popular culture.
On the surface, 'Night of the Living Dead' seems to be a run of the mill horror movie about a group of people hiding out in a farmhouse from these flesh eating beings that have been reanimated from the dead. What's so interesting about this film is its many satirical comments on American culture during the the late 1960's - criticizing society for its racism, its involvement in the Vietnam war, and a general attitude towards women.
George A. Romero chose Duane Jones to play the African-American hero of the film, which up until then was rarely heard of, only to have him [SPOILER!] gunned down in the very end of the film just as he thinks he is finally saved and everything will return to normal.
It's supposed to remind the viewer of all the powerful black males in history that have stood up to their oppressors and revolted against the norms of society only to be assassinated by those who did not agree with their views and beliefs.
The zombies in the film are playing the same role the Vietnamese played in the Vietnam war. They seem to be everywhere and stop at nothing to take over everything in their path. The few humans that are left and trying to survive are the soldiers who were over in Vietnam during the war: they're trapped, they have little resources and have nowhere to run because the enemy they are running from are covering the entire area.
The women in this film are treated as fragile and useless in the situation they are facing. Barbra, portrayed brilliantly by Judith O'Dea begins the film terrified and running from the zombies, only to continue throughout the film helping out in no way possible.
She sits on the couch in shock and rarely responds or has any input to the story line. The only time she ever gets up and takes action is at the end - at which point she is absolutely no help, getting herself taken away (and presumably eaten). Portraying Barbra as silent and unable to help because of her mental state of shock only pointed out how America at the time (and to an extent still does) treat its women as helpless and powerless.
What is so appealing about this film is its ability to have all of these powerful, underlying themes while simultaneously coming off as a meaningless Friday night "Let's go to the drive-in!" B-horror movies of the 1960's. It has the ability to let you just sit down and enjoy it without having to think too heavily about its themes and context. It's a film that can be enjoyed and appreciated by both the brainless teenagers of America and the most analytical of film critics. This is an original Full Screen Presentation (1.37:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, and featuring a brand new 2K Transfer.
The Real Story: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
(DVD / G / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Separate science fact from science fiction as we re-examine government documents and put old witness testimonies to the test using modern technology.
DVD Verdict: We all have heard of, and most likely seen the 1977 epic movie of the same name as this new PBS/Smithsonian documentary, but all these years later, now we get the chance to watch as a lot of witness testimonies and such are laid bare for today's experts to re-analyze with new technology.
The movie was an instant smash when it hit the theaters forty years ago and reawakened man's obsession with the eternal question: "Are we alone in the universe?" Though a work of fantasy, few realize that Steven Spielberg's sci-fi classic was actually inspired by real-life witness testimony, as well as a series of UFO sightings in Michigan in the summer of 1966.
Separate science fact from science fiction as we re-examine government documents and put old witness testimonies to the test using modern technology. Running at only 45 minutes, 'The Real Story: Close Encounters of the Third Kind' is most certainly worthy of all Sci-Fi lovers' time, but originally released in 2011, most all may well have already seen it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Real Story: Scream'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: The gore fest may seem like Hollywood fiction, but it was actually inspired by a real-life killing spree that sent an idyllic Florida town into a panic.
DVD Verdict: We all have heard of, and most likely seen the 1996 movie of the same name as this new PBS/Smithsonian documentary, but all these years later, now we get the chance to learn that it was all based on the true story of a Florida town killing spree - something I actually had zero knowledge about, in all truth!
The movie was an instant smash when it hit the theaters twenty-one years ago and spawned four sequels before it came to a halt in 2011. Word has it though that a fifth 'Scream' has been planned for a while now, but since the passing of Wes Craven, along with a TV series that was good or bad, depending on who you asked, that all seems to have, pardon the pun, died down now, once again.
As for this PBS/Smithsonian big reveal about the real-life crime spree behind the original movie, it focuses on the true events behind the parallels between the fictional serial killer and the real-life serial killer: The Gainesville Ripper.
We quickly learn, given that this documentary only runs for 45 minutes, that Danny Harold Rolling (May 26, 1954 – October 25, 2006) - later to be known as the Gainesville Ripper - was an American who was arrested for being a serial killer who had murdered five students in Gainesville, Florida in 1989.
Indeed, Rolling later confessed to raping several of his victims, committing an additional November 4, 1989, triple homicide in Shreveport, Louisiana, and attempting to murder his father in May 1990. In total, Rolling confessed to killing eight people. Rolling was sentenced to death for the murders in 1994. He was executed by lethal injection in 2006. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'FRONTLINE: Life On Parole'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: 'Frontline: Life on Parole' follows former prisoners through the challenges of their first year on parole. With unique access, the film goes inside the effort to change the way parole works in Connecticut and reduce the number of people returning to prison.
DVD Verdict: Around half of all the inmates put on parole in the U.S. end up violating the terms of their release and are sent back to prison. But across the country, states are trying to change the way their parole systems work in an effort to lower recidivism rates and reduce prison populations.
In PBS's 'Life on Parole', FRONTLINE and The New York Times go inside one state, Connecticut, to examine its ongoing effort to rethink parole: a condition that offers a taste of freedom but comes with strict prohibitions on whom you can live with, where you can go, what time you have to be home, and more.
With unique access inside Connecticut's corrections system, as well as camera-phone footage filmed by the parolees themselves, the film follows ten former prisoners as they navigate the challenges of more than a year on parole - from finding work, to staying sober, to parenting - and doing it all while under intense supervision from the state.
How it all began is that Matthew O’Neill, a documentary filmmaker at DCTV, and the PBS series FRONTLINE came to The New York Times with a proposal to follow people closely, for a year, as they got out of prison. Connecticut, bravely, had agreed to give Matt unusual access which enabled PBS's Frontline team to follow the aforementioned 10 subjects. Now, I won't give away any of the "results", but people such as Erroll Brantley Jr., whoc was also a headline subject matter for PBS around the same time as this was filmed, make some interesting choices when back oustide, that's for sure.
More than two years in the making, 'Life on Parole' is a remarkable, firsthand look at why some people stay out of jail, why some go back, and how one state is trying to break the cycle of recidivism. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Abacus: Small Enough to Jail'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: From Steve James, 'Abacus: Small Enough to Jail' tells the saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud, the indictment and trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves and their bank's legacy in the Chinatown community over the course of a five-year legal battle.
DVD Verdict: The last time acclaimed filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) collaborated with FRONTLINE, the result was, The Interrupters — the gripping documentary about former street criminals in Chicago who place themselves in the line of fire to stop shootings and killings in their communities.
Now James has turned his lens on people in a different kind of struggle: the Sungs, a Chinese American family whose Abacus Federal Savings Bank was the only U.S. bank indicted for mortgage fraud related to the 2008 financial crisis.
The film examines the case against the bank, hearing from prosecutors, jurors, defense lawyers, and the bank’s founder, Thomas Sung, his wife Hwei Lin, and their daughters, who James filmed over a year as they fought to clear their names.
In truth, the case was little covered at the time, and while its outcome is a matter of public record, James prefers that reviewers not reveal whether the verdict was guilty, innocent, or mixed. That's because his Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is a compelling non-fiction thriller. It should engross most viewers, even those who've resisted learning what a subprime mortgage is.
As it happens, Abacus didn't deal in subprime. The Chinatown-based bank also didn't package its mortgages into the sort of financial instruments that made The Big Short's machinations so arcane. In fact, the bank had one of the lowest default rates in the country.
The problem was a loan officer, Ken Yu, who asked borrowers for bribes and falsified income statements for mortgage applications. His activities were hard to track, because, as the film explains, Chinatown residents are more likely to make cash transactions than the average American consumer. Also, Yu spoke a dialect that even most of his fellow Abacus employees didn't understand.
I won't give any more away as there is still a twist and turn to come in this gripping story, a story of whether or a not a whole family never knew if their lives were to be finished in jail. That said, cinematically, the most important piece of the legal story is a juror who was inclined to vote guilty. Her recollections keep the narrative taut until what, in Frank Capra's day, was termed the final reel. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and also comes with Mandarin Subtitles.
'Visions of the Great Cities of Europe'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: From Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Czech Republic, 'Visions: The Great Cities of Europe' samples a variety of cultures like no guidebook could portray.
DVD Verdict: In truth, I've never seen anything quite like this before! Visiting a collection of already-beautiful, stunning even cities is one thing, but to do it all from above, giving us so many wider perspectives to the tight streets and cramped market places is unlike any programming idea that I've ever encountered before.
So a hearty bravo to PBS and whomever came up with this idea as it was a complete and utter doozy of one, that's for sure. Here in 'Visions of the Great Cities of Europe', from the air we see the majestic architecture of Vienna, the incomparable coastline of the Cote d'Azur, the timeless monuments of Rome, and even a spectacular view of Mary Poppins' foggy ol' London town.
OK, sure, there's some boots on the ground footage that brings us a native's view of Amsterdam's bicycle culture and winding canals and Prague's Old Town Square, but the completely, totally unobtrusive narration is like a well-traveled friend giving you insider tips about where to go and what to see. This latest edition to the whole Visions catalogue is a great, and unique one and I hope you'll love it as much as I did. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Great British Baking Show - Season 4'
(Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Follow the trials and tribulations of passionate amateur bakers whose goal is to be named the UK's best here in the fourth season (seventh in the UK) of the show.
DVD Verdict: 'The Great British Bake Off', often referred to as 'Bake Off' or 'GBBO', is a British television baking competition which selects from amongst its contestants the best amateur baker. The series was presented by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, and judged by cookery writer Mary Berry and professional baker Paul Hollywood. It has been broadcast under the name 'The Great British Baking Show' here in the United States, as Pillsbury owns the Bake-Off trademark in the US.
Each season follows the trials and tribulations of passionate amateur bakers whose goal is to be named the UK's best. Each week, the bakers tackle a different skill, the difficulty of which increases as the competition unfolds, judged by British cooking/baking icons, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.
OK, now is where it's going to get even more confusing, so hold on tight. For not only is it well known in the UK as the aforementioned 'The Great British Bake Off', but the recently released "Season 1" DVD set from PBS was actually the UK's Season 5 series! The "Season 2" DVD was actually the UK's Season 4! And in yet another twist in the tale, "Season 3" released over here was actually the UK's Season 6!
So, in this particular "Season 4" (was is actually the UK's season 7, if you're still following along at home), filmed at Welford Park in Berkshire, there are once again twelve amateur bakers taking part. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood return as judges, whilst Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc continue to present the series.
If you love this show as much as the British do, you'll also know that each week the bakers tackle a different skill, the difficulty of which increases as the competition unfolds. Judged by the aforementioned Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, the show is a delicacy of edible viewing quite like nothing I've ever witnessed before. So, do not go into watching it with an empty stomach, trust me!
The 10 episodes included are: Cake - Biscuits - Bread - Batter - Pastry - Botanical - Desserts - Tudor - Pâtisserie - The Final.
Each episode brings challenges in three categories: a Signature Bake, to test the contestants' creative flair and baking ability; a Technical Bake, in which challengers receive basic recipes with ingredient lists and minimal instruction; and the Showstopper Bake, designed to display depth of skill and talent.
As for some additional fun information, although not included here (sorry), a spin-off UK show 'The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice', hosted by comedian Jo Brand on BBC Two, was also launched as a companion series the same year. Each episode was broadcast two days after the main show, but later moved to the same night. The show includes interviews with eliminated contestants and was a big hit with the British viewers.
As I hope it also does with you, 'The Great British Baking Show' aka 'The Great British Bake Off' has most definitely inspired me and my friends to get several cookbooks for my young daughters. They have enjoyed improving their skills while producing tasty foods also, as I can confirm due to what my own daughter chose to cook for our family last night!
Whenever I watch this show I find it all, in the nicest possible way, all very quaint. And so whilst learning a few new cooking tips you also get entertained and dazzled by the wide range of possible things you yourself could make.
In conclusion, wonderful, informative and witty describes this awesome program from across the pond. I absolutely fell in love with this show because not only are the hosts and judges funny and helpful in their critiques, the contestants bring all sorts of ideas and personalities into the mix.
I have learned so much about classical cakes and baking techniques just by watching the episodes. I love learning about the history of dishes and this PBS show mixes in a little history with each new competition. Here's hoping that PBS can bring out the other seasons of this wondrous show - no matter in what order they choose! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Mouse and Mole at Christmas Time'
(Animation / DVD / G / 2017 / PBS-SkipRope)
Overview: 'Mouse and Mole at Christmas Time' is a beautifully animated story about two friends who live together in a cottage in the country.
DVD Verdict: So, living together in a lovely little cozy cottage made for two, Mouse is the practical and cheerful one whilst Mole always gets himself into trouble and needs looking after.
But they work nicely together regardless and are very, very good friends. After delivering Twelfth Night party invitations to their friends, Mouse makes a "snow-mole" for Mole who dreams that his new snow-mole comes to life and takes him to a land where his every wish is granted!
So, here in this episode, we watch to see if Mole learns to be careful what he wishes for or will it all go according to his plan? Also containing nine other cheerful bonus animated tales (so ten in all, of course), all of them are chock full of wise and witty conversations whilst at the same time being filled with timeless, softly-animated charm.
This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, which runs for 35 minutes, and comes with the following 10 episodes: 'Preposterous Puddle', 'Daffodil', 'Least Expecting', 'Picnic', 'Whiskers', 'Half a Banana', 'Catch a Falling Leaf', 'Spectacles', 'A Frisky Fluttery Ghost', and 'The Secret of Happiness'.
'It's Potty Time!'
(Animation / DVD / G / 2017 / PBS Kids)
Overview: Tackle potty training with some of your favorite PBS KIDS friends!
DVD Verdict: Yep, it's about that time, boys and girls! For if your kids are just of an age where it's either becoming a chore to teach them how to use their potty, or they are doing it all wrong (!), PBS Kids are here to help!
On this four story DVD we get two (2) episodes that include such a trial and tribulation from Daniel Tiger's friend Prince Wednesday and when Daniel himself first begins to use the potty. Along with that pairing we also get one from Peg + Cat and one from, believe it or not, Dinosaur Train.
So, in the first two we Daniel Tiger's friend Prince Wednesday learns how important it is to stop and go potty right away, whilst in a separate episode Daniel himself shows he knows that a potty is for also. Peg + Cat show Big Mouth the six steps of going potty, and Buddy and Tiny discover that all creatures poop, even really big dinosaurs!
This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, which runs for 60 minutes, and comes with the following 4 episodes: 'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: Prince Wednesday Goes to the Potty', 'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: Daniel Goes to the Potty', 'Peg + Cat: The Potty Problem', and 'Dinosaur Train: Dinosaur Poop!'
Daniel Tigers Neighborhood King Daniel for the Day
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS Kids)
Overview: Four-year-old Daniel Tiger invites young viewers directly into his world, giving them a kid's eye view of his life and making them feel like one of his neighbors.
DVD Verdict: For those of you that are not aware, 'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood' is an animated continuation to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, where all the original characters are now grown up with their own preschool-aged children.
Personally, I loved Mr. Rogers Neighborhood as a kid, and although this is a very different, more modern show, I am pleased to see the good moral underlining and joy that this show brings to him while still keeping true to the same themes.
I love the little songs that have more meaning than rhyme and the lessons in the show along with the story lines.
Contained in this brand new DVD are seven (7) grr-ific tales: 'King Daniel for the Day', 'Prince Wednesday's Happy Birthday', 'The Neighborhood Fall Festival', 'Daniel Takes Care of Snowball', 'Looking for Snowball', 'Sharing at the Library', and 'Daniel Shares with Margaret'.
In the first of these cute and lovely episodes, and an extended adventure at that, we discover what it's like to be royalty with Daniel Tiger! When Daniel is declared "King for the Day" by King Friday, he sends Daniel on a royal mission to Baker Aker's bakery and Music Man Stan's shop.
Whilst out in the neighborhood completing King Friday's list, Daniel learns that the most important part of being king is helping others and being kind to your neighbors!
But there's more, as aforementioned, for also on this rather tigertastic DVD, Daniel also helps celebrate Prince Wednesday's birthday, shares a book at the library with O the Owl, and takes care of the class pet!
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood so come join Daniel Tiger and friends as they have a whole lot of fun and learn life's little lessons. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Odd Squad Villains - The Best of the Worst'
(DVD / G / 2017 / PBS Kids)
Overview: Join the agents of Odd Squad as they use their math and problem-solving skills to defeat evil villains and set things right!
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, The Odd Squad is a government agency that’s run by kids! Their mission is to investigate and rectify strange occurrences and to keep everyone safe. All of the agents have names that begin with the letter “O”.
Field agents Otto, Olive, and their boss Miss O., are in each of the four (4) episodes on this 55-minute "best of" DVD. As the title suggests, each episode is villain themed and so as our heroes come up against the best of the worst each time, they have to not only use math logic to solve the perplexing mysteries in their neighborhood, but set themselves free also!
When the Puppet Master turns a group of people including Otto and Olive into puppets, will the Odd Squad agents be able to crack the case and turn themselves back into humans? Three other fun-filled stories find the Odd Squad team trying to stop Odd Todd from turning townspeople and agents invisible, preventing villain Fladam from destroying the city's cubes, and recovering Ms. O's very important briefcase from the Shape Shifter!
'The Odd Squad' is a live-action series with the goal of helping kids ages 5-8 learn math. And for that reason alone, my boy enjoyed this show and its wacky humor tremendously! Besides entertaining, it teaches logic and math concepts like fractions and graphing/charting.
I highly recommend this DVD to all parents of children interested in math, or otherwise. Either way it will definitely, 100% keep them occupied watching The Odd Squad figure things out - and you also, most likely! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: In 'Happy Holidays, Garfield!' we join the ever-loveable character Garfield for two fun-filled holiday tales!
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Garfield is an American comic strip created by Jim Davis. Published since 1978, it chronicles the life of the title character, the cat Garfield; Jon, his owner; and Jon's dog, Odie.
Having since progressed from those days through life as a car suction toy for your windows, a soft toy to pull the draw string back on to hear talk, and even creating his very own Twitter account, the Garfield universe has expanded year after year.
And now we have a rather fun 50 minute long new DVD from PBS/SkipRope entitled 'Happy Holidays, Garfield!' Containing two (2) adorable tales, we first get "Garfield's Thanksgiving" where Jon Arbuckle invites veterinarian Liz to celebrate Thanksgiving with him, Garfield, and Odie!
But Jon has no clue how to prepare a Thanksgiving meal and even worse - Liz declares that Garfield must be put on a diet ... on the day before Thanksgiving! Will anyone come to the rescue and cook a delicious dinner for Jon and Liz?
In "A Garfield Christmas Special", Garfield gives Grandma love notes he found that were written by her husband, from when they first met. That thoughtful gift shows Garfield that Christmas isn't about eating lasagna or receiving presents - it's about spending time with your family and making others happy!
So do yourself, and your kids, of course, the favor this holiday season of buying this wonderful DVD and settling in for the evening with both these two fun-filled holiday episodes from the beloved Garfield! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Death Grip - 10 Action Movies'
(Sachin Mehta, Kristina Klebe, Kyrie Maezumi, Gina Gershon, Vincent D'Onofrio, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Welcome to 10 examples of bone-crushing, adrenaline-fueled action movies!
DVD Verdict: First off is The Advocate - (2013) - Color - Not Rated - Sachin Mehta, Kristina Klebe, Michael Raynor - Gifted defense attorney Ray Shekar (Mehta) finds himself in the middle of a twisted game of who-done-it when his curiosity prompts him to take on the case of Allyson Daugherty (Kristina Klebe), a socialite accused of murdering her husband.
'The Advocate' is a terrific criminal mystery film produced on a limited budget and excels in both categories. This film was well paced, with continual twists and turns that keep you fully engaged. Sachin Meta agonizes throughout, yet at times is also cool and in charge and at other times determined and doomed in his search for absolute justice.
Is Kristine Klebe a beautiful heroine or is she a murderer; her story plays with you, at times you are sympathetic and at other times you are suspicious or disbelieving. It is a fascinating journey.
The comes Legacy - (2011) - Color - Not Rated - Kyrie Maezumi, Will Wallace, Oscar Torre, Alysa Schulz - Ari Larsen has resurfaced after a five year absence, still harboring the memories of a scarred childhood. Kidnapped at the age of eleven by her serial killer father, Professor David Larsen, and taken on a three week odyssey of murder and savagery, Ari was left abandoned in the desert. One horrifying fact remains; her father has never been captured.
It truly is a fun throwback to the Hitchcock school of suspense. Very little blood, very high intensity. Ms. Brown, a knockout and hugely talented British actress, plays Tandi Lewis, a no nonsense Shock Journalist with a quick wit that leaves everyone she encounters a bit worse for wear. The character of Rick Larsen, the hapless sheriff pulled into a storm of bad news by a hot younger woman, is played with a fine flare by Will Wallace.
Next up is Mall - (2015) - Color – R - Cameron Monaghan, India Menuez, Gina Gershon, Vincent D'Onofrio - Malcom's done with his life. Only the noise of Crystal Meth gives him a reason to keep going. Equipped with a bag full of weapons and self-made bombs, he makes his way to the nearby mall to really stir things up.
Then comes Night Drive - (2011) - Color - Not Rated - Christopher Beasley, Brandon Auret, Corine du Toit, Leroy Gopal - Against the tranquil backdrop of a game reserve, South African thriller Night Drive tracks a group of tourists left stranded during a night-time game drive after their vehicle breaks down.
Next up is the title piece, Death Grip - (2014) - Color - Not Rated - Eric Jacobus, Johnny Yong Bosch, Rebecca Ahn - Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Broken Path) and Eric Jacobus (Contour, Dogs of Chinatown) star in this year’s hardest-hitting martial arts action thriller!
Featuring action by acclaimed director Eric Jacobus and The Stunt People, “the premier action team” (Kung Fu Cinema), Death Grip is not your typical martial arts action film - it will keep you in its grasp until the very end!
Then we get The New Republic - (2012) - Color - Not Rated - Owen Beckman, Anthony Tyler Quinn, Jake Tawney, Jeremy Ratchford - New Angeles, the isolated crime capitol of L.A., is home to David Kosinski, a young writer expelled from college and sentenced to house arrest. In solitude his politically charged blogging soon strikes a nerve with the leader of an underground nationalist group. Merely stirring the pot the majority of his life, David’s final decision is now a matter of life and death.
Next is Nobody Can Cool - (2013) - Color - Not Rated - Catherine Annette, Nick Principe - This is a suspenseful thriller of a young couple, Susan and David, who travel to the mountains for the weekend where they find their borrowed cabin already occupied. Tensions and secrets fueled by fear, greed, and suppressed hostility bubble over, and the pending arrival of an unknown danger becomes a test of survival.
If you are tired of mainstream Hollywood movies, but afraid of boring indies, here's one for you. Not a remake, reboot, or sequel, this is an ambitious and slick little thriller that sneaks up on you, draws you in, and takes you for a ride. The plot is tight and clever, and the dialogue is snappy and peppered with hard boiled humor.
Then there's Lost Dream - (2009) - Color - Not Rated - Michael Welch, Shaun Sipos - Emotionally distraught and depressed, Perry Roberts (Michael Welch) has lost faith in all the things he held true – and engages in an emotional roller coaster fueled by drugs and a dangerous game of Russian roulette.
Be forewarned, there are scenes that may make people feel uncomfortable. Not-so- glamorous scenes of emotional outbursts, drug use, selfishness and downright "douche bag" behavior! But I still found both characters to be very likable and magnetic to watch and it's all rounded out by a cool, and very befitting soundtrack.
Next is The Silent Thief - (2014) - Color - Not Rated - Toby Hemingway, Scout Taylor-Compton, John Billingsley, Frances Fisher - This is a psychological thriller that examines familial bonds, the human need to belong and the thin line between sanity and insanity.
For my money, and even though this is the weakest of the ten movies, Toby Hemingway does a really good role using not only possibilities of character but his nuances also. The theme will be familiar to people who watch these types of films, 'The Hand That Rocks The Cradle' is broadly similar, the stranger who invades a home by stealth and gradually morphs into one of its residents while tearing it apart.
Last, but not least, we have Who is Delsin? - (2013) - Color - Not Rated - Ricky Wayne, Emilio Roso, Steven Bauer, Joseph R. Gannascoli - In July 2009, Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Gerard Martinez walked into the Tampa Bay Museum of art and opened fire. He mercilessly killed men, women, and children before turning the gun on himself. The event came to be known as one of the bloodiest crimes in Tampa Bay history. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.78:1/1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Purgation - 10 Horror Films'
(Lance Hendrickson, Mandy Levin, Catherine McCormack, Suzy Cote, Kat Johnston, Brian Krause, Matt Thompson, Kimberly Alexander, Jesse Kristofferson, Erica Leerhsen, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Welcome to 10 examples of There's no place like Hell horror films!
DVD Verdict: First off is All Alone - (2012) – Color – Not Rated - Mandy Levin, Suzy Cote, Brice Williams, David Haydn-Jones - Two couples embark on an overnight camping trip to get away from the confines of the city and escape to the solitude of the mountains where secrets are revealed and desperation fuels an irreversible chain of events.
The directing is simple yet has a very distinct beauty. This is a not a movie full of special effects, and eye trickery, but it is a strong thriller built for the soul and the mind.
Next up is the title film The Purgation - (2015) – Color – Not Rated - Tiffany Kieu, Kat Johnston, Kate Dauphin, Tom Walsh - Iris thinks she's going crazy. To stay sane, she must confront her past by revisiting the site of a childhood trauma - the old county asylum.
This was quite the decent, if wholly flawed effort. One of the films' better aspects is the fact that this one goes for the rather strong sense of atmosphere and suspense in this one which manages to really make this creepier than expected.
Among the better aspects of this is the film's great opening, where it shows the making-of one of their home videos in the asylum where the creepy, chilling atmosphere located in the dark, dirty location is taken to a nice extreme. The location and setting alongside the fact that they're shooting the film there does the nice thing of putting kids in danger. Effective from moment number one, but sadly the present day remains of the movie don't follow suit.
The comes Ashes - (2012) – Color – Not Rated - Brian Krause, Kadeem Hardison, Richard Gant, Barbara Nedeljakova - A brilliant, obsessive doctor working on a cure for AIDS unwittingly invents an aggressive new bacteria that deteriorates the body and enrages the mind.
Next up is Bloodline - (2013) – Color – R - Matt Thompson, Kimberly Alexander, Jesse Kristofferson - Seminary student Brett Ethos falls away from the church and his faith, only to find out that his bloodline is sought by real evil.
Originally called 'The Cabin', this is an indie horror flick with something a little more ambitious than the normal nonsense: an 18th century historical back story that makes sense for once. Unfortunately, this part of the film occupies little of the running time, and it all quickly descends into the usual cabin in the woods-type nonsense with lame characters being bumped off by villains unknown.
Then comes All God’s Creatures - (2011) – Color – Not Rated - Josh Folan, Jessica Kaye, Ginger Kroll, Molly Fahey - Creature of habit, Jon Smith (Josh Folan - “All My Children”, Ay Lav Yu, The Graduates) spends his days mindlessly working as a barista in New York City. When night falls, this seeming everyman savagely kills “filthy women” as his social outlet.
Next is Billy’s Cult - (2014) – Color – Not Rated - Debbie Rochon, Lou Martini Jr, Suzi Lorraine, Donovan Kern, Anthony Grasso - Billy’s Cult takes us into the demented mind of Billy, (Donovan Kern) a ruthless killer unlike any other seen before. Detectives Gates (Lou Martini Jr.) and Steele (Debbie Rochon) are in pursuit of this killer, trying to put an end to the killing spree, while at the same time, attempting to exorcise their own inner demons.
Then we get Phobia - (2013) – Color – Not Rated - Erica Leerhsen, Chase Ryan Jeffrey, Matthew Tompkins, Jonathan Brooks - In 1885, a female doctor helping a group of people with their phobias becomes embroiled in a murder mystery surrounding a patient that may or may not be a vampire.
For some reason they wanted to set this film in Paris. Problem is, anybody who has ever been in Paris or watched films that represent it well, like recent Woody Allen one, will have hard time finding this setting believably represented either culturally or historically.
If you get by that part, the fake French accents these people are using are so horrible that even if their acting was not absolutely atrocious it would ruin the film! The worst film of the bunch, as if French accents were not bad enough, "vampires" speak with badly done "Dracula" accent (weird fake Hungarian that sounds nothing like actual Transylvania accent, and more like bad Polish accent!).
Next up is Summer School - (2006) – Color – Not Rated - Simon Wallace, Amy Cocchiarella, Tony D. Czech, Lance Hendrickson - Charlie is a teenage horror buff and even runs his own movie review website. He soon finds himself in a series of all-too realistic nightmares that look an awful lot like his movies. His grip on reality loosens as it becomes impossible to tell whether he’s awake or asleep.
Then comes Vanished - (2013) – Color – Not Rated - Stephen Carracher, Carolyn Bock, Cassandra Magrath - This is a gripping psychological thriller dealing with child kidnapping and how far a parent will go seeking revenge.
In my humble opinion, 'Vanished' is a very well crafted and produced little movie. Anyone that cannot follow the plot should have a second look. I thought for a first time writer /director it was a fine effort. All of the actors are new to me and did their bit admirably. Definitely worth a watch if you like a good who-dunnit movie.
Finally we get Stevie - (2008) – Color – PG-13 - Catherine McCormack, Jordi Mollá, Ida Jorgensen, Silvia Tortosa - After a long and unsuccessful period trying to have a family, Claire (Catherine McCormack) and Adrián (Jordi Mollá) finally adopt a girl. The coming of Isabel is desired by the whole family, but making a six-year-old girl with a past of her own fit into her new life might be something more complicated than they expected. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.78:1/1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Vincent Price Collection - 5 Frightening Features
(Vincent Price, et al / DVD + Digital / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Welcome to five films featuring one of the Masters Of Horror! Delve into the world of Vincent Price – experience films from the man that made Horror a work of art!
DVD Verdict: For those not quite in the horror know, Vincent Price was an American actor, well known for his distinctive voice and performances in horror films. His career spanned other genres, including film noir, drama, mystery, thriller, and comedy.
He appeared on stage, television, radio, and more than one hundred films. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures, and one for television. Born and raised in the Saint Louis, Missouri, area, Price also has a star on the Saint Louis Walk of Fame.
First off we get the best of the bunch with House On Haunted Hill (1959) - A wealthy man offers a hefty amount of money to a select five people that concur to being trapped in a haunted rental house overnight.
This classic version of 'House on Haunted Hill' is one of the most entertaining examples of the low-budget, black-and-white horror films that used to be such a mainstay for movie fans. It has few frills, but it does have some thrills, and in particular it has a cleverly written story that is told at a brisk pace, with a good deal of interesting and pleasingly macabre detail.
Next up is Last Man on Earth (1964) – Illness reforms any spark of human life into living dead, and the last man left on Earth is forced to set out as a vampire hunter.
The black-and-white cinematography is as stark and minimalistic as the story (and, admittedly, the budget). The exterior scenes set in a deserted Los Angeles - well, actually Rome, shot in the early morning - are often quite effective in mirroring his internal desolation. Cast and crew alike do an excellent job with the material, despite the monetary constraints.
Then comes Shock (1946) – After a woman witnesses a man commit murder, she is locked into a private asylum to face her psychological issues – but the one who admitted her may be the one who indefinitely needs help.
Although somewhat of a potboiler and a bit short on running time per today's standards, 'Shock' is a tightly scripted, directed and acted thriller. As usual, Price is at the top of his game here, and any Price fans who haven't seen this film yet will want to check it out. The rest of the cast is also fantastic, and Anabel Shaw particularly stands out when she's on screen.
Then we get The Bat (1959) – When psycho killer, “The Bat,” escapes, he runs loose in a mansion filled with people.
The Bat, while no Citizen Kane, is still a lot of fun. It gives some very good talent the opportunity to ham it up (Vincent Price made a career of it) while providing some rather rare brutal killings in a 50's movie. Price is brilliant as usual.
Check out the moment when Agnes Moorhead mentions that the Bat is looking for money and that it's probably in the house. Price knows where the money is (talked about early on so no plot spoil) and his eyes lilt ever so slighty when Moorhead talks about it. A great subtle moment from a great actor.
Last, but not least is The Jackals (1967) – The heart does in fact, speak louder than the mind – convicted bank robber is after a gold miner, but quickly falls in love with his granddaughter, leading to a change of plans.
'Yellow Sky' (1948) was one of the better American westerns of its era. It was also one of Gregory Peck's better starring roles. So, it's a tall order to try to remake the picture, though 'The Jackals' does a better job than I expected - especially since it mostly stars folks you probably won't recognize.
Aside from Vincent Price (who should not have been listed first in the billing, but goes by the wonderful character name of Oupa Decker), the rest are actors we probably wouldn't recognize here in the States. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1/2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Coach - The Complete Series'
(Craig T. Nelson, Shelley Fabares, Jerry Van Dyke, Bill Fagerbakke, Clare Carey, et al / 18-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Team up with Craig T. Nelson in his Primetime Emmy® Award-winning role as Hayden Fox, the curmudgeonly coach of Minnesota State University's Screaming Eagles football team, as he tries to navigate his way through the sports world, fatherhood and family life without dropping the ball.
DVD Verdict: OK, for those not quite in the know, 'Coach' was an American sitcom that aired for nine seasons on ABC from February 28, 1989 to May 14, 1997, with a total of 200 half-hour episodes.
The series stars Craig T. Nelson as Hayden Fox, head coach of the fictional Division I-A college football team the Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles. For the last two seasons, Coach Fox and the supporting characters coached the Orlando Breakers, a fictional National Football League expansion team.
The program also starred Jerry Van Dyke as Luther Van Dam and Bill Fagerbakke as Michael "Dauber" Dybinski, assistant coaches under Fox. The role of Hayden's girlfriend (and later wife) Christine Armstrong, a television news anchor, was played by Shelley Fabares.
In 2015, NBC ordered a sequel series to Coach, set to focus on Hayden Fox's son, with Craig T. Nelson reprising his role as Hayden. However, on August 31, NBC scrapped its plans to air the series.
So, what about this 21-Disc Box-Set of pure, unadulterated Must See Television do you feel I need to fill you in on, my lovely readers? How about we start at the top and work our way down.
The first episode was dedicated to the memory of John C. Chulay. There, how about them apples! Wait, you don't know who Chulay was? OK, well, John C. Chulay was born on April 9th, 1923 in Indiana, USA as John Cornell Chulay and was an assistant director and production manager for many a TV show.
This was a great show. Craig T. Nelson is a very funny man and this show was deservedly one of the most popular during its long run. Nelson played Hayden Fox, a football coach for the Minnesota Screaming Eagles, at a college, Minnesota State. He had a girlfriend; anchorwoman Christine Armstrong played by veteran singer Shelly Fabares, a daughter Kelly and her boyfriend and later husband Stewart.
The real stars of the show were the people he worked with though. Jerry Van Dyke, brother of Dick van Dyke played Luther, Hayden's assistant coach, Dauber was another assistant coach who was also a student that never seemed to graduate and the not too frequently seen Howard Burleigh the goofy athletic director that let Hayden get by with a whole lot.
Hayden was essentially a nice guy, but he also had many flaws. He was sexist, self centered, obnoxious, basically a football coach. He was an Archie Bunker for his time, but not near as edgy of course. He was always trying to control the lives of his daughter, his girlfriend and his friends at work.
The show had so many great lines. The writing was great as there was never a week character even people that were in one or two episodes. I thought the weakest characters in the show was his girlfriend and his daughter who were mostly just background noise to his work where the real great gags were. Luther was so great. He was such an odd character he almost made the show.
The best episode of the 200 that aired, in my humble opinion, was the one when we learned of Howard Burleigh's society the Society of Loons. The loon is actually a bird the group is named after. I thought I was going to die when I heard the members scream `LOOOOONNNN!' That is classic. I love how Hayden Fox seems to always be at odds with someone whether it is someone that is a bit on the artsy side, an administrator, one of Christine's friends or almost anyone he chooses.
The show works because the dialogue is not forced. The writing was near perfect. All of them had near perfect lines, except for his girlfriend and his daughter who eventually drifted away from the show. The show lost a lot of its charm when Hayden moved to the pros and coached a team in Florida. It was still funny, but not as good as it once was.
Still this is a great show - that also featured special guest appearances by Troy Aikman, Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Frank Gifford, Johnny Unitas, Bobby Vinton and so many more - and so I'm thrilled that Mill Creek Home Entertainment have now released it as this insanely great priced 18-Disc Box-Set. It's a classic and I know you will think that also once you have purchased this Box-Set for yourselves.
FYI: 1) The 'Coach' theme song was performed by the Iowa State University Cyclone Football "Varsity" Marching Band. The Iowa State band was the winner of a national contest for the right to play the piece for TV.
FYI: 2) At the beginning of each episode, the phrase "'Coach' is filmed before a studio audience" is said by Shelley Fabares. For the "Pilot" episode, this phrase was spoken by Clare Carey. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Friday Night Lights - The Complete Series'
(Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Aimee Teegarden, Taylor Kitcsh, Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki, Scott Porter, Jesse Plemons, Michael B. Jordan, et al / 13-Disc Blu-ray / PG-13 / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Coach Eric Taylor is the newest hire at a small town high school in Dillon, Texas. After a series of events leading to his release, Taylor is forced to build a football team from the ground up at the rival high school.
His wife Tami, high school principal, faces scrutiny of her own as she takes constant blame from angry parents. But even through the hardships at work, challenges at home with teen daughter Julie, and endless drama, only one thing matters: Friday night.
DVD Verdict: OK, for those not quite in the know, 'Friday Night Lights' was an American drama television series about a high school football team in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas.
It was developed by Peter Berg and executive produced by Brian Grazer, David Nevins, Sarah Aubrey and Jason Katims, based on the 1990 nonfiction book by H. G. Bissinger, adapted as the 2004 film of the same name.
The series' primary setting, Dillon, is a small, close-knit community in rural Texas. Team coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his family, Tami, Julie and Grace, are featured. The show uses this small-town backdrop to address many issues facing contemporary American culture, including family values, school funding, racism, drugs, abortion and lack of economic opportunities.
Produced by NBCUniversal, 'Friday Night Lights' premiered on October 3, 2006, and aired for two seasons on NBC. Although the show had garnered critical acclaim and passionate fans, the series suffered low ratings and was in danger of cancellation after the second season.
To save the series, NBC struck a deal with DirecTV to co-produce three more seasons; each subsequent season premiered on DirecTV's 101 Network, with NBC rebroadcasts a few months later. The series ended its run on The 101 Network on February 9, 2011, after five seasons.
Personally, I came to know 'Friday Night Lights' rather late. I first watched parts of the third season when it was shown on Directv, but wasn't familiar with the characters or their stories, but I knew one thing-it was damn good. However, I had a hell of a time trying to keep track of the show and it wasn't until I went to Texas myself and became immersed in the culture that I really began watching the show.
Thus I watched what I could of season 4 online, and then began searching for season 1. I watched it on ABC Family until it was canceled, and then bought the season 1 DVD and have just now completed the ENTIRE series on one massive 10 day long binge watching extravaganza!
The show is so good it gives me chills. Every aspect of this show is absolutely astounding from the music selection, to the editing and shot selection, the story lines, the acting, and of course the characters. These characters stay with you. Each character has so much depth, and it's so beautiful to watch them through their struggle and growth on film.
hey become a part of you, they inspire you, they surprise you, and through them you gain a new perspective about life as you realize that no matter the hand they've been dealt, each character is simply trying to make sense of life and do the best they can for themselves through their mistakes, disappointments and pain. The characters will surprise you as the seasons progress and you see more of each person.
I also love the shots of Texas in between dialogue. One shot of the bright, burning sun or the open skies, or that lone star on the flag remind me so much of why I fell in love with Texas while I was there.
'Friday Night Lights' captures this brilliantly in such a nuanced way. They bring such poetry and realism to viewers, and yes, their portrayal of Football is not only dynamic, it also captures the culture of Texas Football perfectly. In Texas, Football is God. That is a fact.
There are times when I forget that this is actually a television show. Everything is absolutely authentic. The restlessness that the younger characters feel in living in a small town and feeling like you have no way out is something I can relate to.
Buddy Garrity is the epitome of a Texan and at times I'm convinced that he is not actually portrayed by a trained actor. The same goes for Herc, a supporting character who was introduced to us after Jason Street's injury. Throughout much of that season I did not actually believe that Herc was a character. He just felt so real, and that's the beauty of this show. You come to love and appreciate even the secondary characters because they bring so much, everything is so real which is a credit to the writing team.
The best part was the show's ability to evolve and stay positive and life affirming in the effect this couple had on it and, without giving anything away, the way they ended it was very satisfying. One of the best quality family drama's I've seen. Catch this brilliant TV show now from Season 1 through to Season 5 on Blu-ray, for the first time ever. This 13-Disc Box-Set is delightful and is the perfect companion for those closing in Fall/Winter nights.
FYI: Connie Britton and Brad Leland both had roles in the original Friday Night Lights (2004) movie, also directed by series creator Peter Berg. Their roles were identical to those they have in the series, the coach's wife and a football booster respectively. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Watch Around The Clock - 24 Hours of TV'
(Art Linkletter, Groucho Marx, Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke, Johnny Carson, George Burns, Milton Berle, et al / 5-Disc DVD+Digital / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: This incredible 4-DVD collection features non-stop programming from the Golden Age of Television as if you've gone back in time. Starting with early morning cartoons for the kids, daytime programming which includes all your favorite game shows, then all your favorite prime-time hits during the evening and then into the wee morning hours with star-studded movies all complete with commercials from the era.
DVD Verdict: My oh my, what an incredible, simply incredible 5-Disc Box-Set this truly is. Whoever thought this conception for a DVD release up should be applauded for as much as you may think you don't need it all in one long, 24-hour bundle, trust me, once you start playing that first disc you are transported back to an era that welcomes you with open, loving arms.
Disc One brings us all the early morning TV shows, such as Felix The Cat, Betty Boop, Popeye, Lassie, and Howdy Doody, amongst others. Personally, I was a great lover of all-things both Felix The Cat and Howdy Doody. For those not in the know, Felix is a funny-animal cartoon character created in the silent film era. The anthropomorphic black cat with his black body, white eyes, and giant grin, coupled with the surrealism of the situations in which his cartoons place him, combine to make Felix one of the most recognized cartoon characters in film history.
As for Howdy Doody, well, not everyone's taste, I'll grant you, but this was an American children's television program (with circus and Western frontier themes) that was created and produced in Fort Lauderdale, FL by E. Roger Muir and telecast on the NBC network in the United States from December 27, 1947, until September 24, 1960.
Trust me when I say it was a pioneer in children's television programming and set the pattern for many similar shows. One of the first television series produced at NBC in Rockefeller Center, in Studio 3A, it was also a pioneer in early color production as NBC (at the time owned by TV maker RCA) used the show in part to sell color television sets in the 1950s.
Disc One: Betty Boop, Felix The Cat, Popeye, Calvin & The Colonel, Howdy Doody, The Pinky Lee Show, Time For Beany, Wink Dink and You, Rootie Kazootie Show, Paul Winchell & Jerry Mahoney, Lassie and then Superman.
That's backed on Disc Two by the Afternoon block of programming with such shows as People Are Funny, Who Do You Trust?, Queen For A Day, Twenty-One, and amongst others both You Asked For It and Four Star Playhouse. My favorites were both Who Do You Trust? and Twenty-One. Who Do You Trust? was an American game show which aired from September 30, 1957, to November 15, 1957, at 4:30 pm, Eastern on ABC, and from November 18, 1957, to December 27, 1963 at 3:30 pm, Eastern - which helped garner a significant number of young viewers, like me, coming home from school.
The series was initially emceed by Johnny Carson and announced by Bill Nimmo. A year into the run, Nimmo was replaced by Ed McMahon, and from that point until 1992 the two would spend the majority of their careers together. Carson and McMahon departed in 1962 when Carson was hired to take over from Jack Paar on NBC's Tonight (renamed The Tonight Show under Carson), where they would both spend the next thirty years together. Woody Woodbury took over the hosting position while Nimmo returned to announce. The show was produced at the Little Theater on 44th Street in New York (today known as the Helen Hayes Theater).
Twenty One was an American game show originally hosted by Jack Barry which aired on NBC from 1956 to 1958. Produced by Jack Barry-Dan Enright Productions, the program became notorious for being a rigged quiz show which nearly caused the demise of the entire genre in the wake of United States Senate investigations.
Indeed, the 1994 movie Quiz Show is based on these events. A new version aired in 2000 with Maury Povich hosting, lasting about four months, again on NBC.
Disc Two: People Are Funny, Art Linkletter and The Kids, You Asked For It, What's My Line?, The Price Is Right, Who Do You Trust?, You Bet Your Life, Queen For A Day, Twenty-One, To Tell The Truth, G.E. Theatre and Four Star Playhouse.
Next up is the Evening slot, where we sit back and eat dinner to such classics as The Roy Rogers Show, Dragnet, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and amongst others both The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Beverly Hillbillies. For me, I loved all the shows, but I guess if I had to choose two today to reflect back on they would be The Dick Van Dyke Show and Dragnet.
Interestingly enough, Dragnet was also an American radio show, let alone the hit television and motion picture series. Enacting the cases of a dedicated Los Angeles police detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, and his partners would hit the stgreets and hunt down the criminals, one by one. The show takes its name from the police term "dragnet", meaning a system of coordinated measures for apprehending criminals or suspects.
Dragnet is perhaps the most famous and influential police procedural drama in media history. The series gave audience members a feel for the danger and heroism of police work. Dragnet earned praise for improving the public opinion of police officers. Actor and producer Jack Webb's aims in Dragnet were for realism and unpretentious acting; he achieved both goals, and Dragnet remains a key influence on subsequent police dramas in many media.
The gloriously funny Dick Van Dyke Show was an American television sitcom that initially aired on CBS from October 3, 1961 to June 1, 1966, with a total of 158 half-hour episodes spanning over five seasons. The show was created by Carl Reiner and starred Dick Van Dyke, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore.
It centered on the work and home life of television comedy writer Rob Petrie (Van Dyke) and was produced by Reiner with Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. The music for the show's theme song was written by Earle Hagen and played as much a part of the show to the viewer as the actual acting over the years. Rob, watch out for that ... oh dear, never mind, he's tripped over it yet again!
Disc Three: Annie Oakley, The Roy Rogers Show, Dragnet, Make Room For Daddy, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriett, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffiths Show, The Johnny Carson Show, The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show and The Milton Burle Show.
The final fourth disc is the Late-Night portion of this fantastic Box-Set and brings us three stunning films: 'The Strange Love of Martha Ivers', 'Cyrano de Bergerac' and 'The Man With The Golden Arm'. Admittedly, I assumed that this "Late-Night" portion of the Box-Set would be talk show-based, but the three films at least allow you to slink into the night comfortably.
My favorite of the three is 'The Man with the Golden Arm'. Filmed in 1955, this drama thriller, chock full with elements of film noir, is based on the novel of the same name by Nelson Algren. It tells the story of a drug addict who gets clean while in prison, but struggles to stay that way in the outside world.
Although the addictive drug is never identified in the film, according to the American Film Institute "most contemporary and modern sources assume that it is heroin", in contrast to Algren's book which named the drug as morphine.
The film stars Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak, Arnold Stang and Darren McGavin. It was adapted for the screen by Walter Newman, Lewis Meltzer and Ben Hecht (uncredited), and directed by Otto Preminger. The film's initial release sparked controversy due to its serious, in-depth treatment of the then-taboo subject of drug addiction.
Disc Four: 'The Strange Love of Martha Ivers' (1946), 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (1946), and 'The Man With The Golden Arm' (1955).
But wait, there's more! Included as a fantastic Bonus is not only Digital Access, but a Holiday DVD (Volume 2) that comes with seven (7) different TV show Christmas-themed, festive-filled episodes. Included in these 13 episodes are such TV shows as The Beverly Hillbillies, The Jack Benny Program, Sherlock Holmes, Gwen Guild Playhouse, Racket Squad, Dear Phoebe and Telephone Time. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Watch Around The Clock - 24 Hours of TV in COLOR!
(Lucille Ball, Edgar Buchanan, Duncan Renaldo, Lorne Green, Mike Connors, Elizabeth Taylor, et al / 5-Disc DVD+Digital / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: This incredible 5-DVD collection features non-stop programming from the Golden Age of Television as if you've gone back in time, but this time IN COLOR! Starting with early morning cartoons for the kids, daytime programming which includes all your favorite game shows, then all your favorite prime-time hits during the evening and then into the wee morning hours with star-studded movies all complete with commercials from the era. It s an experience like none other!
DVD Verdict: My oh my, what an incredible, simply incredible 5-Disc Box-Set this truly is. Whoever thought this conception for a DVD release up should be applauded for as much as you may think you don't need it all in one long, 24-hour bundle, trust me, once you start playing that first disc you are transported back to an era that welcomes you with open, loving arms.
Disc One brings us all the early morning TV shows, such as Popeye & Friends, Casper, Gumby, Ultraman and, amongst others, Paddington Bear. For me, and easily, my favorite two were Ultraman and Paddington Bear. Man, I couldn't get enough of either of these two polar opposite shows back then. Ultraman was a Japanese tokusatsu science fiction television series created by Eiji Tsuburaya and was actually a follow-up to Ultra Q, though not technically a sequel or spin-off.
The show was produced by Tsuburaya Productions and was broadcast on Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) from July 17, 1966 to April 9, 1967, with a total of 39 episodes (40, counting the pre-premiere special that aired on July 10, 1966).
A whole other cup o' tea altogether, Paddington Bear was an American/British animated television series. It was the second television adaptation of the children's book series and made by Hanna-Barbera in association with Central Independent Television.
An animated television program based on the Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond, the series was scripted by Bond himself and produced by FilmFair London. It was narrated by actor Michael Hordern, who also voices all characters. Animation in stop motion, Paddington himself is a puppet in a three-dimensional environment, whilst other characters are paper cut-outs. It was so easy to watch, so believable to me at the time.
Disc One: Popeye & Friends, Casper, Gumby, The New Three Stooges, Fraidy Cat/Packy & Wacky, Hoppity Hopper, Clutch Cargo & Friends, Ultraman, Space Angel/Captain Fathom, Paddington Bear and Mr. Piper.
That's backed on Disc Two by the Afternoon block of programming with such shows as Gulliver's Travels, The Borrowers, Rescue From Gilligan's Island and The Over The Hill Gang. Just four (4) shows here, in total, the stand out duo for me are both Rescue From Gilligan's Island and The Over The Hill Gang.
Rescue from Gilligan's Island is a 1978 made-for-television comedy film that continues the adventures of the shipwrecked castaways from the 1964–67 sitcom Gilligan's Island, starring Bob Denver and Alan Hale, Jr. The film first aired on NBC as a two-part special on October 14 and October 21, 1978.
In depicting the long-awaited rescue of the castaways, the film forms a cathartic response to many of the episodes of the series in which "they almost get off the island". The film was directed by Leslie H. Martinson.
The Over-the-Hill Gang is a 1969 TV-movie Western comedy about aging Texas Rangers starring Walter Brennan and Pat O'Brien. Chill Wills, Edgar Buchanan, Andy Devine, and Jack Elam play supporting roles. The film was written by Richard Carr and directed by Jean Yarbrough.
The plot concerns a young newspaper editor who is conducting a campaign to unseat the town's "tinhorn mayor." The mayor is backed by a "gun-happy sheriff" and a "whiskey-soaked judge." The editor's campaign receives a boost when he is joined by a former Texas Ranger and "three of the fightin'-est straight shooters around." Oh, and the movie premiered on October 7, 1969, as the ABC Movie of the Week.
Disc Two: Gulliver's Travels, The Borrowers, Rescue From Gilligan's Island and The Over The Hill Gang.
Next up is the Evening slot, where we sit back and eat dinner to such classics as The Lone Ranger, Long John Silver, Mannix, Rango, Dusty's Trail, and amongst others, The Lucy Show. The stand out two here for me are both The Lone Ranger and The Lucy Show, of course.
The Lone Ranger was an American western drama television series that aired on the ABC Television network from 1949 to 1957, with Clayton Moore in the starring role. Jay Silverheels, a member of the Mohawk Aboriginal people in Canada, played The Lone Ranger's Native American companion Tonto.
The fictional story line maintains that a patrol of six Texas Rangers is massacred, with only one member surviving. The "lone" survivor thereafter disguises himself with a black mask and travels with Tonto throughout Texas and the American West to assist those challenged by the lawless elements.
A silver mine supplies The Lone Ranger with the name of his horse as well as the funds required to finance his wandering life-style and the raw material for his signature bullets. At the end of most episodes, after the Lone Ranger and Tonto leave, someone asks the sheriff or other person of authority who the masked man was. The person then responds that it was the Lone Ranger, who is then heard yelling "Hi-Yo, Silver!" as he and Tonto ride away on their horses.
The Lucy Show was an American sitcom that aired on CBS from 1962–68. It was Lucille Ball's follow-up to I Love Lucy. A significant change in cast and premise for the 1965–66 season divides the program into two distinct eras; aside from Ball, only Gale Gordon, who joined the program for its second season, remained. For the first three seasons, Vivian Vance was the co-star.
The earliest scripts were entitled The Lucille Ball Show, but when this title was rejected by CBS, producers thought of calling the show This Is Lucy or The New Adventures of Lucy, before deciding on the title The Lucy Show. Ball won consecutive Emmy Awards as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for the series' final two seasons, 1966–67 and 1967–68.
Disc Three: The Lone Ranger, Long John Silver, The Cisco Kid, Judge Roy Bean, Rango, Dusty's Trail, The Lucy Show, Bonanza and Mannix.
The final fourth disc is the Late-Night portion of this fantastic Box-Set and brings us three stunning films: 'The Last Time I Saw Paris', 'The Missouri Traveler', and 'The Proud Rebel'. Admittedly, I assumed that this "Late-Night" portion of the Box-Set would be talk show-based, but the three films at least allow you to slink into the night comfortably.
My favorite of the three is 'The Proud Rebel'. A 1958 Technicolor Western film directed by Michael Curtiz with a screenplay by Joseph Petracca and Lillie Hayward, it was based on a story by James Edward Grant.
It is the story of a widowed Confederate veteran and his mute son who struggle to make a new life among sometimes hostile neighbors in the Midwest. Despite the implications of the title, the main character in "The Proud Rebel" does not dwell much on his Southern past, but finds his life complicated by sectional prejudice.
The film stars Alan Ladd, Olivia de Havilland, Dean Jagger, David Ladd and Cecil Kellaway and co-stars Harry Dean Stanton (credited as Dean Stanton) in an early film appearance. Indeed, 'The Proud Rebel' influenced the famous Indian artist Kishore Kumar, who remade it as Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein in 1964 starring his real-life son Amit Kumar playing the role of the mute son.
Disc Four: 'The Last Time I Saw Paris' (1954), 'The Missouri Traveler' (1958), and 'The Proud Rebel' (1958).
But wait, there's more! Included as a fantastic Bonus is not only Digital Access, but a Holiday DVD (Volume 2) that comes with seven (7) different TV show Christmas-themed, festive-filled episodes. Included in these 12 episodes, are such TV shows as The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Colgate Comedy Hour, Petticoat Junction, The Paul Winchell Show, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Red Skelton Show, and Family Doctor. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
(Megan West, Ana Isabelle, Greg Davis Jr., Nicholas Turturro, Vincent Pastore, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / WowNow Entertainment - Parade Deck Films)
Overview: Six strangers are kidnapped and through governmental technology have proof they have all killed before. They are then all informed that five of them will die this night, one may walk, and that the six have 2 hours to decide who gets to live.
DVD Verdict: Before I begin reviewing this, it should be made known from the off that this was requested purposely to review from the company associated with promoting it, as I'd heard some very encouraging things about it.
That said, and with no bias either way, 'The Eyes' does a very good job at becoming a unique suspense thriller from the off. Shot on location, and not really veering from that office entrapment area, you start to feel as worried for the characters as they do for themselves. Never knowing who will be killed, or for what crime (whether it be theirs or someone else's around the table), the building tension is palpable throughout.
With Nicholas Turturro, doing his best Michael Peña impression, taking gun control of the situation, each one of the six guests is shown via video why they are there. At this point you will start to decide yourself if they should be killed or survive, trust me.
Running at just over an hour and a half, and with camera angles that flash back and forth as the tension rises, it can get a little mid-'90s MTV video-esque, but stay with it as the finale brings with it a fairly decent turn of events.
In closing, as they say about these type of B-movies, it wouldn't win an Oscar, but it doesn't need to, nor does it strive to. It does exactly what it says on the box and scares you and rivets you to the plot in equal measures. Filled with new, and at times interesting music, and with moments of inspired cinematography, 'The eyes' have it for me - and I hope they do for you once you buy/rent this intriguing new movie. This is a Wideescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Rolling Stones From The Vault Sticky Fingers 2015
(The Rolling Stones / DVD+CD / NR / 2017 / Eagle Vision)
Overview: This latest addition to the From The Vault series captures a truly unique event in the long and eventful history of The Rolling Stones. On the May 20th, 2015 at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, California, the band performed the entire Sticky Fingers album live in concert for the first and so far only time in their career.
DVD Verdict: As noted above, this unique performance from May 20th, 2015, saw the band perform the entire Sticky Fingers album live in concert for the first – and so far only – time in their career. The show took place at the intimate Fonda Theatre and celebrated the reissue of the Sticky Fingers album and was the opening night of The Rolling Stones ‘Zip Code Tour’ of North America.
Now released on blu-ray and DVD (which include interviews with the band members intercut with full length performances) and also available as DVD+CD (which I'm reviewing here today) and a delightful 3LP+DVD combo set of packages, the CD and 3LP elements feature the full show as performed on the night.
1) Start Me Up
3) Dead Flowers
4) Wild Horses
5) Sister Morphine
6) You Gotta Move
8) Can't You Hear Me Knocking
9) I Got The Blues
10) Moonlight Mile
11) Brown Sugar
12) Rock Me Baby
13) Jumpin' Jack Flash
DVD Bonus Features:
Tracks cut from the concert film: 1) All Down The Line, 2) When The Whip Comes Down, and 3) I Can't Turn You Loose.
1) Start Me Up
2) When The Whip Comes Down
3) All Down The Line
5) Dead Flowers
6) Wild Horses
7) Sister Morphine
8) You Gotta Move
10) Can't You Hear Me Knocking
11) I Got The Blues
12) Moonlight Mile
13) Brown Sugar
14) Rock Me Baby
15) Jumpin' Jack Flash
16) I Can't Turn You Loose
Whether it be watching the show via the DVD or listening to the show via the CD player in the car, top down (it's 90 degrees here in MI as we head into the close of September (!), the music is still as good as it gets from these guys.
You would think that studio work would be enhanced to get the best of their vocals and instruments, but that doesn't explain how live they still perform as if they were teenagers - better, perhaps. These guys never put a musical note wrong and Mick never once forgets a mark, or a line at that.
Sure the old interviews inter cut with live footage does get a little in the way at times, but their live performance art is a delicacy, a master class to watch regardless. The rest of this From The Vault series have tracked back to the '70s and such, so this is the very first time that they've released something so, well, modern, shall we say.
Watching the DVD you immediately get a sense of how much of a treat it must have been to be there that night as it's a small venue whose vibe is bouncing off the walls this evening. By the looks of it, as the camera pans, The Fonda Theatre looks like an amazing place, in general, let alone to house a brilliant, stand alone concert such as this one.
Also the subject of a Pledge Music campaign, The Rolling Stones: From The Vault, Sticky Fingers 2015 DVD+CD is a pure delight from start to finish. Of course, and unlike the majority of others released in the same vein, there are no Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman, or even Nicky Hopkins present on deck, but what we do have are the born again originals - and trust me when I say, even though Mick may well try to make them all sound a wee bit "newer", they all still come across as old school musical gems. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Armed Response' [Blu-ray]
(Wesley Snipes, Anne Heche, Dave Annable, Gene Simmons, Mike Seal, et al / Blu-ray+Digital HD / R / 2017 / Lionsgate Films)
Overview: A team of highly trained operatives is trapped inside an isolated military compound after its AI is suddenly shut down. The crew begins to experience strange and horrific phenomena as it attempts to uncover what killed the previous team.
DVD Verdict: OK, to be fair, these days you either love or hate Wesley Snipes' films (much like those of Steven Seagal, to be quite frank). Back in the day he was leaner, meaner, more into fighting vampires and demons, sure, but then he had all that tax b/s surround him, bury him, and he jetted off to some far flung country to lay low.
Making just a handful of films since then, he's now back with another B-movie venture that, I'm happy to say, doesn't include a vampire (or does it?!). These days, as you will witness several times throughout the film, he is kinda sorta back to his leaner self, having spent his time abroad not exactly bothering to work out every day (no need to), so this action packed return is somewhat to form for him.
That said, 'Armed Response' is still a B-movie, sure, but it's one with more bang for its buck than your usual straight-to-DVD Seagal ones, that's for damn sure. Snipes leads a team of marines into a prison where a secret government interrogation tool is being held in order to find out why they lost contact with the first half of the team.
As the film progressed, I'm thinking it was going to be some hi-tech, who-done-it mystery as the crew used surveillance to find out what happen to the first team, but as Snipes' team gets picked off one by one, I quickly began to see it as a completely different demographic.
Even though it's not scary, it for sure has elements similar to how the sci-fi/action movie, 'Aliens' (basically a horror movie about marines battling monsters), and how 'Predator' final reveal themselves to be.
I don't mean to confuse you, for this film is nowhere near as good as either of those two cult films, but 'Armed Response' is a very good suspense drama about war, nonetheless. The area where the action takes place is a huge prison that looks like a video game, which you'll either give it more points for or remove them for pure cheese.
Oh, and for those playing spot-the-musician along the way, KISS's long-tongued Gene Simmons (now sporting a bald head - which, in all truth, he's most likely had under a KISS wig for 20 years now!) can be found roaming around here also. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:
'Mickey Mouse: Merry & Scary'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / Walt Disney)
DVD Overview: Invite Mickey and Donald into your home as they bring laughs and merriment to not one, but two holiday seasons!
DVD Verdict: That's right, folks, we now have a Mickey mouse twofer here from Walt Disney Home Entertainment! Here on the just-released 'Mickey Mouse: Merry & Scary' DVD, we get to ride a tide of holiday hilarity with some contemporary classic shorts starring Mickey and friends.
In 'The Scariest Story Ever: A Mickey Mouse Halloween Spooktacular!', for Halloween, Mickey has tricked out his house like a “tomb, sweet, tomb" and along with his pals Donald and Goofy, plans to tell hair-raising Halloween stories!
However, his attempt at being scary falls flatter than a pancake. Can Mickey conjure up a truly terrifying tale before the stroke of midnight?
As Mickey himself says when trying to scare the his friends, it's the ultimate, scariest Halloween story ever told! He even reveals "vampire teeth marks" on his neck, but is all as it seems? Throughout, Goofy thinks that it's all going to be good, that everything will turn out just fine, but whilst the eyes bug out on stalks, and the characters run all over the place (and into each other), Mickey not only tries to add to the scares, but steer the ship evenly to it's final hair-raising destination!
In Duck The Halls: A Mickey Mouse Christmas Special, it’s the most wonderful time of the year - to migrate south for the winter! But Donald wants to stay put and celebrate his first Christmas with his friends.
Mickey creates the ultimate list of everything to make Donald's first Christmas great, but before you can catch a snowflake on your tongue, Donald has turned into a shivering, sneezing duck-cicle!
The moment Donald bursts into Mickey's house as they are trimming the tree and announces that he's going to be home and staying with them for Christmas, and then Mickey gives him a big hug, well, it's game on for the emotions, my friends! Yes, Donald's voice is hard to understand these days, and yes the actual animation here seem a wee bit old fashioned, but that all said, when Mickey says with Donald there it's going to be the "best gosh-darn Christmas ever", you just can't help fall back in love with the whole classic Disney world.
Also included are the Bonus Shorts: "Ghoul Friend", "The Boiler Room", "Black And White", "Entombed", and "Split Decision".
Voice Cast: Chris Diamantopoulus as Mickey Mouse/Vampire; Russi Taylor as Minnie/Huey/Dewey/Louie/The Witch; Bill Farmer as Goofy; Tony Anselmo as Donald Duck; Tress MacNeille as Daisy Duck; and Corey Burton as Professor Von Drake. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'American Horror Story: Roanoke'
(Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lily Rabe, Evan Peters, Angela Bassett, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / R / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Life imitates grisly reality TV in one of television’s edgiest and most acclaimed shows ever!
Told in gripping true-crime documentary style, “My Roanoke Nightmare” — this season’s show within the show — chronicles shocking paranormal events.
Blu-ray Verdict: The best of 'American Horror Story' are among my favorite television experiences in the past twenty years.
The writing, the production, and the acting combine great shocks, surprising twists, and likable, down-to-earth characters with an over-the-top morbidity.
The most recent season ('Roanoke') is by far one of the weakest. Like the 'Freak Show' season, it takes an effective method so far that it becomes a joke. In 'Freak Show', the writers made the mistake of piling on oddity after oddity until the weirdness of it had become a gimmick.
The same is true of 'Roanoke': the writers embraced the gruesome killing aesthetic, so that, by the eighth episode, I could no longer find any enjoyment in it. That said, I stuck with it, as one should always, if not in the vain hope that it can salvage a mesmerizing climax, but because, well, I just can't watch a series and not finish it (ie: OCD).
The setup is a documentary series, one of those cable shows in which people tell true ("true") stories of the paranormal as viewers watch cheesy re-enactments.
Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. (Marcia Clark and O.J. Simpson from "American Crime Story: The People v. O.J.") are Shelby and Matt Miller, Los Angeles newlyweds who, after a violent crime, move to North Carolina and buy a stately old farmhouse for a stupidly low knock down price.
The premiere episode was stylish and scary enough to make horror fans think this season could be a strong one, especially if it turns out to cover several first-person horror yarns, not just this first.
For those following along with me here, feeling what I'm laying down about this sixth season, you'll realize that they had already revealed in the sixth episode that everyone died except for one! So the only thing left is torture porn as they play out the inevitable deaths of the entire crew.
This is further destroyed by the depiction of the rural monster family, who have committed every possible sin expected of outcast rural weirdos: incest, cannibalism, drug addiction and production, and a Faustian deal with a group of sadistic spirits.
In closing, and with all this said, 'American Horror Story' isn't for everyone and even the fan base seems to have varying opinions on which season is the best/worst, but I'd certainly give it a try. Even 'Roanoke', as it does has its AHS suspense moments, but it just seems like the pot is running dry there in the AHS writers room, that's all.
Again though, 'American Horror Story' is most-always fresh, new, and exciting and there isn't anything like it out there, that's for damn sure. It can go on, it can fight its way out of this slump, sure, I believe that to be true, and with 'AHS: Cult' now on our TVs, we'll just have to cross our fingers that the slump has indeed been beaten.
Personally, I've always felt that AHS, at its worst, is still better than any other show at its best and that still holds true even after binge-watching 'Roanoke'. The acting is still good and every recurring actor keeps showing how different they can be from a role to another, which I admire. It ruffled my feathers in seasons 2 and 3, but now I'm used to it - quite like the "family" feeling to the clan of actors, to be frank. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
The Paley Center for Media: Q&A with Cast and Creative Team from PaleyFest 2017
Collection of 'American Horror Story: Roanoke' Promos
The Sixth Installment of the Acclaimed American Horror Story Anthology Comes to Blu-ray and DVD October 3rd, 2017.
'Blood Feast (Special Edition)'
(Scott H. Hall, William Kerwin, Mal Arnold, Connie Mason, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / R / (1963) 2017 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: Dorothy Fremont is looking to throw a party unlike any other, and she gets just that when she hires the decidedly sinister Fuad Ramses to cater the event. Promising to provide her guests with an authentic Egyptian feast, Ramses promptly sets about acquiring the necessary ingredients the body parts of nubile young women!
Blu-ray Verdict: Following a series of grisly murders, the Chief of Detectives, (Scott H. Hall) and Detective Pete Thornton, (William Kerwin) are stuck as there's no leads in the case. A wealthy socialite, Mrs. Dorothy Fremont, (Lyn Bolton) tries to get her daughter Suzette, (Connie Mason) off the violent crimes by throwing her a lavish party, and visits the catering service of Fuad Ramses, (Mal Arnold) to deliver an Egyptian style party.
As the series of murders continue, the police are more helpless, as nothing has turned up in the investigation, and Pete decides to blow steam off while attending a lecture on Egyptian history with Suzette. During the course, a mention of a fanatical blood cult from the time period piques his interest, and learning more about it, realizes that the killer is a member of the cult and is trying to carry out the duties by trying to bring it's deity back to life, and race to stop the killer before it goes through.
Well, and in journalistic truth, there's very little good about this film, but there's a lot that they bring in. Director Herschell Gordon Lewis, Florida's pioneering father of low-rent gore, is an Ed Wood-type with a fixation on gushing blood, severed limbs, and ridiculous story lines. Hence, the biggest impact in the film is it's unrelenting and extreme gore! This comes in the form of several incredibly graphic kills. The opening victim not only has her leg cut off, she is first stabbed in the eye!
There's also another victim who has their head smashed open, a leg is baked in an oven, a heart is cut out, a girl is flayed by whipping; and most extreme of all, a tongue is pulled out, roots and all. There is a rare intensity about these scenes, a determination to really rub the extreme violence in.
Even though there are no impact shots of anything, the film instead trades them in their place are lingering "aftermath" shots not easily forgotten, including a bloody stump, complete with bone, sticking up out of the suds in a bathtub, brains spread across the sands of a beach, an empty mouth, and so on.
These hold a really great intensity about them that makes up for their badly-done execution. The only other point worthwhile about it is the lone scene that registers anything resembling horror mood. Searching the killer's hideout, they turn on the lights in a darkened room and find that, in front of them the whole but unnoticed in the dark, is the disemboweled and completely mutilated body of a previous victim.
This is simply the best scene in the film and really serves the film's best shock effect over the blood and gore. The short length also helps, as it's really over before it gets boring and overstays it's welcome. This here really has some good points about it.
Aside from all that Gore stuff, and again, in truth, there isn't a whole lot really wrong with this one. The main thing wrong with the film is that there's way too much here that's incompetent. This is easiest to see in the special effects department. The gore in here, while brutal in design, is hardly anywhere near convincing. The fact that just about all of the graphic blood is so obviously red paint that it's hard to believe it's shocking.
This really renders a lot of the deaths ineffective and give them a really goofy air about them. They're just too fake to be convincing and just come off as ridiculous. It's the same really for every single one of the kills, and that is where the film gets some real negative points. There's also the fact that there's no way around the characters could be as moronic as they are portrayed here. This is sheer stupidity on a massive level, there's really no way else to put it.
The heroes who take all film to make the connection between what's going on that the viewers made in a couple minutes, the investigating police do even less to solve the crimes than the heroes do to think about it, and the fact that they complain about it and can't solve them just makes it all the more frustrating. These are what really hold the film back, but they're big ones.
And so, in closing, 'Blood Feast' does, and is as it says on the label: a very graphic, gory tale that exists only because of how bloody it is rather than how good it is. The blood and guts are good enough for gore-hounds, while those who absolutely hate technically-incompetent films will loathe this one. Me, I actually watched it again two nights later! This is a Full Screen presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentations
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Scum of the Earth - Herschelll Gordon Lewis' 1963 feature
Blood Perspectives - Filmmakers Nicholas McCarthy and Rodney Ascher on Blood Feast
Herschell's History - Archival interview in which director Herschell Gordon Lewis discusses his entry into the film industry
How Herschell Found his Niche - A new interview with Lewis discussing his early work
Archival interview with Lewis and David F. Friedman
Carving Magic - Vintage short film from 1959 featuring Blood Feast Actor Bill Kerwin
Alternate 'clean' scenes from Scum of the Earth
Promo gallery featuring trailers and more
Feature length commentary featuring Lewis and David F. Friedman moderated by Mike Grady
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil
'Blood Feast: Special Edition' [Blu-ray] will be available for purchase on October 24th, 2017.
(Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Kyle Soller, Heida Reed, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Join the cast and crew of Poldark to discover the true stories behind the history, books, and characters of Winston Graham's saga. Uncover the passion behind the people bringing Graham' novels to life, with their unforgettable characters, gripping story, fiery passions, and stunning scenery. Dig deep into the history of Cornwall and discover just what makes Ross Poldark the unforgettable hero the world has come to love.
DVD Verdict: Taking you back, if I may, the original Poldark was from what I would describe as the "golden age" of UK television. Poldark sat happily alongside wonderful series like Upstairs and Downstairs, The Duchess of Duke St and War and Peace. I grew up watching it, but moreover because it was set where I was living at the time with my parents re: Cornwall.
Set in 18th century Britain, nay Cornwall, Ross Poldark, played by Aidan Turner, is a nobleman who shuns social convention. Ross's warmth and his ability to see the true humanity in people, is in stark contrast to the callous, class based snobbery of many of his supposedly, noble peers. Poldark is at its core a romance, but it avoids the "bodice ripper" label by maintaining a very grounded approach to romantic storytelling mixing in a strong social commentary and wry humor.
The cast of this brand new adaptation of Poldark are, to a man and women, truly excellent. Turner is exceptional as Poldark. As is Eleanor Tomlinson who offers up an at times very funny but also deeply touching performance, as Demelza. The remaining cast which is both UK and international, are also extremely talented and well suited to their respective roles.
Given that this is beautiful, coastal Cornwall, we are treated to en mass of the cameraman's preoccupation of showing us said Cornish coastlines from the saddle of Poldark's horse, but we can forgive him for that - as the cinematic visions are beautiful.
Indeed, Poldark is throughout visually stunning and the period enhances the feel of a young man returning from war to an uncertain future and trying to resurrect the family fortune in a disused mine.
And so something such as 'Poldark Revealed' is as much a welcome sight for us fans as anything that has come before it, in truth. We go behind the scenes, on the moors and beyond, listening in on the cast and crew of Poldark, as well as the award-winning creative team behind the series.
Indeed, on this exclusive journey to discover the true stories behind the history, the books, and the characters of Winston Graham's saga, 'Poldark Revealed' begins to reveal the passion behind the people bringing Graham's novels to life, with their unforgettable characters, gripping story, fiery passions, and stunning scenery.
Along with interviews from eminent historians, Andrew Graham, the son of Winston Graham, reveals how his father began writing the Poldark novels when he moved to Cornwall and served as a coast guard during WWII.
In summary, this is a wonderful addition to the series and superb series, in general. It recaptures the golden age of UK television, for those of us old enough to remember it. For those who do not, you are in for a real treat here in the first season of the remake. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: 'Ireland's Wild Coast' is a journey along one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world, featuring the wildlife and wild places that make it so special.
DVD Verdict: 'Ireland's Wild Coast' is a documentary directed by Cepa Giblin and John Murray. The latter is most known for his award-winning “Broken Tail” about Indian tigers. After the inevitable stint in the tropics, Murray returned to his native Ireland and help direct two documentaries about its stunning nature and wildlife, the first being “Ireland's Wild River” about the Shannon.
In “Ireland's Wild Coast”, we are introduced to the Irish Atlantic coast, from Skellig Michael in the southwest to County Donegal in the northwest. Animals featured include seals, whales, basking sharks, blue sharks, outcast dolphins (sic), seemingly feral sheep and a wide variety of birds. At Skellig Michael, Manx shearwaters nest in an abandoned medieval monastery. Donegal turns out to be the winter quarters of whooper swans from Iceland - perhaps the only migratory bird spending the winter in Ireland!
I admit that I found 'Ireland's Wild Coast' simply fascinating. The underlying theme of this production is wildlife taking over after humans leaving. In real life, of course, it's the other way around. Murray himself pointed out when interviewed by Swedish television that Ireland, previously regarded as the end of the world, has become one of its most exploited spots, sadly.
But, at least, here on 'Ireland's Wild Coast' from PBS, we get to view never before captured visual wonderment from across Ireland's west coast and wildlife wonders. From the Skellig Rocks; to breaching humpback whales; to golden eagles; to majestic salmon; to the clash of Ireland's last surviving red deer stags, watch this and be amazed. I know I was. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Masterpiece: The Collection'
(Richard Coyle, Frances de la Tour, Tom Riley, Mamie Gummer, Jenna Thiam, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: 1947. A fashion empire rises from the ashes of war-torn Paris, run by the breathtakingly charming and thoroughly ruthless Paul Sabine. But behind the glamour and elegance lies a devastating secret that threatens to destroy the company's delicately built success. Sophisticated and contemporary in tone, this is a story about the price of success, set during a pivotal moment in France's history.
Blu-ray Verdict: 'The Collection', from Amazon, is a series starring the stellar cast of Richard Coyle, Tom Riley, Mamie Gummer, and Frances de la Tour. Set in post-war Paris, Paul Sabine runs a fashion house with the goal of bringing glamour back to Paris and to bring the fashion center of the world back there as well.
His brother, Claude, is the actual designer of the fashions, and the arrangement is that to the public, Paul is the designer and his brother stays in the background. They both barely tolerate their overbearing mother, Yvette, a conniving and manipulative woman.
There are several subplots, the main one being Claude's dalliance with a sailor that leaves him badly beaten and leads to all sorts of trouble for the fashion house. There is also a reporter (Stanley Townsend) digging around for information on what Paul Sabine did during the war. A worker turned model, Nina (Jenna Thiam) has a secret, as does the right hand of the house, Charlotte (Alix Poisson). Meanwhile, Paul's wife (Mamie Gummer) attempts to hold onto her husband and mollify Claude.
For some reason, when a series involving fashion is done - The Time in Between, Velvet, as two examples - the era chosen is post-war. The clothing is dazzling in this, and there's mystery, family dynamics, and intrigue present as well. The first season ends on a real cliffhanger.
There's nothing not to love. I do have one quibble that people who live in France, and who are French are speaking French, but most times in English. So, as much as they are obviously not speaking English with a French accent, the fact that most all of the actors are British, and who speak with British accents some times. Confused? Yes, me too, sorry, but that aside, you get over that pretty quickly. Why? Well, it just doesn't matter. They're speaking French. Job done.
I mean, in Chekov's plays, the characters are speaking Russian, but outside of Russia, the plays are performed in other languages. Should those people be speaking with Russian accents?
Moving on, and in wrap, the acting is uniformly good in 'The Collection,' with Frances de la Tour ('Rising Damp') a standout, though the two brothers, played by Coyle and Riley, are wonderful. Another actress, Poppy Corby-Tuech, who plays Dominique, is exquisitely beautiful. Mamie Gummer rocks her elegant outfits and is excellent as Paul's unhappy wife.
And as the desperate model Nina, Jenna Thiam gives a sympathetic performance. Give this series a chance and I think you'll also fall in love with it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Designing The Times
Rags To Riches
Behind The Masks
'The Real Story: Platoon'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning film 'Platoon' brought the true horror of the Vietnam War to the big screen. Based on Stone's own experiences as a soldier in the conflict, the film captivated millions of viewers all over the world. But how much of the film was real and how much was Hollywood fiction?
DVD Verdict: We all have heard of, and most likely seen the 1986 movie of the same name as this new PBS/Smithsonian documentary, but all these years later, now we get the chance to learn more about the basis for the war movie of the year.
The movie features Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) leaving his university studies to enlist in combat duty in Vietnam in 1967. Once he's on the ground in the middle of battle, his idealism fades.
Infighting in his unit between Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger), who believes nearby villagers are harboring Viet Cong soldiers, and Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe), who has a more sympathetic view of the locals, ends up pitting the soldiers against each other as well as against the enemy.
Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning film was one for the ages, even back the when it was released just ahead of Christmas Day, December 19th, 1996. It showcased the human effect of the war alongside the manual overload of battle, both in equal measures.
Based on Stone's own experiences as a soldier in the conflict, the film was raw, unadulterated when it came to blood, gore, death, humanity and survival (for some), now PBS wonders just how much of the film was real and how much was Hollywood fiction?
Indeed, to reveal the real story, they recreate scenes, uncover a radio transmission from the battle that inspired the movie's climax, and interview writer/director Oliver Stone and cast member Willem Dafoe.
It's a fascinating documentary that the Smithsonian Channel has put together here and one that should always accompany the watching of the film for generations to come. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: Today, the Special Air Service is the world's most famous combat unit with the motto 'Who Dares Wins' but the story of how it came into existence has been, until now, a closely guarded secret.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, the SAS are The Special Air Service (SAS) is a special forces unit of the British Army. The SAS was founded in 1941 as a regiment, and later reconstituted as a corps in 1950. The unit undertakes a number of roles including covert reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, direct action and hostage rescue.
The corps presently comprises 22 Special Air Service Regiment, the regular component under the operational command of United Kingdom Special Forces, and 21 (Artists) Special Air Service Regiment (Reserve) and 23 Special Air Service Regiment (Reserve), which are reserve units under the operational command of 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade.
The Special Air Service traces its origins to 1941 and the Second World War. It was reformed as part of the Territorial Army in 1947, named the 21st Special Air Service Regiment (Artists Rifles). The 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, which is part of the regular army, gained fame and recognition worldwide after its televised rescue of all but one of the hostages held during the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege.
Here in 'SAS: Rogue Warriors', and for the first time, the SAS has agreed to open up its archive and allow Ben Macintyre to reveal the true story of their formation during the darkest days of World War II.
With unprecedented access to the SAS secret files, unseen footage and exclusive interviews with its founder members, this series tells the remarkable story behind an extraordinary fighting force. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Girl In The Box'
(Addison Timlin, Zelda Williams, Zane Holtz, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)
Overview: In 1977, a girl is kidnapped and kept in a coffin-sized box. When her captors let her out, it's only to abuse her horribly. Will she ever escape?
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, this TV movie is based on a real case that occurred in Red Bluff, a small town in Northern California roughly 3 hours from the border of Oregon. Once you know that, and then watch this Lifetime Movie, you will have a whole other appreciation for what the central character goes through, trust me.
Based on a true story, 'Girl In The box' is a dark psychological drama. In May 1977, 20-year-old Colleen Stan was kidnapped by a young married couple, Cameron and Janice Hooker.
For the next seven years they kept her locked in a coffin-sized box hidden beneath their bed for up to 23 hours a day. When not imprisoned, Colleen became part of a strange new life as a live-in slave, family child-minder, and victim of Cameron's bizarre and extreme S&M fantasies.
'Girl In The Box' is one of those stories that's so incredibly compelling even glitches in the telling can't sap it of its interest. The biggest area in which I give writer/director Stephen Kemp points is that he's able to make all three principals genuinely interesting characters rather than cardboard heroines or villains.
Ergo, Janice (Zelda Williams) comes off as part-perpetrator, part-victim; Cameron (Zane Holtz) shows off a real personal charm even though we hate him for his actions (one could see why a woman would fall in love with him and go along willingly with at least some of his demands, and the fact that he's a nice person on the surface and a villain only underneath makes him scarier than if he'd been played as a typical looney-tunes movie psycho); and Colleen Stan (Addison Timlin) comes off as a sympathetic victim but also an almost terminally naïve one.
One of the cops who worked on the case called Cameron a "pure psychopath," which for once is technically accurate — the general definition of a psychopath is someone who regards other people as simply objects he or she can use however he or she likes, without any account for their needs or feelings at all — to the point where they can kill people and not feel a shred of guilt or remorse; they were just in the way and she got rid of them. Watch this today, but when out, (sadly) just be wary of your surrounding at all times. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: Filmed over the span of six years, the film follows a carnival owner, a labor-recruiter, and workers from a small town in Mexico who join the carnival legally on seasonal visas.
DVD Verdict: To be frank, 'Farewell Ferris Wheel' is an honest on-the-ground portrait of the financial, emotional, and physical challenges they all face.
Indeed, I have never, ever seen such a documentary of its ilk before, but I cannot see another one come close to the reveal of this new PBS documentary, that's for sure.
For those that want a wee bit more history to the infamous fun fair Ferris Wheel, well, it is a nonbuilding structure consisting of a rotating upright wheel with multiple passenger-carrying components (commonly referred to as passenger cars, cabins, tubs, capsules, gondolas, or pods) attached to the rim in such a way that as the wheel turns, they are kept upright, usually by gravity.
Some of the largest modern Ferris wheels have cars mounted on the outside of the rim, with electric motors to independently rotate each car to keep it upright. These wheels are sometimes referred to as observation wheels and their cars referred to as capsules, however these alternative names are also used for wheels with conventional gravity-oriented cars.
The original Ferris Wheel was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. as a landmark for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The generic term Ferris wheel is now used for all such structures, which have become the most common type of amusement ride at state fairs in the United States.
Carnivals have a delightful place in the American imagination, with childhood memories of family fun, fantasy, and summer nostalgia. But rising expenses and changes in U.S. labor patterns have caused many employers to find labor outside of U.S. borders.
'Farewell Ferris Wheel' is an inside look at the struggles of an industry trying to stay alive by employing Mexican migrant workers with a controversial visa.
Filmed over the span of six years, 'Farewell Ferris Wheel' really hits home the fact of how many people it takes to put one of these beasts up, what dangers they behold, and what their lives are surrounding such fun fairs and carnivals, on a daily/yearly basis. It's open, it's honest, and its raw - just like many other PBS documentaries of this type. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Farthest - Voyager in Space'
(Blu-ray / PG / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Launched in 1977, NASA's epic Voyager missions revolutionized our understanding of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and their spectacular moons and rings. In 2012, Voyager 1 left our solar system and ushered humanity into the interstellar age.
Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the full know, and as always, it's best to start with the complete facts, The Voyager program is a continuing American scientific program that employs two robotic probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, to study the outer Solar System.
They were launched in 1977 to take advantage of a favorable alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and are now exploring the outer boundary of the heliosphere in interstellar space.
Although their original mission was to study only the planetary systems of Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 2 continued on to Uranus and Neptune, and both Voyagers are now tasked with exploring interstellar space.
Their mission has been extended three times, and both probes continue to collect and relay useful scientific data. Neither Uranus nor Neptune has been visited by any probe other than Voyager 2.
On 25 August 2012, data from Voyager 1 indicated that it had become the first human-made object to enter interstellar space, traveling "further than anyone, or anything, in history". As of 2013, Voyager 1 was moving with a velocity of 17 kilometers per second (11 mi/s) relative to the Sun.
Hence the release of this incredible new PBS documentary, 'The Farthest - Voyager in Space'. Directed by Emer Reynolds, The Farthest tells the story of that successful, and record breaking Voyager 1 mission through first-hand accounts from the passionate men and women who built the ships and guided their journeys.
Negotiating a series of perils on its Grand Tour of the outer planets, Voyager beamed back spectacular images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. But their moons offered bigger surprises - volcanoes, geysers, and a liquid water ocean. On the chance of discovery by intelligent aliens, each spacecraft carried a Golden Record with music and spoken greetings.
The mission has earned its place in the pantheon of human achievements. Long after our sun has flamed out, the Voyagers are likely to be sailing on, perhaps the only evidence that we ever existed. BONUS FILM: Second Genesis explores the scientific quest to find life or evidence of it beyond Earth. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'American Masters: Edgar Allan Poe - Buried Alive'
(Denis O'Hare, et al / DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: 'Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive' draws on the rich palette of Poe's evocative imagery and sharply drawn plots to tell the real story of the notorious author. Featuring Tony Award-winning actor Denis O'Hare, the film explores the misrepresentations of Poe as an alcoholic madman.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the full know, and as always, it's best to start with the complete facts, Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, editor, and literary critic.
Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country's earliest practitioners of the short story.
Poe is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction.
He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.
For years, he had been planning to produce his own journal The Penn (later renamed The Stylus), though he died before it could be produced. Poe died in Baltimore on October 7, 1849, at age 40; the cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents.
Here in the truly fascinating 'Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive', one of my favorite character actors Denis O'Hare ('American Horror Story') takes on the persona of Poe quite like I've never seen anyone do it before (and yes, that includes you, John Cusack!)
With lots to tell about the real story of the notorious author, the Tony Award-winning actor helps the documentary explore the misrepresentations of Poe as an alcoholic madman. Was he just simply that persona, or was there more to his so-called "madness", perhaps?
This American Masters documentary from PBS reveals the way in which Poe tapped into what it means to be a human in our modern and sometimes frightening world. Through the incredible acting of O'Hare, we witness as Poe and his works continually influenced literature in the United States and around the world.
As well as in specialized fields such as cosmology and cryptography, Poe and his work appear throughout popular culture in literature, music, films, and television still today. Watch this documentary today if you even only have the slightest curiosity about Poe as it will be revealing and leave you with a much better sense of the man, that's for sure. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of 'Outtakes from the Film'.
'Vice Versa' [Blu-ray]
(Judge Reinhold, Fred Savage, Corinne Bohrer, et al / Blu-ray / PG / (1988) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: During an argument, a divorced executive and his 11 year old son casually touch a magical Tibetan skull, releasing a mysterious power that transfers the father's mind to the body of the son and vice versa. Their problems have just begun.
Blu-ray Verdict: Released by Mill Creek Entertainment and now on Blu-ray for the very first time, based on the 1882 novel of the same name by F. Antsey, 'Vice Versa' is a hugely enjoyable comedy.
Indeed, it was one of my favorite childhood films and it held up remarkably well. It has a strong and very witty script by British sitcom veterans Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and it is very well directed by Brian Gilbert.
It may not be on the same level as 'Big', another film from the same year which covers much of the same territory, but it is still enormous fun. I think that it is second only to that film as the best of the many body swapping films of the late 1980s. I enjoyed it considerably more than the underwhelming 1948 British version written and directed by Peter Ustinov.
The film stars Judge Reinhold as Marshall Seymour, an up-and-coming 35-year-old executive vice president at the Chicago department store Vigar and Avery. He is so ambitious and determined to succeed in his chosen profession that he is unknowingly neglecting his 11-year-old son Charlie, played by Fred Savage.
While it is not expressly stated, it is pretty safe to assume that his obsessive work ethic is what lead to the demise of his marriage to Charlie's mother Robyn. Charlie feels a little unloved by his uptight, neurotic and mostly absent father and, while he is disappointed that Marshall misses his concert, he is not terribly surprised as this sort of thing seemingly happens on a regular basis.
However, their worlds get turned upside down when they switch places due to a magical Tibetan skull, as you do.
Reinhold is hilarious as Charlie and his excellent performance perfectly captures the enthusiasm and immaturity of an 11-year-old boy. He brings a great deal of childlike innocence to the role and the awkward way in which he walks suggests that the small for his age Charlie is having a bit of trouble adjusting to life in Marshall's gangly, 6'2" frame.
However, Savage steals the show as Marshall, who gets the short end of the stick. Although he recalled his own childhood with great pleasure, he soon discovers that he was viewing it through rose colored glasses and that life can be tougher for a child than many adults realize.
Savage was one of the best child actors of his generation and it is easy to see why he was given the lead role in a TV series at only 12. Although he is playing a 35-year-old in the body of a child, his performance nevertheless seems very natural.
Savage is able to convey Marshall's maturity and occasionally obnoxious tendencies extremely well. He plays the material straight rather than sending it up, a mistake that many lesser (and older) actors make it comes to comedy. Savage and Reinhold have great chemistry and this makes the film's premise seem all the more believable.
Gilbert's great eye for casting is not only on display with the two leads but with respect to the supporting cast as well. Corinne Bohrer, whom I have always thought deserved bigger roles, is very good as Marshall's girlfriend Sam, who is likewise feeling a little neglected because of his work schedule.
The same is true of Swoosie Kurtz and David Proval as the art thieves Lillian Brookmeyer and Turk, who desperately try to gain possession of the skull throughout the film. It also features great performances from Jane Kaczmarek as Robyn, William Prince as Marshall's boss Stratford Avery and Beverly Archer as Charlie's teacher Jane Luttrell and, in smaller roles, Richard Kind, James Hong, Elya Baskin and Gloria Gifford.
Overall, this is a great feelgood film which entertained me almost as much as it did when I was eleven. There is a nice exploration of the father-son relationship and a few touching moments between the laughs. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Mary Reilly' [Blu-ray]
(Julia Roberts, John Malkovich, George Cole, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1996) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: A housemaid falls in love with Dr. Jekyll and his darkly mysterious counterpart, Mr. Hyde.
Blu-ray Verdict: Released by Mill Creek Entertainment and now on Blu-ray for the very first time, the most general problem about 'Mary Reilly' is that people are fooled by the foundation of this story.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a horror story, true, but Mary Reilly is not. What Valerie Martin did with the book was to take the story, and instead of exploring the conflict in Harry Jekyll, exploring the psyche of the broken servant girl, and gives an interesting view into life as it was for the underclass in the Victorian London.
Mary Reilly is the soft spoken and demure chambermaid who works in the house of the rather eccentric Dr. Harry Jekyll. He is a gentle man and shows an interest in Mary's story in a way that she is not used to from her masters. At the same time she is fascinated by the uncivilized and crazed fervor of the master's assistant, Edward Hyde.
The scenery and imagery is eerie and elusive, and at the same time visceral and physical and it is constantly covered in the smog of the industrial age. There is no attempt to pretty up the destitution and the physical and moral corruption of London in the Victorian age, a contrast to many other period pieces as they show the Victorian age as something elegant and romantic.
This is dirt and gold side by side. Examples are the trip down butcher alley with Edward Hyde and the sight of the autopsy slab through the swinging doors. This also counts as some of the most unpleasant scenes to watch, but there is also a few hints of gore in this. The prostitute's bedroom is nauseating.
Julia Roberts is good in this role, dodgy accent aside, I think it is so annoying to hear people continue to rant about it. Yeah the accent is crap, but is easy to disassociate from if you try. I think that Roberts give a very good performance, her eyes are haunted, and her body language speaks of a cowed spirit. There is tuned down from the Hollywood glamour, and it really suits her.
John Malkovich is absolutely spectacular, the lack of attempt on an English accent I barely thought of. He is gentle and soft spoken as Jekyll, yet all the time with a glitter of madness in his eyes, it's wonderful. Yet he is perfect as Mr. Hyde, the madness, the brutality, his coarseness, a man completely enslaved by his urges.
John Malkovich smoothly glides through both roles Other memorable performances is Glenn Close as the greedy brothel owner, and Michael Gambon as Mary's monstrous father, he's a man of one's nightmares.
I thought Mary Reilly such a fascinating film because it is so phycological, a person with a little knowledge of Freud and Jung will be to see that parallels in the story to their theories. Exactly why I don't consider it a problem that Jekyll and Hyde are not difficult to separate in their looks. They are supposed to be two sides of the same person, while they also have a little bit of the opposite in them.
The idea of Jekyll and Hyde being the two projectors for Mary's desire is ingenious, the gentle and the ferocious, the safety drive and the sex drive. Well the story has so many psychological layers that it is hard to dissect them all.
The ending was the perfect round up of the story, very poignant and moving. This film is not for those people who wants a gorish horror movie with everything served. This film is for people who does not mind a slow pace, but likes to savor the characters and the mood of this.
In conclusion, 'Mary Reilly' is a truly underrated psychological drama, and while it's not an actual horror film in my opinion, it does has some very nerve wrecking suspenseful moments. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Mini-Series'
(Anthony Hopkins, Leslie-Anne Down, Derek Jacobi, et al / DVD / NR / (1982) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: A disfigured man is feared and tormented by the townspeople of Notre Dame, but he has a sensitive nature of which few are aware.
DVD Verdict: Released by Mill Creek Entertainment on DVD this October 3rd, 2017, 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' brings us the infamous tale that takes place in the 15th Century. In Paris, a young priest named Claude Frollo finds a horribly deformed child abounded in the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
Frollo names the child Quasimodo and raises him in the church. 25 years later Frollo has become the Archdeacon of Notre Dame and Quasimodo the bellringer, who amongst the citizens of Paris is also known as "the Hunchback". During the Feast of Fools, a young gypsy dancer Esmeralda unintentionally wakes the carnal desires inside of Frollo. She also gains the attentions of Quasimodo, a poet Gringoire and Captain Phoebus of King's guards.
This 1982 TV movie/mini-series of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' is an interesting mix of Victor Hugo's book and previous movies of the story. During some parts of the film the story seems to be very close to Hugo's book, whereas in others it seems to follow the footsteps of the famous 1939 version.
Not only that, but film does include some ideas of its own. Frollo's pupil Philippe never appeared in the book or other movies, and this is the only version along with the Disney movie where Esmeralda gives Quasimodo a kiss.
Technically the movie is quite well done for a TV production. The replica of Notre Dame is extremely well made, but some scenes really suffer. In other versions the Feast of Fools has always been presented as an extremely festive event, but here I see none of it. Almost looks like there's not a single person in Paris who would want to celebrate. Also the Court of Miracles scene is a letdown. On the other hand, the angry mob invading Notre Dame is surprisingly well managed.
As for cast, the film includes two amazing performances from Anthony Hopkins and Derek Jacobi. Hopkins, nearly a decade before his fame as Hannibal Lecter, goes right there with the first Lon Chaney as my favorite Quasimodo. You can hardly recognize the man under all the makeup but he really puts passion to his role and makes a touching performance.
The scene of Quasimodo crying after receiving water from Esmeralda, and later when we see how ashamed he is of his ugliness when near her, are truly heartbreaking ones. Jacobi completely nails the character of Claude Frollo, showing a priest dedicated for God, but who becomes obsessed of a girl who woke his hidden needs.
Jacobi is fantastic in the role, showing a good man on his journey to madness. His scene with Esmeralda in the dungeon shows actual torment and conflict.
Rest of the cast is so and so. I was really excited to see David "Hercule Poirot" Suchet as Clopin, but the film keeps his part frustratingly short and Suchet doesn't really have any chances to explore the role. Pity, because he does look great for the part.
Robert Powell is a great actor and he does capture the egoistic gambler and skirt-chaser that Phoebus is, but he doesn't look right to the part for me. Biggest disappointment comes from Lesley-Anne Down as Esmeralda. Not only is she the weakest link of the cast, but she also lacks the looks. She is pretty, but not pretty enough to make entire Paris drool after her.
Her dance scene is a big disappointment, no thrill whatsoever. Gerry Sundquist is okay as Gringoire but that's it. I certainly fail to see why he should get Esmeralda. Tim Piggot-Smith's invented character Philippe serves no purpose in the story.
The film is lacking in some parts but is decent to watch and it does have two remarkable performances from Hopkins and Jacobi, which alone are worth seeing for. Also during Esmeralda's trial scene you can enjoy cameos of Nigel Hawthorne as Judge and John Gielgud as the Inquisitor. Highly recommended. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Five People You Meet In Heaven'
(Jon Voight, Ellen Burstyn, Jeff Daniels, et al / DVD / NR / (2004) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: An elderly amusement park maintenance man, Eddie, is trapped in purgatory and the only way out is to confront five people from his past. Unfortunately, dark secrets from his service in the Philippines begin to haunt him.
DVD Verdict: Released by Mill Creek Entertainment on DVD this October 17th, 2017, written by Mitch Albom and directed by Lloyd Kramer, due to the success of Mitch Albom's books, it was always a dream of mine that they would one day turn it into movie.
Being that Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven are two of my favorite books, I was rather excited, to say the least, when I discovered they had turned the latter into a Made-For-TV movie.
Being that The Five People You Meet in Heaven is one of my favorite books, I was a little disappointed, but I still really liked this movie. As noted above, this is a Made-For-TV movie so it doesn't have the great budget nor quality it deserved. But the cinematography is great, believe me.
'Five People' is about how each person we meet, though appearing insignificant, are part of the vast web of interconnection that affects our life.
Jon Voight plays Eddie, an 83-year old mechanic who has worked at the Ruby Pier Amusement Park all his life except for a stint in the army during World War II. The first thing we learn about Eddie is that he is dead, killed in a roller coaster accident while trying to save a little girl.
The next thing we find out is that, in Heaven, Eddie will meet and talk with five people who were the most influential in his life. People Eddie would probably not think of first, but whose influence becomes slowly and painstakingly revealed.
As he re-experiences traumatic events from the past, it soon becomes clear that what they share with him allows him to complete and illuminate the past.
Eddie meets "The Blue Man" (Jeff Daniels), part of the sideshow at the park, his Army captain (Michael Imperioli), his wife Marguerite (Dagmara Dominczyk) who died after only a few years of marriage, the wife of the original owner of the Ruby Pier (Ellen Burstyn), and a little Filipino girl named Tala (Nicaela and Shelbie Weigel).
In closing, yes, 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven' is most definitely well worth the watch and will leave you less worried, perhaps, about your own final moments on this earth. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Man With A Camera - The Complete Series'
(Charles Bronson, James Flavin, Ludwig Stössel, et al / 2-Disc DVD+Digital / NR / (1958-1960) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Charles Bronson stars as Mike Kovac, a veteran combat photographer who is now works as a New York City freelance photographer. Kovac specializes in getting those hard to capture photos that other photographers cannot take. Kovac utilizes his police contacts in learning about those cases that might bring him the perfect picture.
DVD Verdict: Released by Mill Creek Entertainment on a brilliant 2-Disc DVD set (complete with Digital) this October 17th, 2017, in truth, I've never been much of a Charles Bronson fan, but boy, 'Man with a Camera' was the role that brought him major attention - and into my world.
This was one of the very early series of the young ABC network, so it suffered from a low budget and poor production values, but was broadly hyped by ABC.
Bronson played Mike Kovac, a former combat photographer now free-lancing in New York City, specialising in getting the photographs that other lensmen can't (or don't have the guts to obtain). Ludicrously, a lot of Kovac's assignments came from the police and newspaper editors, who never seemed to have their own photographers on staff.
As this was a crime show, Kovac's assignments always embroiled him in some caper, usually involving a good-looking woman. Kovac's police liaison was Lieutenant Donovan, well-played by James Flavin but stuck with the implausible cliché (dating back to Inspector Lestrade) of the cop who has to go to the independent free-lance hero for help with all the cases the cops can't handle.
One strong point of 'Man with a Camera' is that it involved the latest photographic technology, which inevitably must seem quaint from our modern standpoint. The boot of Kovac's car was converted into a portable darkroom. After he snapped his pix, he would then peel off his jacket to reveal a short-sleeved shirt (with Charles Bronson's brawny biceps).
Kovacs would then ceremoniously take off his wristwatch, mix the hypo, and develop his negatives on the spot. (Wot, no Polaroids?) For special assignments, Kovac would use a miniature camera, a fish eye lens, a telephoto attachment or various other gimmicks - all technologically accurate for the time.
The dialogue in this series tended towards the gimmicky as well. In a typical climax, Kovac went into the villain's hideout (unarmed, natch), punched the crap out of him single-handed, then threw him into the street. Lieutenant Donovan comes running along just as Kovac ominously reaches into his jacket as if drawing a weapon. "You're not going to shoot him, are you?" ... Kovac: "After all the trouble I went to, you're darn right I'm gonna shoot him." Then he pulls out his camera and he *shoots* the villain. Geddit? Hoo boy!
As played by monotone actor Bronson, Kovac could have been a dull stereotype. He was humanized somewhat by the presence of his immigrant father Anton, to whom Kovac frequently came for advice.
Now we have both seasons of the show here on a great 2-Disc DVD set from Mill Creek Entertainment. The individual episodes of 'Man with a Camera' tended to have photographic titles, such as 'Close-Up on Violence', 'Double Negative', 'The Picture War' and run 15 in the first season and 14 in the second.
In closing, and for those star spotting along the way at home, the series also boasted an impressive roster of guest stars, including Frank Faylen, Grant Williams, Angie Dickinson, Don Gordon, Harry Dean Stanton and (pre-Batgirl) Yvonne Craig. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Harts of the West - The Complete Series'
(Beau Bridges, Lloyd Bridges, Harley Jane Kozak, et al / 2-Disc DVD+Digital / NR / (1993-1994) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: After suffering a heart attack – and a major midlife crisis – a Chicago lingerie salesman (played by Emmy® and Golden Globe winner Beau Bridges) says adios to the big city and pursues his dream of becoming a cowboy.
DVD Verdict: Released by Mill Creek Entertainment on a brilliant 2-Disc DVD set (complete with Digital) this October 17th, 2017, this pleasant, short-lived TV dramedy (only one season and 15 episodes were ever created, sadly) is about Dave, a Chicago salesman who decides to buy a ranch after he has a heart attack.
His family, especially his kids (whom he's named after Western actors and characters), aren't too thrilled about his dream of being a cowboy, but they go along with it.
In the pilot, Beau Bridges' mother is featured in a dream sequence where his character is about to be hanged. Bridges' father Lloyd, had a recurring role as a ranch hand and Diane Ladd appeared occasionally as Dave's crusty mother-in-law.
I remember when this was around and to be honest, the show just wasn't in a good time slot. That can kill shows dead right here, and it did for this quaint on way too soon. Add that to its leisurely pacing and odd characters, and that's probably why it didn't last long.
A great family show with a cast of quirky characters headed by Beau Bridges, his father and a greatly underrated actor in Stephen Root, rewatching it all over again now it sure was a fun show to sit down with at night.
We watch as their family goes through all the normal issues of life growing up, albeit now "stranded" out in the middle of nowhere, but still manage to get to watch some interesting stories and funny story lines along the way too.
None more so than when Dave and his family moved into town and the whole town was happy to see them - due, primarily to the fact that was was finally enough people in town to get the town put on the actual physical map!
Chock full of cattle drives, rodeos and great guest stars such as Mark Harmon as rodeo clown Sunset Sam Carver, if more care had been taken by the network in finding an audience, 'Harts Of The west' might just have been a big hit - and given us more season to now enjoy. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Super Why! Sleeping Beauty & Other Fairytales'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS Kids)
Overview: Reading is power and Super WHY! helps kids learn the fundamentals of reading through interactive story book adventures!
DVD Verdict: For those of you that are not aware, Super WHY! is a new series that contains a breakthrough interactive approach to reading education. Classic fairy tales with an innovative preschool twist and colorful and empowering young heroes, Super WHY! is the only preschool property created to help kids learn the fundamentals of reading through interactive storybook adventures.
In truth, my 22-month old son loves this show. He loves it because of the singing and interactive nature of the show. I love it because I teach reading at an elementary school! I enjoy the premise of the show immensely - the ability to solve "every day" problems with solutions from a book or story. I also enjoy the fact that Whyatt's super power is the power to read and a big deal is made of it each and every time.
Each of the other characters has "control" over one aspect of reading - spelling power, word power, and alphabet power. All of these skills are important for thinking about letters and sounds as connected and a part of the reading process. Kudos to PBS for providing yet another powerful show that helps our kids learn!
The lead fairytale on this wonderful new DVD enables your kids to soar into the tale of "Sleeping Beauty" with the Super Readers! When Sleeping Beauty just wants to snooze all day instead of playing outside with her friends, Super Why and the gang use their literacy powers to encourage her to try new things!
Next up on this lovely adventure-filled DVD is “The Frog Prince”, where Princess Pea wants to do ballet, and Spider wants to spin webs, so how will these two friends play together?
To find some answers, the Super Readers check out The Frog Prince and meet another Princess who can’t see eye to eye with her friend. Will the Super Readers be able to help the Princess and the Frog kiss and make up?
Then comes “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, where Whyatt’s family is acting very sneaky and he wants to know why! The Super Readers waltz into the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses – who are acting just as secretive.
The Super Readers may be hot on the trail of the Princesses to discover what they’re concealing, but will Whyatt uncover what his family is hiding?
And, finally, “Princess Gwennie Saves the Day”, where Princess Pea is feeling dramatic (as usual) and she and Red are staging a play. Princess is pretending she’s a queen, but Red doesn’t know what to be!
The Super Readers fly into the story of a princess with a silly sense of humor and a big job to do. They help Gwennie use her talents to save the day, and Red discovers her own special gifts.
This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Episodes of:
"The Frog Prince"
"The Twelve Dancing Princesses"
"Princess Gwennie Saves the Day"
'Super Why! Sleeping Beauty & Other Fairytale Adventures' will be available on DVD beginning October 31st, 2017 and has a run time of approximately 113 minutes.
'Wild Kratts: Wild Winter Creatures!'
(Martin Kratt, Chris Kratt / DVD / G / 2017 / PBS Kids!)
Overview: Join Martin Kratt and Chris Kratt as they embark on four snowy winter adventures! When Chris loses his creature souvenir collection in the Arctic, will he be able to get his creature treasures back before the evil Zach Varmitech finds them?
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Chris and Martin Kratt are brothers (in real life!) who explore the wild throughout the world to learn more about animals and share conservation information. They have three friends who travel in the Tortuga HQ with them named Aviva, Koki and Jimmy Z.
The brothers have creature power suits that allow them to experience what it's like to be the animals they find. The team helps them by creating power suit creature disks for each animal they study. They also bring them supplies and help them out of tricky situations when their adventures get dicey.
In 'Wild Kratts: Wild Winter Creatures!', Chris loses his creature souvenir collection in the Arctic and suddenly it's a race against time, and Evil, to get back his creature treasures before the evil Zach Varmitech finds them!
Also, Chris and Martin continue to face Zach Varmitech when he kidnaps a polar bear cub and a walrus calf, and again when he threatens to use an entire walrus herd to mine precious pearls for Donita Donata's fashion line!
In short, and containing four (4) entertaining episodes, 'Wild Kratts' is a great cartoon adventure show for kids where they can learn about new animals and why conservation is so important to the world, not just them
Also, we get to learn fun facts, straight from the box cover art work, in this case: Do polar bears hibernate in the Winter? The answer is ... ha, you'll find the answer on the back of the DVD! So go buy it today for your inquisitive young ones as any Wild Kratts DVD is a DVD that will entertain and educate your kids for the longest of times. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the four (4) Wild Kratt adventures of: “Polar Bears Don’t Dance”,
“Mystery of the Weird Looking Walrus”, “Journey to the Subnivean Zone”, and
“Musk Ox Mania”.
'Frontline: Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria'
(Martin Kratt, Chris Kratt / DVD / G / 2017 / PBS Kids!)
Overview: FRONTLINE reporter David Hoffman investigates the alarming rise in hospitals, communities, and across the globe of untreatable infections. Fueled by decades of antibiotic overuse, the crisis has deepened as major drug companies have abandoned the development of new antibiotics. Without swift action, the miracle age of antibiotics could be coming to an end.
DVD Verdict: This documentary is as exciting and scary as any suspense movie, not only providing explanations for how and why some bacteria has become immune to most- if not all- drugs available but showing actual patients and describing specific cases where people died or were permanently affected by bacterial infections - even as doctors struggled to find an effective drug to save them.
Although I knew that deaths due to infections of antibiotic resistant bacteria were on the rise, I didn't know that they are already a significant threat. The reality? Bacteria have formed defenses against antibiotics far sooner than many experts predicted (and those who did raise the alarm were ignored far too often).
This film convinced me that life-threatening bacterial infections are no longer uncommon events. And it could be just a matter of time before a pandemic is likely. When will a bacteria appear which is not only impervious to all antibiotics but easily spread through the world's population?
Grim as this seems, there are still options. Even if we can't prevent the rise of super strong bacteria, we still have choices we can make daily to help reduce risk. The film describes some of those options.
It is clear that much could have been done to slow the evolution of these "super" bacteria : not prescribe and take antibiotics at the first sign of illness, use a wait and see approach until a minor infection worsens, etc. Every dose of an antibiotic gives bacteria another chance to become resistant. Very strongly recommended. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Friar Alessandro: The Voice from Assisi'
(Friar Alessandro, et al / DVD / G / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Friar Alessandro performs sacred standards like "Panis Angelicus" and "Ave Maria," in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, as well as songs which share his spiritual message, including "Here I Am, Lord," "Gaelic Blessing," and more, accompanied by the Orchestra da Camera di Perugia, the choir of the Basilica, and the children's choir Coro Aurora in this rousing, inspirational concert.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Friar Alessandro is an Italian Franciscan friar and a tenor singer of religious music. He is also the first religious brother to land an exclusive record contract with a major record label, in this case Universal Music.
Friar Alessandro's debut album is called Voice from Assisi (in Italian La voce da Assisi or in French La voix d'Assise). Released in late 2012, the initial single is actually a double-A side release, featuring the tracks "Panis Angelicus" and "Sancta Maria".
He followed that up with Voice of Joy (in French, Chanter La Joie) in 2013, but has remained quiet, so to speak, with his recording career ever since. But now he has released a beautiful new DVD via PBS Distribution entitled 'Friar Alessandro: The Voice from Assisi'.
In his first major solo concert for television, Friar Alessandro performs sacred standards like "Panis Angelicus" and "Ave Maria," in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, the 800 year-old church that houses the burial place of St. Francis. The tenor also performs songs which share his spiritual message, including "Here I Am, Lord"; "Gaelic Blessing"; and many more.
Against the astonishingly beautiful medieval Life of St. Francis frescoes by Giotti that cover the entire interior of the Basilica's sanctuary, Alessandro is accompanied by the Orchestra da Camera di Perugia, the choir of the Basilica, and the childrens' choir Coro Aurora in this rousing, inspirational concert.
Bonus video! Friar Alessandro: Here I Am - Friar Alessandro speaks candidly about how he became a singer, his vocation, his passions, and more! Trust me when I say that whether you're a fan of Friar Alessandro's music or a casual, yet interested passerby, once you've watched this incredible DVD you'll be hooked. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Step' [DVD+Digital HD]
(Paula Dofat, Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger, et al / DVD+Digital HD / PG / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: 'Step' documents the senior year of a girls' high-school step dance team against the background of inner-city Baltimore.
DVD Verdict: OK, it has to be said that having now watched 'Step' (twice) for this review, that it is, and quite easily, now on of my favorite ever documentaries! Directed by Amanda Lipitz and distributed by Fox Searchlight, when I first heard about the film I was rather excited about it anyway, if truth be told.
Mainly because the art of stepping is such an integral part of African-American culture and history. Then when I saw it, twice, as aforementioned, and it completely exceeded every expectation I ever had set aside for it! You will instantly fall in love with all of these lovely young black women, of that have no doubt.
The film follows Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger and Tayla Solomon through their senior year at Baltimore's Leadership School for Young Women. As they navigate the college admissions race while participating in the school's step team, we are given a glimpse of African-American life devoid of stereotype or negativity.
In conclusion, 'Step' is actually a mashup of two wonderfully uplifting films into one. On the one hand, it is a film about the personal struggles and triumphs that three talented black teen girls and their middle class families face. On the other, it is a movie about a step team trying to win its first championship.
I cried, laughed, then cheered and cried with joy again! You will, too, for this powerful film is one for the decades, of that have no doubt. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Director Commentary By Amanda Lipitz
Lethal Ladies Music Video - 'Step Is Life'
The Lethal Ladies Of BLSYW
Inside The Rehearsal Room
'George A. Romero Between Night and Dawn'
(Raymond Laine, Judith Ridley, Jan White, Ann Muffy, Lane Carroll, et al / 3 Disc Blu-ray + 3 Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: George Romero s name may be synonymous with the living dead subgenre, but his filmography is far richer and more varied than his reputation as the zombie guy would suggest. Following the breakout success of his debut feature 'Night of the Living Dead', the director would embark upon a series of projects which, whilst firmly rooted in the horror genre for the most part, demonstrate a master filmmaker with more than mere gut-munching on his mind.
Blu-ray Verdict: In 'There's Always Vanilla', Romero's sophomore 1971 directorial effort, it relates the story of Chris, who has recently returned home after serving in the Army in Vietnam. He doesn't have a steady job, instead making money by playing guitar on other people's records and through a variety of other implied methods, eventually moving into the apartment of a young woman he meets and mooching off of her while he tries his hand at writing. His father offers him a secure "vanilla" job at his factory, but Chris rejects the offer as it doesn't suit his lifestyle.
There's not much new and exciting in this film. For the most part, it's all stuff we've already seen a thousand times before. The director, George Romero, called it his worst film, and it is often overlooked even by fans of his work. I would argue, however, that it is well worth watching for two reasons: the dialogue and the lead actor, Ray Laine.
Laine, who plays the sarcastic, apathetic Chris in one of his few film roles, delivers a fun, memorable performance. His acting is leaps and bounds ahead of the other cast members', and even if this film isn't fresh and original, his performance is. The film is never boring and the reason for that is Ray Laine, who dominates almost every scene.
It's hard not to like the character he brings to life and his dry humor and constant sarcasm, even if we almost never agree with his selfish actions and motivations. I must say, however, that the performance is a bit spotty and drags at times, but for the most part it is solid.
Similarly, the dialogue is almost always unrivaled, especially when it comes to nearly every single one of Laine's lines. He delivers most of them flawlessly and nearly all of them are extremely quotable, hilarious, or otherwise memorable. Several of the other characters have some great lines too.
One particularly memorable moment is when Chris appears at his girlfriend's apartment long after she's kicked him out. She asks him what he wants. She wants to know why he's come to bother her and he knows that that's what she's asking, but instead of answering that question he simply shrugs and replies: "A peanut butter sandwich."
This film is by no means a masterpiece, but it is entertaining at the very least and watching it would not be a waste of time. And if you're in the mood for a fun, cheesy '70's B movie, you just might end up loving it. Sure, we've seen this same old story a hundred times before, but rarely, if ever, has it come packaged with the wonderful performance and brilliant dialogue found in 'There's Always Vanilla'.
Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford
Affair of the Heart: The Making of There's Always Vanilla brand new documentary featuring interviews with producers John Russo and Russell Streiner, stars Judith Streiner and Richard Ricci, and sound recordist Gary Streiner
Digging Up the Dead The Lost Films of George A. Romero archive interview with Romero discussing his early films There's Always Vanilla and Season of the Witch
Location Gallery with audio commentary by Romero historian Lawrence DeVincentz
1972's 'Season of the Witch' (originally filmed as Jack's Wife, but released to theaters under the title of Hungry Wives) follows the exploits of Joan Mitchell a housewife whose dissatisfaction with her humdrum life leads to an unhealthy interest in the occult. Often confused with the third film in the Halloween franchise released in 1982, also entitled Season of the Witch, Romero's film tells the story of a group of bored and restless housewives that are uncomfortable with aging.
A member of their group, and the butt-end of their humor without her knowledge, is a practitioner Witch. The story focuses in on the protagonist, Joan Mitchell, who expresses interest in learning the mystical arts while sharing the same hopeless outlook on life as her companions.
Although the premise may sound like a straight forward plot the execution that follows thereafter is anything but linear. I was expecting this film to follow in the footsteps of most occult-themed titles of the time that rose in popularity as a result of mainstream coverage and celebrity interest in Anton Lavey's newly-established Church of Satan.
This formation of beliefs caused a resurgence of interest in the occult between high-ranking members of society and film- makers alike. 'Season Of The Witch' ignores religion; choosing to tackle issues concerning the always-flawed ideology of social and gender roles. Female empowerment is a prominent theme on display and this wouldn't be the last time Romero would shine light on societal issues.
There are plenty of vague scenes that offer little substance. As with most Romero films, you have a low-end cast full of actors and actresses that either use their amateur experience as a stepping stone for improvement or a paycheck to get by. Thankfully, in every Romero film I've seen, the acting is tolerable.
When you've scraped the bottom of the barrel for so long you come to appreciate some semblance of talent - because seriously, you can't even begin to imagine the rigors or hardship of sitting through a movie like 1980's Anthropophagous, a dwelling so deep beneath the Earth that it ends up in China.
The film's conclusion manages to incite a "...what the....?" response, but the path one must take to reach that point is a slow and arduous one. I'm actually on the fence when it comes to 'Season Of The Witch' - there are some moments that'll make you regret saying negative things about the movie while on the other hand it's difficult to remember anything great about it.
Brand new 4K restoration of the original theatrical version from the camera negative [90 mins]
Alternate extended version [104 mins]
Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford
When Romero met Del Toro filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro in conversation with George Romero
The Secret Life of Jack's Wife archive interview with actress Jan White
Alternate Opening Titles
The final movie of this box-set is 1973's 'The Crazies'. A plane crashes near Pittsburgh carrying a bacteriological weapon called "Trixie". It gets into a nearby town's water supply causing it's citizen to go crazy, some of them homicidal maniacs. Some of the town's residents try to escape through a cordon around the town set up by the Army and shooting between the residents and soldiers (who go around wearing white contamination suits) and blood spurts ensue. That pretty much sums up the plot.
Anyway, despite a longer-than-average running time, 'The Crazies' never becomes boring or tired - instead it keeps you gripped throughout until the predictably downbeat conclusion. The film expertly weaves the two aforementioned plot strands - the efforts of a small group of people to survive, and the efforts of the people in charge to contain the outbreak - together into one satisfying whole and the themes and story lines are often impressive.
I especially like the way in which the intervention of the soldiers in contamination suits eventually becomes even more dangerous for our survivors than the disease itself, and Romero dots the film with memorable disturbing images - my favorite being when a vicar dowses himself in petrol and burns himself kneeling in front of his church - so that it can easily be classed as a horror film as well as a sci-fi style thriller.
For me, the film recalls 'Night of the Living Dead' in scenes of the soldiers roaming through the countryside, gunning down those that are infected, and the madness back at the army's base in town - with various parties ranting at each other - is a subject Romero returned to with the opening scenes of 'Dawn Of The Dead'. The tension is racked up as the film progresses, as our party of survivors who hope to escape gradually dwindles and their chances are repeatedly dashed.
The acting is especially strong from the unknown cast, with female lead Lane Carroll particularly affecting as the pregnant mother caught up in the chaos and trying only to escape with her husband. The husband, played by John Saxon-lookalike Will MacMillan, is also a strong and this time heroic character who you end up rooting for.
Also memorable are Harold Wayne Jones as 'Clank', the friend who ends up turning crazy himself in memorable style, whilst the various colonels and doctors involved also have strong roles. Fans of Romero's 'Day Of The Dead' may also spot Richard Liberty (the Doc) in this film as a family man turned insane, who ends up desiring his beautiful elfin daughter Kathy. Played by Lynn Lowry, she is as tragic and as she is disturbing throughout. Fantastic acting. Acting at its finest.
Brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative
Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford
Romero Was Here: Locating The Crazies Romero historian Lawrence DeVincentz takes us on a guided tour of Evans City, PA and the locations used in The Crazies
Crazy for Lynn Lowry cult star Lynn Lowry discusses her early career including her role in The Crazies
Q&A with Lynn Lowry filmed at the 2016 Abertoir Film Festival
Audio interview with producer Lee Hessel
Behind-the-scenes footage with optional commentary by Lawrence DeVincentz
Alternate Opening Titles
Trailers & TV Spots
These are all Full Screen presentations (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the overall Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentations
Original Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays)
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
Limited Edition 60-page booklet featuring new writing on the films by Kat Ellinger, Kier-La Janisse and Heather Drain
'George A. Romero Between Night and Dawn' Box-Set [Blu-ray+DVD] will be available for purchase on November 14th, 2017.
'The Voice of the Moon: Special Edition'
(Roberto Benigni, Paolo Villaggio, Nadia Ottavaini, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / NR / (1990) 2017 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: The swansong of the great Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini (La dolce vita, 8½), 'The Voice of the Moon' emerged without fanfare: it played the Cannes Film Festival out of competition after its Italian premiere and failed to secure distribution in North America and the UK. This new restoration from the original negative seeks to right that wrong and provide the film with a second chance.
Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, it's a damn pity that Fellini's last film is not better known as it represents something of a return to form after a series of disappointments. Fellini's visual imagination is still intact but some of the wonderful precision of imagery is no longer present.
Perhaps by the end of his career too many of his old collaborators had died or retired. The best part is the first half hour seen entirely from the perspective of the insane central characters. Their obsession with the moon provides the alibi for many evocative night shots, (I've often thought that one thing that distinguishes great film makers is how they film the night), as well as the spectacular climactic sequence when they imagine that they have trapped the moon.
Elsewhere there is typical Fellini fun with the crowning of 'Miss Flower' complete with an outsize King and Queen of the Gnocci and a final shower of flower on all the contestants. 'La voce della Luna' (as it's more commonly known) shares much of Ginger and Fred's distaste for the contemporary world summed up in a sequence in which a disco rave is interrupted by a Strauss waltz.
This is far more poetic and unexpected than anything in the predictable Ginger and Fred. Those worried by the narrative incoherence of Fellini can bury their boring heads in a screen writing manual. Perhaps the current international popularity of Roberto Benigni, little known outside Italy when the film was made may yet allow this flawed but haunting film to gain the audience it deserves. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original 1.0 mono sound (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles
Towards the Moon with Fellini, a rarely seen hour-long documentary on the film's production, featuring interviews with Fellini, Roberto Benigni and Paolo Villagio
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Pasquale Iannone
'The Voice of the Moon: Special Edition' [Blu-ray+DVD] will be available for purchase on October 31st, 2017.
'Whisky Galore!' [Blu-ray]
(Eddie Izzard, Gregor Fisher, Ellie Kendrick, Sean Biggerstaff, James Cosmo, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1990) 2017 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: 'Whisky Galore!' is the charming and heart-warming tale of a community of Islanders on a remote Scottish Island during WW2 coming together to relieve a sinking ship of its amber cargo.
Blu-ray Verdict: At the height of WWII, the remote Outer Hebridean island of Todday (IRL Portsoy, near Aberdeen) runs out of whisky. Then, the RMS Cabinet Minister is wrecked, with a cargo of 50,000 cases of whisky and the abdicated King Edward VIII's love letters on board.
The islanders band together to thwart attempts by the local Home Guard commander and customs to find the bottles. Also, the postmaster's two beautiful daughters are getting married and need whisky for the celebrations. (Cue idyllic Celtfest wedding scene).
'Whisky Galore!' is truly beautiful to look at, the sense of period is pretty good, and once you get used to the slow pace and lack of any LOL moments, it passes the time quite pleasantly. Don't expect anything more. The shipwreck is quite a while in coming, and the raid on the wreck has to wait for Sunday to pass. Towards the end there's a car chase at about 20mph.
My two problems with the film are that the actual number of characters whose stories all seem to to be of the same importance - there's no central character like Bombolini in 'The Secret of Santa Vittoria', does tend to get a wee bit fuddled, and secondly, the sanitized, prosperous, oh-so-comfortable lifestyle they all enjoy seems a wee bit OTT for my real life liking.
But, that said, the wedding scene, where there are dozens of lights strung over the square, is stunning to behold, sure, but begs the question Where does a remote Scottish island in the middle of WWII get all that power from? Where do they all get the petrol for their jaunts everywhere?
So, as much as 'Whisky Galore!' exudes relative greatness here, there's absolutely no sense of the islanders having any hardship at all. Which given their circumstances, and what's at stake for two minor characters' weddings, the free whisky seems very little to hang a drama on. That said, it is an enjoyable romp, and would you believe, this charming remake of the Ealing classic is all based on a true story! This is a Widescreen presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Whisky Galore!' [Blu-ray] will be available for purchase on November 7th, 2017.
'Now More Than Ever: The History Of Chicago'
(Chicago / DVD / NR / 2017 / MVD Visual)
Overview: 'Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago' is the unbelievable true story of the rock band Chicago. Spanning 50 years, from 1967 to the present day, it highlights a band that has sold over 100 million records and has never taken a year off of touring, still playing well over 100 shows a year.
DVD Verdict: For those not completely in the know, Chicago is an American rock band formed in 1967 in Chicago, Illinois. The self-described "rock and roll band with horns" began as a politically charged, sometimes experimental, rock band and later moved to a predominantly softer sound, generating several hit ballads.
The group had a steady stream of hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Since at least 2008, Billboard has shown Chicago to be the "greatest of all time" American band in singles chart success, and since 2015, the "greatest of all time" American band in album chart success as well.
Chicago is one of the longest-running and most successful rock groups, and one of the world's best-selling groups of all time, having sold more than 100 million records.
Here in the just-released 'Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago', filmmaker Peter Pardini and Chicago have collectively produced a definitive history of the band. Extensive enough to delight long-time fans and concise enough to tell their story to a wider audience and for the posterity of rock and roll history.
This film cuts through the mystery and the myth, and to tell the tale Pardini intersperses vintage footage and photographs with original interviews and stylized cinematic recreations.
Indeed, earlier in the year, the film debuted at several festivals, winning the "Best of Fest" audience choice award at its debut at the 2016 Sedona International Film Festival and also the People's Choice award at the Fort Myers Film Festival.
Since its showing at the festivals, the film been updated to reflect Chicago's long overdue 2016 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And rightly so, for 'Now More Than Ever' transcends the genre of rock documentaries.
Most importantly, the film retains focus on why their story is important and compelling: the quality of Chicago's entire catalog of music and their bond as a band of brothers. Peter Pardini brought a refreshing perspective to documenting Chicago's history on screen.
He is the nephew of Chicago's keyboardist and vocalist Lou Pardini and has worked with the band on projects for the past five years. Chicago's sound engineer Tim Jessup took the film from the theater to our living rooms by mixing it in stereo specifically for the CNN Films broadcast.
A culmination of three and a half years of work by a dedicated team pays off in a forever endearing and glorious ride through the history of a great American rock band. The editing of the vintage footage, a perfectly paced narrative, and recreations elevate the film to cinematic grace. Pardini's 'Now More Than Ever' possesses a delicate sense of perspective, creating the effect of the viewer as a fly-on-the-wall for the most iconic and prescient moments of one of the world's most beloved bands. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Now More Than Ever: The History Of Chicago' [DVD] will be available for purchase on October 13th, 2017.
'Lewis Black: Black To The Future'
(Lewis Black / DVD / NR / 2017 / MVD Visual)
Overview: The king of the rant, LEWIS BLACK uses his trademark style to skewer anything and anyone that gets under his skin.
DVD Verdict: For those not completely in the know, Lewis Black is an American stand-up comedian, author, playwright, social critic, and actor.
He is best known for his angry demeanor and belligerent comedic style, in which he often simulates having a mental breakdown.
His comedy routines often escalate into angry rants about history, politics, religion, or any other cultural trends. He hosted the Comedy Central series Lewis Black's Root of All Evil and made regular appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart delivering his "Back in Black" commentary segment.
His latest stand-up comedy DVD, 'Lewis Black: Black To The Future' arrives just in time for the elections of 2016, where he makes his return to the live stage to take on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton; amongst others, of course.
Not everyone's opinionated cup o' tea, for those who do enjoy Black's style of humor, this is about as hilarious and entertaining as Black has ever been. I laughed harder at this hour than I have at anything else I've watched this year!
While the special is mostly about the 2016 election, there are enough side topics and detours that the majority of the material still holds up today; as poignant as ever, in fact.
Black is a very smart comedian, one who does a great job at analyzing and talking about problems without seeming pretentious or preachy. Here, Black delivers a great blend of political commentary and dirty jokes. Even those who don't like political comedy are likely to get a kick out of some of Black's points here.
OK, sure, not every single joke works, and there are couple times where there's a bit too much space between punchlines for my liking, but overall 'Black to the Future' is highly recommended to those in search of losing themselves for an hour. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Program "The Rant Is Due: Live From Napa".
'Lewis Black: Black To The Future' [DVD] and the CD will both be available for purchase on October 13th, 2017.
A Tribute To Les Paul: Live From Universal Studios
(Joe Satriani, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Slash, Buddy Guy, Joe Perry, Edgar Winter, et el / DVD / NR / 2017 / MVD Visual)
Overview: Some of music's biggest names come together to honor the ultimate icon Les Paul. The night is headlined by show-stopping numbers from an all-star slate of Paul disciples, inclusive of Slash and Edgar Winter teaming up, amongst others.
DVD Verdict: For those not completely in the know, Les Paul was an American jazz, country, and blues guitarist, songwriter, luthier, and inventor.
He was one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar. Paul taught himself how to play guitar, and while he is mainly known for jazz and popular music, he had an early career in country music.
Indeed, he is credited with many recording innovations. Although he was not the first to use the technique, his early experiments with overdubbing (also known as sound on sound), delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects and multi track recording were among the first to attract widespread attention.
His innovative talents extended into his playing style, including licks, trills, chording sequences, fretting techniques and timing, which set him apart from his contemporaries and inspired many guitarists of the present day.
Directed by Evan Haiman (Rock & Roll Road Trip with Sammy Hagar) and produced by Charles Carlini (Les Paul's 90th Birthday Concert at Carnegie Hall), Bob Cutarella (Les Paul & Friends), Howard Lipp, Glenn Aveni (Les Paul Chasing Sound), this 2006 musical tribute to the man who made one of the world's best known guitars is one of the finest live get together's I think I've seen in a long, long time.
Indeed, Michael Braunstein, Executive Director of the Les Paul Foundation stated has since stated that "It is without a doubt that Les Paul is the 'Father of Modern Music' and that musicians from every corner of the globe and in every genre of music stand upon his shoulders".
"He was an inventor, an award-winning musician, and an innovator of the recording industry. The artists and producers who have made this tribute program possible give us every reason to remember that Les Paul was a man who influenced our music industry profoundly".
I am thrilled that viewers worldwide will witness Les' greatest attributes through the performances and storytelling of this program".
Filmed live at what was then the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles on February 8, 2006, 'A Tribute To Les Paul: Live From Universal Studios Hollywood' gives viewers a front row seat for an unforgettable night of powerhouse performances, as some of music's biggest names come together to honor the ultimate icon.
The night is headlined by show-stopping numbers from an all-star slate of Paul disciples that includes Slash and Edgar Winter teaming up on the Stevie Wonder staple "Superstition"; TOTO axeman Steve Lukather's rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing"; and Joe Perry and Buddy Guy closing the night with a soulful blues set. Other highlights include spirited performances by Joe Satriani, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, recent Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee Neal Schon, and more.
As part of the night's festivities, 'A Tribute To Les Paul: Live From Universal Studios Hollywood' also features rare commentary taken from several of Paul's final interviews recorded at New York's landmark Iridium Jazz Club, as well as at Paul's home in Mahwah, New Jersey.
This oh-so special event was held to raise funds and awareness for the South Central charity A Place Called Home, designed to give at-risk youth a safe and secure environment they can thrive in.
"Superstition" (Slash, Steve Lukather, Edgar Winter)
"Little Wing" (Steve Lukather)
"Watch Boogie" (Joe Satriani)
"House Full Of Bullets" (Joe Satriani)
"Going Down Slow" (Joe Perry, Buddy Guy)
"Hooch Koochie Man" (Joe Perry, Buddy Guy)
"Lovin' Cup" (Robben Ford)
"I Wanna Know You" (Neal Schon, Shayna Steele)
"Rock & Roll Hooch Koo" (Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Steve Lukather, & Edgar Winter)
This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'A Tribute To Les Paul: Live From Universal Studios' [DVD] will be available for purchase on September 8th, 2017.
Overview: 'L7: Pretend We're Dead' takes us on an all-access journey into the 1990's grunge movement that took the world by storm, and the band that helped define it as the genre of a generation.
Blu-ray Verdict: For those not completely in the know, L7 is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California, United States. They were active from 1985 to 2001, and reunited in 2014.
Due to their sound and image, they are often associated with the grunge movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s. L7 influenced many of the riot grrrl bands of the 1990s.
Culled from over 100 hours of vintage home movies taken by the band, never-before-seen performance footage, and candid interviews, 'L7: Pretend We're Dead' is an engrossing time capsule told from the perspective of L7, these true insiders who brought their signature blend of grunge punk to the masses.
Chronicling the early days of the band's formation in 1985 to their height as the 'queens of grunge,' the film takes a roller coaster ride through L7's triumphs and failures, providing never-before-discussed insight into the band's eventual dissolution in 2001.
Formed by Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner-guitars/vocals, the band completed their lineup with the addition of Jennifer Finch on bass/vocals and Dee Plakas on drums.
To highlight the fact that L7 was an all-female group, however, was to miss the point. "Our fans couldn't give a sh*t if we're women," Sparks says. "We did not set out to be an all-girl band. It just happened that way."
Yet the gender issue would return time and again for the band; from shock jocks refusing to play chick rock to academics accusing the band of "incorrectly" embracing their feminism to hard rock press implying the band was merely riding a wave of the aforementioned grrrl power trendiness.
Oh, and as for how 'Pretend We're Dead' actually came about, Sparks herself relates a tale-lost-in-time recap of that musical birth: "I was in my apartment in Echo Park listening to the cassette I’d made, trying to write some lyrics. I was heartbroken at the time. I was actually devastated."
"And the first thing that came to my mind was, “I just pretend that you’re dead.” And I didn’t mean it in a malicious way, not like I wanted him dead or anything, but I truly felt that the only way I could get through this was to pretend this guy was dead. I had to mourn him."
"And then immediately, in my mind, I’m like, I’m not writing that. It’s just not gonna happen. What about, “pretend we’re dead”? I liked that because that was a children’s game. And then it became kind of a commentary on Reagan/Bush–era apathy."
For more goldenly nostalgic stories such as that, and a whole lot more, check out 'L7: Pretend We're Dead' now on MVD Visual. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with Bonus Performances, a 12 Page Photo Booklet, and even Bonus Scenes!
'L7: Pretend We're Dead' [Blu-ray+DVD] will be available for purchase on October 27th, 2017.
'War For The Planet Of The Apes' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Toby Kebbell, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital / PG-13 / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.
Blu-ray Verdict: The new 'Planet of the Apes' franchise has been an unexpected and surprising success, easily equaling the quality of its iconic ancestral lineage, or even arguably surpassing it.
'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' was always going to be a tough act to follow but thankfully 'War' bucks the trilogy trend of the third film often being a lesser installment.
It's not as well executed or as well structured as 'Dawn', but it's an excellent film nonetheless and builds upon an already rich mythology that offers up an elaborate explanation as to how Charlton Heston came back from space to find himself on a damn monkey planet.
Matt Reeves returns for directing duties and recaptures the same foreboding and tension he evoked the last time around. This is a very downbeat and bleak movie, so much so I actually had to remind myself that this is a summer blockbuster produced and released by 20th Century Fox.
It's incredible to think that something as dark as this can still sneak under the wire and into the mainstream, and we should all be thankful of that fact. Andy Serkis has graduated across the series from being the plot device of 'Rise', to the dual protagonist of 'Dawn', to the full-on lead character of 'War', and his motion captured performance is truly remarkable.
You can even tell it's his face at certain points - a sneer here, a frown there - and I fully believe this performance should qualify him for an Academy Award nomination for Lead Actor. He's the crown jewel of this franchise and he leads the charge from beginning to end this time around. I also have to make room for Steve Zahn's performance as a newly introduced ape, who is about the closest thing to a comic relief this film gets and his comic timing and tender eccentricity allows some breathing room between all the doom and gloom.
The crowning achievement of this trilogy is its ability to seamlessly blend technological craft with human artistry. I have always favored practical effects over CGI, but my god, even I can't deny just how magnificent the visual effects are. This is as close to photo-real you will see.
The title of the film is somewhat of a mislead since it's a much smaller and more intimate story this time around, and I feel there was more of an epic war taking place in 'Dawn'. This is much more of a revenge tale, framed through the eyes of our protagonist Caesar, who we have seen grow up and mature into a leader across the two previous films, which lends a greater sense of dimension and complexity to his character.
Watching him and his clan strike back against the remnants of the human race becomes an interesting exercise for us. As human beings we are naturally predisposed to the survival of our species, even in fiction, and usually films set in a post-apocalyptic world tend to lean heavily towards that as the goal.
The 'Apes' films ask us to do something else - they ask us to root AGAINST the human race, and that does create a conflict within us as viewers. Not all humans are bad, and we know where this story is taking us once you factor in 'Planet of the Apes' 1968, yet at the same time these apes are every bit as complex and fallible and heroic and dangerous as we are.
They have an equal right to live and build a future together. And while this film definitely comes down on the side of the apes, unlike 'Dawn' which showed the failings of both sides to make peace, it is a strange experience rooting for them to win this time around since there are no real human allies like James Franco or Jason Clarke's characters.
In any other film, the apes would be the villains and Woody Harrelson's Colonel character makes a good case as to why he sees it that way, even though the filmmakers jettison his humanity in order to paint him as a more out-and-out villain. After all, we, the audience, have to be on side come the finale, especially come the arrival of an unexpected deus ex machina.
This has been an intelligent and emotionally and morally complex series of films that have raised interesting questions about animal rights, speciesism, societal hierarchies, leadership and subservience, communication, conflict and peace.
They are not simply mindless sci-fi movies cashing in on an existing property. Both of the previous films have been deeply thoughtful explorations of those aforementioned themes and ideas. So I am very pleased to report that 'War for the Planet of the Apes' proudly carries that torch all the way through to its beautifully biblical final moments. This is a Widescreen presentation (2:39.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Audio Commentary by Director Matt Reeves
Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary by Director Matt Reeves
- Barrier Wall
- “I Owe You One”
- “A Great Man”
- “Do Not Lose Hope”
- The Colonel’s Speech
- Malcolm and the Dinosaurs
- “I Am Like Koba”
Apes: The Meaning of It All
“All About Caesar” Featurette
Concept Art Gallery
WETA: Pushing Boundaries
Music for Apes
The Apes Saga: An Homage
As for these special features, well, as much as two thirds of them are simply Deleted Scenes (which are always nice to watch and weave back into the original story line, the Audio Commentary by director Matt Reeves is interesting, revealing at times, but for the most part it distracts from watching the actual film.
That said, the .52 second "All About Caesar" Featurette may well be short and sweet, but wow, watch it and tell me you're not blown away by Andy Serkis and his CGI work. It is the greatest less-than-a-minute bonus feature I've seen in a long, long time!
Another delightful, stirring Featurette is entitled "Music for Apes" and features the brilliant composer Michael Giacchino doing some of his finest work to date; in my humble opinion. "The Apes Saga: An Homage" is a all-encompassing look at what's gone before, what's here now, and what's to come, and is an interesting watch if you're new to the series.
'War For The Planet Of The Apes' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital] will be available for purchase on October 27th, 2017.
'I Called Him Morgan'
(Lee Morgan, Helen Moore, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Film Rise)
Overview: In February 1972, celebrated jazz musician Lee Morgan was shot dead by his common-law wife Helen during a gig at a club in New York City. The murder sent shockwaves through the jazz community, and the memory of the event still haunts those who knew the Morgans. This feature documentary by filmmaker Kasper Collin is a love letter to two unique personalities and the music that brought them together.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the complete know, Lee Morgan was an American jazz trumpeter. Known mainly as one of the key hard bop musicians of the 1960s, Morgan came to prominence in his late teens, recording on John Coltrane's Blue Train (1957) and with the band of drummer Art Blakey before launching a solo career.
Morgan stayed with Blakey until 1961 and started to record as leader soon after. His song "The Sidewinder", on the album of the same name, became a surprise crossover hit on the pop and R&B charts in 1964, while Morgan's recordings found him touching on other styles of music as his artistry matured.
Soon after The Sidewinder was released, Morgan rejoined Blakey for a short period of time. After leaving Blakey for the final time, Morgan continued to work prolifically as both a leader and a sideman with the likes of Hank Mobley and Wayne Shorter, becoming, in the words of critic Steve Huey, "[a] cornerstone of the Blue Note label roster".
Morgan's career was cut short at the age of 33, when his common-law wife shot and killed him following a confrontation at Slug's Saloon.
I knew that his life had come to a tragic end when he was just in his early thirties, but I was surely lacking in the true details as to what led to his death. Not any more, for in 2016, Swedish film writer/director Kasper Collin released this highly revealed documentary 'I Called Him Morgan.' A beautiful and poignant portrayal of Lee Morgan's professional life, that started as a sideman at age 18 to the great Dizzy Gillespie, the film brings us just enough information about that fateful night without it being too gruesome to partake in.
Indeed, as it turns out, and of which I had no clue, Morgan had a tremendous struggle with heroin that could have ruined not just his musical career, but his personal future. An older woman who would eventually become Morgan's common-law wife, Helen Moore, entered Morgan's life and became all that he would need to get him back on his feet.
This film pays great tribute to Moore's love for Morgan and her place in the more personal side of the New York jazz scene during the peak of Morgan's career. A falling out over Morgan's switching his attention to another woman would lead to his tragic end, however, and seriously effect the jazz community and Helen Moore's life.
The jazz enthusiast in me would perhaps beg for more musical performance, but I believe Collin gave us just enough that a young person with musical interests might explore Morgan's music and/or the genre known as jazz. What brings this documentary to life are the excerpts from a recorded interview with Morgan's wife Helen, filmed interviews with former band mates, and vivid black and white stills taken during both performances and leisure time.
The band mates, in particular Wayne Shorter, express great affection for Lee Morgan. It's easy to sense the hurt that was felt when they lost Morgan at such an early age. Jazz fans, and film fans especially should be pleased with this documentary release. If you are found to be neither, regardless, I believe you will find 'I Called Him Morgan' a fascinating film. This is a Surround Sound, Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, with English Subtitles, and features the official 'I Called Him Morgan' trailer.
Overview: Break out the balloons and streamers it's a birthday celebration! From choosing a cake to planning a surprise party, join some of your favorite PBS KIDS characters for 10 birthday themed stories!
DVD Verdict: What a wonderful idea this is from PBS! Containing 10 episodes (all previously aired) from PBS Kids shows such as Caillou, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Dinosaur Train, Peg + Cat and more, 'PBS Kids! Happy Birthday!' is one joyous celebration from start to finish.
By now, as followers of this magazine, let alone those great PBS Kids TV shows, you'll know all about the characters that inhabit them. Chock full of learning opportunities, fun facts, and oh-so colorful scenery and characters both, 'PBS Kids! Happy Birthday!' showcases the art of choosing a cake, planning the big days worth of surprises, and buying the birthday recipient the most perfect of gifts.
Inclusive of one episode each from this wondrous list of PBS Kids! TV shows - Arthur, Caillou, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Dinosaur Train, Odd Squad, Peg + Cat, Reading Rainbow, Super WHY!, Wild Kratts, and WorldWorld - once you put this into your player, just sit back and let the kids get on with life - as they'll be transfixed and learning and laughing their way through the morning for you, of that you can be sure. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Tolkien & Lewis: Myth, Imagination & The Quest ...
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: 'Tolkien & Lewis: Myth, Imagination & The Quest for Meaning' explores the fundamental characteristics of myth, reality, ritual, and imagination, and tells the story of C.S. Lewis's intellectual journey into the realm of faith, which began at a meeting with fellow author J.R.R. Tolkien.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the full know, and as always, it's best to start with the complete facts, J.R.R. Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor who is best known as the author of the classic high-fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
C.S. Lewis was a British novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist. He held academic positions at both Oxford University (Magdalen College, 1925–1954) and Cambridge University (Magdalene College, 1954–1963).
Indeed, he is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.
'Tolkien & Lewis: Myth, Imagination & The Quest for Meaning', out now from PBS Home Entertainment, has got to be one of the most fascinating documentaries that I have ever had the pleasure to view.
As simple an hour as our narrative host spinning forth fundamental characteristics of myth, reality, ritual, and imagination, it tells the story of C.S. Lewis's intellectual journey into the realm of faith - which began at a meeting with fellow author J.R.R. Tolkien.
It examines the process in which myth inspires the imagination, especially the imaginative process of Tolkien and Lewis. It also delves into the question of in what ways does faith play into the fantasy and fictional works of Lewis and Tolkien?
Indeed, 'Tolkien & Lewis: Myth, Imagination & The Quest for Meaning' engages scholars from various spiritual and academic viewpoints while challenging viewers to draw their own conclusions about the meaning of life and the role that mythology and imagination play in determining belief. Fascinating from start to finish. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Epic Fantasy - 5 Mini-Series Gift Set'
(Sam Neill, Armand Asante, Helena Bonham Carter, John Gielgud, Zooey Deschanel, Neal McDonough, et al / 8-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Wizardry, journeys to mystical lands and sorcery are all included in this epic fantasy collection of best-selling Made-for-TV Miniseries. Starring Sam Neill, John Gielgud, James Earl Jones, Ted Danson and more, this set includes "Merlin" (1998), "Gulliver's Travels" (1996), "Tinman" (2007), "Odyssey" (1997), and "10th Kingdom" (2000). 21 hrs, 8 DVD's.
DVD Verdict: We begin with "Tin Man"" (2-Disc, NR, 2007, starring Zooey Deschanel, Neal McDonough and Richard Dreyfus. "Tin Man" is a modern science fiction update of L. Frank Baum’s timeless 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.'
When a sorceress named Azkadellia scorches the once-beautiful land of OZ into a desolate wasteland, the only hope lies in an "outsider" named DG, a young Midwestern woman, whose troubling dreams have summoned her to the doomed paradise. D.G. embarks on a journey to find the great mystic man to save the O.Z.
Personally, I loved the premise behind this - a darker, more adult, epic fantasy version of the Wizard of Oz. I was actually pretty psyched about seeing this. Did it deliver? Well, kind of.
The plot moves along at a good clip for the most part, and the special effects are surprisingly well-done for a made-for-TV miniseries. I liked that the monkey bats seemed to be some sort of puppetry or stop motion rather than entirely CGI. But overall, I was left with the feeling that this series could have been so much better.
One of the biggest problems for me was the dialogue. Tin Man suffers from a severe case of "writer speak" - characters spout lots of "clever" lines that no real person would ever say. It doesn't help that Zooey Deschanel seems to be locked into a narrow range of acting. I don't know if it's her fault or the director's, but regardless of what's going on she conveys a deadpan, sardonic nonchalance. When she's swept into another world by a supernatural storm, she takes it in stride with a shrug and a quip.
Despite things like this, I don't regret watching "Tin Man". There were some genuinely funny moments and enough twists and turns in the plot to keep me engaged. Oh, and watch out for those pesky munchkins as they're now a bunch of psychotic, ugly tree-dwelling trolls!
Next up is "The 10th Kingdom" (3-Disc, NR, 2000, starring Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Scott Cohen, John Larroquette and Dianne Wiest). A father and daughter are caught in a parallel universe where the great queens Snow White, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood have had their kingdoms fragmented by warring trolls, giants and goblins.
In truth, and as much as people have batted this theory around over the years, come on now: "The 10th Kingdom" is clearly based on Germany! This is culled from several details including: its central location on the map of the kingdoms (which was based on a map of Europe), its large size, and the proposition that it be divided into quarters to be run by the Council of the Nine Kingdoms (akin to Germany's division by the Allies after WWII).
Anyway, that aside (as it's always a bone on contention whenever 'The 10th Kingdom' is brought up in conversation, for my money, and a shed load of others, trust me, "The 10th Kingdom" has to be one of the most captivating, spellbinding movies to come along in years! So many have tried, but few have succeeded in creating such a beautifully woven masterpiece as "The 10th Kingdom". There isn't a moment of this movie that I did not wholeheartedly enjoy.
Sure, it's long ... VERY long, but with its spectacular visuals, compelling story line, and off-beat but lovable characters, 'The 10th Kingdom' takes you along for the journey that so captivates, you hardly notice the time that passes. This movie is an adventure of epic proportions that I would rank up there with 'The Neverending Story' and 'The Princess Bride'. Actually, as far as fairy tales go, I daresay this is better!
The cast is perfect for each of their roles and acted them out spectacularly. The script is excellent with its many references to so many beloved fairy tales re: Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White, and so, so many more. The scenes with the Trolls and with Snow White were spellbinding. You could literally get lost in this film and never want to escape.
Then comes "The Odyssey" (PG-13, 1997, starring Armand Assante, Greta Scacchi and Eric Roberts). This Prime time Emmy award-winning Mini-Series presents the impeccable journey of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, and his incredible journey as he strives to provide his kingdom with gifts that one could never buy.
The cast is full of well-known names, some of whom do better than others. Assante is a believable Odysseus. He's given some time to mourn the loss of his men, as is proper, and is allowed to weep convincingly. Of the rest, most are pretty good. Except, I must say that Vanessa Williams, a real stunner, is poorly wardrobed (when she's wearing anything) and sounds like an amateur actress compared to the others. Eric Roberts is Eurymachus, the chief suitor, and adds some touches to the role as a real unlikely chap.
The special effects beat those in any other version that I'm aware of. Scylla, the multiple-headed monster who snatches men off ships and eats them, is truly spooky, looking like a highly sentient and directional Venus fly trap. Ugh. The cyclops is no better. He traps the Greeks in his cave and after eating one or two, he gets drunk until, as Homer put it in one translation, he falls asleep "dribbling liquor and bits of men." The "no-man" ruse is retained.
In truth, "Odyssey" is a pretty good story for a whole family. The kids will learn something about ancient Greece and they'll be entertained by the (considerable) violence. So, take it or leave it due to just those facts, I guess.
Following along next is "Merlin" (NR, 1998, starring Miranda Richardson, Sam Neill and Isabella Rossellini). Wizard Merlin strays from his cryptic ways when a beautiful woman touches his heart – his dark, mysterious ways are soon changed with a new love interest, and he must fight to prove his skill set as he strives for positive change.
If you like your fantasy a little light-hearted, then you may well find this movie to be the better choice for you. Where Excalibur is a much more serious, dark fantasy (admittedly touched with the wonderfully delivered humor of Nicol Williamson's Merlin), this movie is more cheerful, and a far more family-friendly version of the myth.
As a made-for-TV production, you could never expect this to have the same quality of final delivery that Excalibur had. Indeed, it doesn't, and its sparse CGI (although above-average for this grade of production) shows up its low budget when it is on screen. But what it lacks in money it makes up for with ambition. It's clear that this has a real drive to be more than most TV movies, and it certainly achieves that, with an extremely solid supporting cast that adds a lot of color and character to the production.
In the end, I suppose it's similar to comparing The Dark Knight to Adam West's Batman. As a pure movie, there's really no contest about which is the better made, the better movie or the better production - but the charm of Adam West's Batman goes beyond its production, and it's the same with Merlin when compared to Excalibur.
Lastly, we have my own personal favorite of the five mini-series', "Gulliver's Travels" (PG, 1996, starring Ted Danson, Alfre Woodard, Peter O'Toole and Mary Steenburgen). Set sail with this Primetime Emmy award-winning Miniseries- 18th century Englishman, Gulliver, as he travels to mystical lands, each with new hardships, encounters, and sorcery.
Lemuel Gulliver (Ted Danson) is a doctor who goes missing at sea, leaving pregnant wife Mary (Mary Steenburgen) behind. Eight years later, he turns up, disheveled and seemingly mad - babbling about his adventures in the lands of the tiny Lilliputians, the giant Brobdingnags, the floating island of the intellectual Laputa, and the Houyhnhnms, a race of intelligent, talking horses who have to deal with the Yahoos - a race of bestial humans - among many other adventures.
The not-so-good Dr. Bates (James Fox), who has designs on Lemuel's wife, has Gulliver incarcerated in a mental institution, and Lemuel, Mary, and son Thomas (Tom Sturridge) must find a way to prove his sanity.
A splendid adaptation of Jonathan Swift's satirical novel, this film is a magnificent adaptation on so many levels: the story, the satire, the characters, the visuals, the brilliant cast. It's simply a treat to watch, and it's almost amazing considering that it was a made-for-TV film.
The film does a brilliant job of capturing Swift's vicious satire, which cuts like a hatchet through British society of the time, but still resonates today. The wise Brobdingnags and the Houyhnhnms are almost perfect individuals who find it virtually impossible to understand why Gulliver speaks with such pride of the vices and corruptions of his society.
The scenes where Gulliver struggles to prove himself different from the Yahoos are perhaps the best, with biting satire in describing how they pick their leaders ("they seem to pick the worst among them. . . who rules until they find someone even worse"), go to war ("We only go to war for a very good reason - such as they are weaker than us, or we want all of their land"), etc.
The film makes use of beautiful, and fairly convincing CGI effects depicting the very diverse settings of the novel with great effect. The contrast of sizes is done in a very skillful way, and all of the worlds depicted in the story are convincing in their own way. The cinematography (particularly that concerning the asylum) and the costumes are brilliantly done. The editing of the present with Lemuel's memories is a device which could be awkward, but works very well.
Most well-known for his work on sit-com, Danson shows that he's more than just Sam Malone with this wonderful serio-comic performance. Mary Steenburgen is effective as his wife, and James Fox is absolutely repulsive as Bates.
The rest of the cast is made up mostly of cameos, with Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Warwick Davis, Kristin Scott Thomas, Geraldine Chaplin, Alfre Woodward, Edward Fox, and Sir John Gielgud being the most memorable - but even the smallest parts are very well-played. This is a series of Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Horror Hall Of Fame - 26 Classic Horror Films'
(Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, et al / 9-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Hungry for Horror? Stay glued to the edge of your seat with a 26 film bundle including some of the greatest works from the masters of Horror.
DVD Verdict: Obviously given that this wonderful, truly magnificent box-set contains 26 horror films, I won't be reviewing each and every one of them! But, what I will be doing is exploring a couple each of my favorites from each chapter contained within the actual box-set.
The five chapters spread over the 9 discs are: Classic Horror, Hammer Film Collection Volume One, Hammer Film Collection Volume Two, Boris Karloff Collection, and Vincent Price Collection.
In 'Five' (1951, Black and White), starring William Phipps, Susan Douglas, James Anderson, Charles Lampkin, and Earl Lee, when a nuclear bomb destroys the world, only five survivors remain. A pregnant woman, a philosopher, a black man, a banker and an explorer seek shelter in an abandoned house. As the last living human beings, they must work together. However, their clashing visions of the future could lead to their destruction.
Post-nuclear-war dramas centering on a small group of survivors now constitute an entire genre in science-fiction films. All of them, in some way or another, can be traced back to this seminal film from 1951 in which five people deal with the possibility they are the only human beings left alive on the planet. While most of the later movies exploited this possibility for B-movie thrills, 'Five' adopts a quiet, contemplative tone which some may find dull but which thoughtful viewers are more likely to find, for want of a better word, haunting. There is something about this movie which gets under the skin and which lurks in the corners of the mind long after it's over.
In 'The Mad Magician' (1954, Black and White) starring Vincent Price, Mary Murphy, Eva Gabor, John Emery, Donald Randolph, and Lenita Lane
Gallico the Great, a magician and master of disguise, turns into a homicidal maniac when his manager closes his show and gives his tricks to a rival magician. No one is safe as he begins to take out his victims with the same methods he used to create his illusions.
The plot is basic, and had been done before re: a Magician uses elaborate props from his magic act to dole out revenge on those who have wronged him in his professional life. First is a disloyal partner. Next, a rival magician. Price later impersonates them, by using elaborate masks, keeping them "alive," and effectively leading a double life, to keep suspecting eyes away from him and his crimes. 'House of Wax,' anybody?!
In 'The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll' (1960, Color) starring Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff, Norma Marla, and Francis De Wolff, absorbed in research directed towards freeing the two natures of man, Dr. Jekyll degenerates in to Mr. Hyde, a vengeful maniac. While Hyde wants revenge against a gambler whom his wife is in love with, Dr. Jekyll, takes steps to do away with his evil self.
I was really blown away by this film. The Jekyll/Hyde story has been told again and again and the main character has been portrayed by countless actors. Yet, this may be the great version out there - definitely the best one I've seen yet. The Canadian actor playing both roles was a new face for me, but is pretty amazing and I couldn't see the two personas as the same actor no matter how hard I tried. It was quite impressive.
Christopher Lee, ever-present in the Hammer films (did he ever have a day off?), plays friend Paul Allen. Wow. I've praised Lee in 'Scream of Fear', but he should be praised no less in this, where he's a convincingly sleazy gambler and womanizer. Not the way I picture Lee to be, but it seems so natural here.
The more I see this man in action, the more I see what the generation before me saw. I had always been a Peter Cushing fan, but maybe it's time for me to switch sides? I enjoyed the philosophical questions raised by this film. There's the portrayal of Hyde as younger, more handsome and more charming - not the monster he's usually shown to be.
In 'The Gorgon' (1964, Color) starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Richard Pasco, Barbara Shelley, Michael Goddliffe, and Patrick Troughton, in a rural village, a series of murders have been committed where each victim was turned into stone. A local professor investigates and finds an evil Gorgon haunting a nearby castle and in search of more victims.
The film begins beautifully with the credits superimposed against the twilit battlements of Castle Borski. Other touches fleetingly capture the mood of gothic-romantic literature. Professor Heitz beguiled into the forest by the Gorgon Magaera's distant siren-call. Her reflection glimpsed through the dead leaves floating on a mill pond. The encounter by moonlight in the graveyard between Richard Pasco and Barbara Shelley.
'The Gorgon' is certainly one of Hammer's most pessimistic entries. The setting is turn-of-the-century Middle Europe and the production-design more Teutonic than ever (Hammer, ever economical, transposed the monster of Greek classical myth to their familiar Germanic milieu). When we join the story the village of Vandorf has been under Magaera's baleful spell for seven years. Much of the action takes place in a repressive asylum. And Castle Borski is not the richly appointed seat of other Hammer films but a broken windswept ruin.
Characterization is equally unrelenting. Cushing's Dr Namaroff is a more ruthless and maniacal variation of Van Helsing. Lee's Professor Meister , though gruffly benevolent, is overbearingly fatalistic. Meanwhile the most sympathetic characters - Carla, Paul, his father and brother - are all killed. I mean, come on now, it's what has to happen to propel the story, of course!
In 'The Snorkel' (1958, Black and White) starring Peter van Eyck, Betta St. John, Mandy Miller, and Grégoire Aslan, this early British Hammer film, was actually filmed in Italy and co-scripted by future Italian director Antonio Marghareti. So, it also anticipates the later Italian giallo thrillers, mostly in its enjoyably absurd plot. In the creepy opening scene a man (Peter Van Eck) puts on a scuba mask (it's technically not a "snorkel") and hides under the floor boards in order to gas his sleeping wife from inside her locked room.
The police naturally think its suicide, but the murdered woman's teen daughter (Mandy Miller) comes home from school and immediately suspects the truth - naturally since she earlier witnessed her step-father drowning her father. Everyone thinks she's crazy, of course, (even after he bumps off her little dog, "Toto", too). Her governess (Betta St. John )meanwhile is torn between her loyalty her apparently delusional charge and her attraction to the suave, seemingly distraught widower.
In 'Maniac' (1963, Black and White) starring Kerwin Mathews, Nadia Gray, Donald Houston, and Liliane Brousse, one of the lesser known of Hammer's "psychological thrillers" sure it's not fiendishly clever enough to be really memorable, but it does have a few interesting twists.
We find Kerwin Mathews stranded in a small French town where he books into a hotel and starts to feel attracted to the owners sexy young step-daughter. Soon after this, he also starts feeling attracted to the more mature but still sexy step-mother as well!
Apart from this love triangle, there is a further problem, in that the missing family member in this scenario is the father, who is currently locked up in an asylum for a violent blow-torch murder committed years ago - but now he wants out, and our hero is about to be roped into aiding in his escape!
In 'The Man They Could Not Hang' (1939, Black and White) starring Boris Karloff, Lorna Gray, Robert Wilcox, and Roger Pryor, a mad scientist is about to do an experiment to bring somebody back to life using a special device he has invented. His assistant's girlfriend reports him to the police and they arrive before he completes the experiment and is arrested and sentenced to death.
After hanging, his assistant takes his body and manages to bring him back to life and he then gets revenge on the people who sentenced him. In a struggle at the end, he is shot and he dies for the second time.
'The Man They Could Not Hang' has to be one of Boris's better movies and I have seen it a couple of times. If anyone has seen 'The House on Haunted Hill' and its later remake, this film was probably used for certain inspiration for this film. You have a group of people, all associated with the case, who are all brought to a deserted house, locked inside, and are slowly killed off one by one. The film is short, just a little over an hour in length, but is top notch entertainment, and is very enjoyable, and well acted.
In 'The Boogie Man Will Get You' (1942, Black and White), starring Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Max Rosenbloom, and Larry Parks, a young woman decides to purchase an old Colonial mansion in the middle of nowhere with the hopes of turning it into a hotel; even though it is barely standing.
Her ex-husband finds her only seconds after she has made the purchase (a plot device never fully explained) and tried to convince her she's been swindled. She doesn't care, having become fond of the eclectic cast of characters that inhabit the house - but little does she know, the old man who works in the basement is actually trying to create a race of electric supermen!
Bodies begin piling up and Peter Lorre shows up playing the town mayor/sheriff/notary with a kitten in his coat pocket, and general Hollywood hijinks ensue. The ending is a mess, but it ends up being so convoluted, it somehow finds charms in all of its lunacy!
Finally from the fifth and final chapter comes the just referred to 'House On Haunted Hill' (1959, Black and White) starring Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, and Richard Long. A wealthy man offers a hefty amount of money to a select five people that concur to being trapped in a haunted rental house overnight.
This classic version of 'House on Haunted Hill' is one of the most entertaining examples of the low-budget, black-and-white horror films that used to be such a mainstay for movie fans. It has few chills, but it does have some thrills, and in particular it has a cleverly written story that is told at a brisk pace, with a good deal of interesting and pleasingly macabre detail.
Indeed, the story, in general, is nicely written for the genre, making very good use of the possibilities in the setup, throwing in some good turns, and resolving everything in a resourceful fashion. And it's not without some real suspense - even those who normally watch low-budget horror features solely for the camp factor might get an actual start once or twice as everything plays out. And even if you don't find anything scary, there is plenty here that makes it enjoyable to watch.
Lastly comes 'The Bat' (1959, Black and White) starring Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, and Gavin Gordon. When psycho killer, “The Bat,” escapes, he runs loose in a mansion filled with people.
'The Bat', whilst no Citizen Kane, is still a lot of fun. It gives some very good talent the opportunity to ham it up (Vincent Price made a career of it) while providing some rather rare brutal killings in a 50's movie. Price is brilliant as usual.
Check out the moment when Agnes Moorhead mentions that the Bat is looking for money and that it's probably in the house. Price knows where the money is (talked about early on so no plot spoil) and his eyes lilt ever so slighty when Moorhead talks about it. A great subtle moment from a great actor.
The story itself has lots of room for tension and intrigue, and it makes best use of it as the film is constantly intriguing, and many scenes, particularly the ones involving the menacing bad guy, are filled with suspense. The film is at it's best when 'the bat' is on the prowl, and features several lovely shots of the fiend poking his arm through various crevices in the house.
The house is, as we discover along the way, riddled with various traps and secret passages in true haunted house style, and it adds to the inventiveness and effectiveness of the movie. The film gives the twist away far too early, however, and it kind of spoils the ending as it turns out that, logically, there's only one person who the bat could possibly be. It doesn't really matter though, as the film is always a lot of fun and if you're a fan of Vincent Price (and who isn't?!), or just classic horror movies, in general.
The entire 26-film collection are: The Bat – 1959 – Vincent Price; Before I Hang – 1940 – Boris Karloff; The Black Room – 1935 – Boris Karloff; The Boogie Man Will Get You – 1942 – Boris Karloff; Creatures the World Forgot – 1971 – Brian O’Shaughnessy; The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb – 1964 – Ronald Howard; The Devil Commands – 1941 – Boris Karloff; Die! Die! My Darling! – 1965 – Donald Sutherland; Five – 1951 – William Phipps; The Gorgon – 1964 – Christopher Lee; House on Haunted Hill – 1959 – Vincent Price; The Jackals – 1967 – Vincent Price; Last Man on Earth – 1964 – Vincent Price; The Mad Magician – 1954 – Vincent Price; The Man They Could Not Hang – 1939 – Boris Karloff; The Man Who Turned To Stone – 1957 – Victor Jory; The Man With Nine Lives – 1940 – Boris Karloff; Maniac – 1963 – Kerwin Mathews; Never Take Candy From a Stranger – 1960 – Patrick Allen; The Revenge of Frankenstein – 1958 – Peter Cushing; Scream of Fear – 1961 – Christopher Lee; Shock – 1946 – Vincent Price; The Snorkel – 1958 – Peter van Eyck; Stop Me Before I Kill! – 1961 – Ronald Lewis; The Terror of the Tongs – 1961 – Christopher Lee; and The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll – 1960 – Christopher Lee.
This is a series of Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Hans Zimmer: Live in Prague'
(Hans Zimmer / Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / Eagle Vision)
Overview: Hans Zimmer is one of the most successful film music composers working today. This concert was filmed on May 7th, 2016 in Prague during Hans Zimmer's hugely successful European concert tour.
Blu-ray Verdict: As noted above, Hans Zimmer is truly one of the most world renowned film music composers of our time. Indeed, since the 1980s, he has composed music for over 150 films.
His works include, but are of course not limited to, The Lion King, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1995, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Thin Red Line, Gladiator, The Last Samurai, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk, and Blade Runner 2049.
This stunning 'Hans Zimmer: Live in Prague' concert was filmed on May 7th, 2016 in Prague during Hans Zimmer's hugely successful European concert tour. Hans was accompanied by a band, orchestra and choir, 72 musicians in total, including legendary guitarist Johnny Marr of The Smiths.
1. Medley: Driving (Driving Miss Daisy) / Discombobulate (Sherlock Holmes) / Zoosters Breakout (Madagascar)
2. Medley: Crimson Tide / 160 BPM (Angels And Demons)
3. Gladiator Medley: The Wheat / The Battle / Elysium / Now We Are Free 4. Chevaliers De Sangreal (The Da Vinci Code)
5. The Lion King Medley: Circle Of Life (Prelude) / King Of Pride Rock (reprise)
6. Pirates Of The Caribbean Medley: Captain Jack Sparrow / One Day / Up Is Down / He's A Pirate
7. You're So Cool (True Romance)
8. Rain Man: Main Theme
9. What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World (Man Of Steel)
10. Journey To The Line (The Thin Red Line)
11. The Electro Suite (themes from The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
12. The Dark Knight Trilogy Medley: Why So Serious? / Like A Dog Chasing Cars / Why Do We Fall? / Introduce A Little Anarchy / The Fire Rises
14. Interstellar Medley: Day One / Cornfield Chase / No Time For Caution / Stay
15. Inception Medley: Half Remembered Dream / Dream Is Collapsing / Mombasa / Time
The staging was spectacular with a ground breaking light show, stunning visuals, and a state of the art sound system. As the show plays through, it's quickly brought to the fore that Hans Zimmer performs on multiple instruments, adding to his already-massive musical accomplishments.
Giving introductory insights to many of the pieces during the concert, from the very start with the trio of medleys from Driving Miss Daisy, Sherlock Holmes and Madagascar, on through the stunning Pirates Of The Caribbean medley, at ending with a spectacular Inception medley, each and every chaptered moment of this performance is simply breathtaking.
I honestly don't think you could ever find a much better musical presentation of Zimmer's work that this live show. It is incredibly moving, the compositions flashing you immediately back to the movies, to their specific scenes, with each orchestral maneuver.
On stage, the entire orchestra is performs as the top if their game, their talent and passion fort he project apparent and obvious. Indeed, every single musician and performer on display plays their heart and soul out.
Which is why 'Hans Zimmer: Live in Prague' is a real and genuine treat for lovers of both great musical compositions and great movies.=, in general. This is a Widescreen Presentation featuring a beautiful 1080p High Definition and 16:9 Audio LPCM Stereo Dolby Atmos sound, trust me when I say that your Blu-ray players have never witnessed anything quite like this before - nor have you, I'd hazard a guess.
'Westworld: Complete First Season 4K Ultra HD'
(Sir Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / TV-MA / 2016-17 / HBO - Warner Bros.)
Blu-ray Overview: Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, explore a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged without consequence.
DVD Verdict: Before we begin the review, let's start by acknowledging the INCREDIBLE, brighter, deeper, more lifelike color that these 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays bring forth, each and every time. For they are, well, INCREDIBLE and truly allow you to see things that the generic Blu-ray vision simply cannot. I mean, the color alone on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc - which comes as a six-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 BD-66) - is just so crisp, so clear, so crystal.
For those that wish to be in the know, let's break down some of the geeky stats, shall we. This is a Codec: HEVC / H.265, with a Resolution: 4K (2160p), and an overall Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1. The Audio is English: Dolby Atmos + English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 + Spanish: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 + French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1, and the Subtitles are: English SDH, French, and Spanish.
Finally, and leaving the best for last, this 4K Ultra HD movie experience means that we have a 4X sharper picture image than regular HD, HDR (High Dynamic Range) means we get brilliant brights and deepest darks within the film, and with Immersive Audio, we get that multi-dimensional sound experience throughout.
OK, on to the actual show review and, well, let's face it, who doesn't like or even simply love the original TV show starring Yul Brynner. I mean, come on now, that 1973 Gunslinger character was embeded within my psyche from the moment it aired on our screens; but did you know that cleverly "hidden" in a moment Yul Brynner easter egg in episode 6 of this new version? You didn't, well, I won't be giving it away here, so go and retrace your visual steps and you'll be amazed and what you missed!
Anyway, moving on, as is exactly what this brand new version of 'Westworld' has kinda gone and done (and with a much bigger production budget, of course), at first glance 'Westworld' proposes an idea similar to the one of 'Jurassic Park' - the action takes place in a huge amusement park 'theme' in which visitors are invited to live in the past the different sensations of everyday experiences of the Wild West.
From the first minutes of the first series viewers will realize that 'Westworld' is maybe a theme park, but one in which consumers will not go along with families and children. It is recreated here in a landscape that recalls the films of Henry Ford's Wild West, populated by male robots who engage in dueling pistols that they will always lose in the fight with the park's customers and female robots that will satisfy every desire and sexual fantasy of the payers of tickets.
Anthropomorphic robots (androids) are provided with all devices that emulate human physiology and the software that put into motion include the emotions of a man, with one limitation - their memory is scheduled to be deleted and permanently regenerated every morning the sun rises on a blue sky together with reinforced scenarios and biographies of each of the robots.
Overnight maintenance crews restore the physiological damages of pistol duels or axes battles in which the robot Indians were killed in the last day or psychological trauma of sexual abuses that have undergone female robots. That, of course, until programs start functioning poorly, and perfect memories are not erased from one day to another.
Malfunctioning (or in technical terms "bugs") of the programs which animate the androids is one of the favorite themes of science fiction sub-genre that deals with relations between robots and humans in the near future. But it is interesting to examine the prospect of dealing with these problems in programming. See for example the Swedish series "Real Humans'.
As in the Scandinavians series, a programming mistake or a portion of code introduced intentionally in the history of the program and hid until at some point, give androids capabilities that were hitherto categorized among those traits that differentiate the robots people.
They fall into two groups - imperfect erasure of memory that allow robots to recover - even fragmentary - past experiences or personal history to overcome threats; and emotional abilities that grant independence feelings beyond pre-programmed scenarios. In these circumstances are born the premises of the species conflict between androids and humans.
As the action progresses the world of 'Westworld' is becoming increasingly complex, the questions multiply, dilemmas become more acute. Some of the characters have become not only familiar, but begin to populate the universe until I become part of their world.
The series benefits from the interpretation of some of the known world cinema actors. Anthony Hopkins is Dr. Robert Ford, the brain who conceived this world, the Creator who gives birth to new characters and manipulates the lives and destinies of androids that are already in action. His assistant is Bernard Lowe (played by Jeffrey Wright) who faces a personal drama and an identity crisis. Ed Harris is the Man in Black - evil character and one of 'consumers' of Westworld.
The two female characters / Androids are Dolores (ingenue actress Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton) and both are emotional and produce counterpoints - though very different - while engaging in a process of discovering their own identities. Feminist ideals take an extra dimension, it is about the conflict of authority and social relations of the 19th century women combined with subordination of robots to humans.
Not everything is clear in this action series. Many questions are asked, few are answered about about the evolution of the artificial intelligence technology, about the dangers improvement of improving robots to receive human emotions, about their identity and rights. I'm sure many surprises expect us in the next season(s), but one sure thing can already be said. 'Westworld' is a mirror of our world.
And, once again, watching it all on this 4K Ultra HD it truly is amazing to see everything unfold from the old Wild West in front of you. Even watching all the crystal clear special features is rather delightful in this manner, with one of the stand outs being "Welcome to Westworld" Featurette. At just over two minutes long, and with a haunting piano backbone, it tells the story of what to expect perfectly.
Another truly stunning stand out is the "Imagining the Main Title" Featurette, combined with the "The Key to the Chords" Featurette, as they both showcase the aforementioned, and sublime main title theme from 'Westworld', composed by Ramin Djawadi.
"An Invitation to the Set", where it's showcased that "classic western meets science fiction" is, perhaps my favorite of the bunch included. With Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrhams at the mutual helm, 'Westworld' was always going to have some major league clout to it, but this Invitation slides neatly in between the lines and allows us to view more of what to expect than has already been proffered us. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) containing all 10 episodes of the first season enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Realizing the Dream: First Week on the Set of Westworld
Imagining the Main Title
The Key to the Chords
Welcome to Westworld
Crafting the Narrative
An Invitation to the Set
About the Series
Reality of A.I.: Westworld
"The Big Moment" Featurettes
'Masterpiece: The Durrells in Corfu - Season 2'
(Keeley Hawes, Josh O'Connor, Milo Parker, et al / 2-Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Based on naturalist Gerald Durrell's trilogy of novels, this charming and hugely popular series returns to follow the further adventures of the eccentric Durrell family as they embrace life on the gorgeous Greek island of Corfu.
Blu-ray Verdict: This sophomore series sees sparky English widow Louisa Durrell and her brood continue to put down roots in their dilapidated rented house, alongside an ever-increasing menagerie of animals brought home by youngest son Gerry.
Doing their best to settle into the community, they must earn enough money to pay their aggressive new landlady Vasilia, who sees Louisa as a love rival for charming playboy Hugh.
With the help of Spiro and Theo, the Durrells resort to selling typical British produce at the market. But accidentally poisoning the locals might not be the best way to start a new business?
For this second series, writer Simon Nye seemed to think his screenplay for these already beloved stories, needed to be updated from the more realistic 1930's Corfu to a more overtly out-of-place 'modern' 1930's Corfu.
The characters come across as too liberated for this era and often quite aggressively annoying. No longer are we seeing life unfold from a child's eyes (as the perspective of the books) but from an all too modern 'mothers' perspective.
The first three episodes directed by Steve Barron were enjoyably bearable but episode 4 directed by Roger Goldby falls over its own modernity and, like most made for TV serials, introduces stereo typical characters and situations lifted out of far too many other similar programs.
The longer some TV series are allowed to run the more predictable and uninteresting they all too often become. Viewers who just like to watch formulaic stories may not even notice this, but from the string of other reviews posted for this one - it seems I'm definitely not the only one who felt let down.
Personally, I won't be looking forward to continuing with what would have been better left as a movie (or maybe two) before it killed itself off. The locations are good and some will enjoy this version but, purists might not persist. That said, these are all my own viewpoints, and as much as there are delightful scenic moments wove throughout, the fact still remains that this TV show is a flat out insult to the memory of Gerald Durrell.
Oh, and as for Keeley Hawes, she is an actress of supreme talent, and whether she's playing the tough cop Lindsay Denton from Line of Duty, or the Home County's finest here, she excels beyond belief, each and every time. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Day In the Life
Gerry And The Animals
Going To Market
Series 1 Recap
'Masterpiece: Poldark - Complete Third Season'
(Aidan Turner, Jack Farthing, Kyle Soller, Heida Reed, Eleanor Tomlinson, et al / 3-DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: 1794: War and the revolution in France hang over Britain. In Cornwall, George Warleggan grows his empire with a view to crush the Poldarks while Ross and Demelza attempt to keep the peace and repair their relationship at Nampara.
DVD Verdict: OMG! You don't have to find some mysterious stones to touch to go back in time to the 18th century. Just experience 'Poldark' on a good TV and good sound system, and you'll BE there. From the stunning Cornwall scenery, to the careful attention to detail in the interior sets and locations, to costumes that range from the ragged to the rich, to the glorious music, this show is as good as the original - if not better!
Oh, and their wonderful choices for casting, especially the brilliant Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark, means that this production has proved to be satisfying for people who have never seen the 70's version or read the novels it is based on; as well as those who have done either or both.
Aidan's portrayal gives us a fascinating Ross who is warmer and easier to like than he is in the books, the first of the 12-book saga having been written 70 years ago. By the end of this first series, we care deeply about what happens to him and everyone close to him. The villains are diabolical, of course, excellently played by their respective actors, while the love story between Ross and Demelza, played beautifully by Eleanor Tomlinson, is incredibly compelling.
Here in the lush third season, it's now 1794. War and the revolution in France hang over Britain. In Cornwall, George Warleggan grows his empire with a view to crush the Poldarks while Ross and Demelza attempt to keep the peace and repair their relationship at Nampara.
However, the arrival of Demelza's brothers disturbs the fragile truce and Ross must ask himself how long he can allow George's ascent to continue unchecked. Facing battles both at home and abroad, will Ross answer the call and risk losing everything he holds dear?
Compelling drama from start to finish, and oh boy, that Cornish scenery, let alone Turner's shirtless moments (!), 'Poldark' is a morality tale for today with the "haves and have nots", nouveau riche poseurs, moral courage in the face of poverty and loss, and most importantly, as we discover, in sickness and death.
In closing, this is a beautiful history and love story. The story, scenery and acting is so great, so believable for the time period, and all brought together not only by some truly magnificent acting, but spot on scripts also. I forgot to acknowledge Jack Farthing (George Warleggan), but his portrayal of a most ruthless character showcases just what an incredible actor he is also.
By jove, he keeps this TV show exciting and interesting (if it ever dips into substandard fare, which so far has not happened once, of course)! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Roscoff Rescue (4:05)
Production Design with Jeff Tessler (2:30)
Costume Design with Howard Burden (3:19)
Make-up and Hair Designer (Pippa Woods) (2:30)
The Women in Poldark (2:59)
Favourite Locations (1:41)
Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark) (3:32)
Eleanor Tomlinson (Demelza Poldark) (3:03)
Demelza and Hugh Armitage (3:26)
Drake and Morwenna (3:53)
George and Elizabeth (2:04)
'Anne of Green Gables - The Good Stars'
(Ella Ballentine, Sara Botsford, Martin Sheen, et al / NR / DVD / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: True to the beloved classic that has enchanted fans across the world for over a century, L.M. Montgomery's 'Anne of Green Gables - The Good Stars' brings to life a further story of the determined, spirited little girl who touches the lives of everyone she meets.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Anne of Green Gables is a 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (published as L. M. Montgomery). Written for all ages, it has been considered a children's novel since the mid-twentieth century.
It recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in Prince Edward Island. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way with the Cuthberts, in school, and within the town.
Sure it has been made into TV movies and such many times before, but here in this brand new release from PBS, well, that time-told story have now been evolved into a brand new chapter.
As she did in last years remake of the original, Ella Ballentine does another superb job a bringing her character of Anne to life. She as well can lead an audience in any direction and not disappoint in any way or form. A human firecracker in the making and an array of feelings that will bring you back to childhood with a convincing connection, that's for sure.
Sarah Botsford also returns, and does another awesome job with her character. Her ways of motherhood and friend locks you into her character and takes you for a ride that will for sure not only get you thinking, but I actually was hoping for acceptance from her character as if she was my own mother.
Also returning is the lovable Martin Sheen, whose character blends in so naturally, so seamlessly that you forget while watching that it's a movie. Indeed, he brings a kind of beloved kindred spirit performance to the audience. I mean, for sure, if there were ever a dad figure you would want to grow up with, it would be with Matthew Cuthbert.
In this newest chapter of the original setting, Anne Shirley is thirteen years old and finds that life in Avonlea is never simple. Anne's bosom friendship with Diana Barry is put to the test when Anne begins to spend more time with Gilbert Blythe.
And when Matthew's health begins to slide, he implores Anne to keep it secret because he doesn't want Marilla to worry. Anne struggles with her promise, but in the end, she confesses the truth to Marilla and must then wrestle with the burden of her betrayal to Matthew.
Torn between her free-spirited nature and her own perceived need to become sensible, Anne finds that the journey toward her goal is fraught with confusion and more than a few unfortunate yet amusing mishaps in 'L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables The Good Stars.'
You will not be disappointed with this movie for it is a great Sunday movie to watch with your family or friends. Just be ready to shed the odd tear or two! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'NOVA: Eclipse Over America'
(NR / DVD / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: On August 21, 2017, millions of Americans witnessed the first total solar eclipse to cross the continental United States in 99 years. As in all total solar eclipses, the moon blocked the sun and revealed its ethereal outer atmosphere - its corona - in a wondrous celestial spectacle.
DVD Verdict: The solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, dubbed "The Great American Eclipse" by the media, was a total solar eclipse visible within a band across the entire contiguous United States, passing from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.
As we join scientists and citizens alike as they observe the first total solar eclipse to traverse the US mainland in more than a generation here on 'NOVA: Eclipse Over America', we learn that no solar eclipse had actually been visible across the entire contiguous United States since June 8, 1918.
Indeed, not since the February 1979 eclipse had a total eclipse been visible from anywhere in the mainland United States. The path of totality touched 14 states, and the rest of the U.S. had a partial eclipse. The area of the path of totality was about 16 percent of the area of the United States, with most of this area over the ocean, not land.
This totally fascinating documentary showcases the fact that the event's shadow began to cover land on the Oregon coast as a partial eclipse at 4:05 p.m. UTC (9:05 a.m. PDT), with the total eclipse beginning there at 5:16 p.m. UTC (10:16 a.m. PDT); the total eclipse's land coverage ended along the South Carolina coast at about 6:44 p.m. UTC (2:44 p.m. EDT).
Visibility as a partial eclipse in Honolulu, Hawaii began with sunrise at 4:20 p.m. UTC (6:20 a.m. HST) and ended by 5:25 p.m. UTC (7:25 a.m. HST).
While hordes of citizens flocked to the eclipse's path of totality, scientists, too, staked out spots for a very different reason: to investigate the secrets of the sun's elusive atmosphere.
'NOVA: Eclipse Over America' takes great strides to discover those facts. Indeed, during the eclipse's precious seconds of darkness, they gathered new clues on how our sun works, how it can produce deadly solar storms, and why its atmosphere is so hot.
NOVA investigates the storied history of solar eclipse science, and joins both seasoned and citizen-scientists alike as they don their eclipse glasses, tune their telescopes, and behold the Eclipse Over America. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Visions of New York City'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: From Wall Street to Washington Heights, down Fifth Avenue, over bridges, and across the grid, 'Visions of New York City' celebrates the irresistible attraction of the little island that has captured the hearts of millions and sparked countless lifelong love affairs.
DVD Verdict: In truth, this whole 'Visions ..' series from PBS is quite unlike anything that I've quite seen before of this ilk! Visiting a collection of already-beautiful, stunning even cities is one thing, but to do it all from the perspective of above us, allowing for a much wider outlook to the tight streets and cramped market places, is just profoundly magnificent.
So a hearty bravo to PBS and whomever came up with this idea as it was a complete and utter doozy of one, that's for sure. Here in 'Visions of New York City', the city has long been a symbol of the American Dream and the first stop for immigrant families for generations - and in modern times the symbol of America's continuing strength.
This vivid film offers striking views of New York: the harbor from Lady Liberty's perspective; Central Park as the birds experience it; the crucifix architecture of St. Patrick's Cathedral as intended from the heavens; neighborhoods from the Lower East Side, Little Italy, Chinatown, Harlem and the Upper West Side, and more. Aerial and ground footage highlight the city's iconic images, boundless energy, and enduring allure.
Running at 55 minutes, the overall imagery, music score and narration are top-notch throughout and the stories they tell are ones that, perhaps, you weren't even aware of yourselves. A beautiful panorama of New York's attractions and tourist areas, this wondrous new PBS documentary is a must view if you eve have reservations about visiting the 'Big Apple'.
This latest edition to the whole Visions catalogue is a great, and unique one and I hope you'll love it as much as I did. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: Take a journey through paradise, from the timeless plazas of Old San Juan, around the island and back again, using the lighthouses at the four corners of the island as transition points.
DVD Verdict: In truth, this whole 'Visions ..' series from PBS is quite unlike anything that I've quite seen before of this ilk! Visiting a collection of already-beautiful, stunning even cities is one thing, but to do it all from the perspective of above us, allowing for a much wider outlook to the tight streets and cramped market places, is just profoundly magnificent.
So a hearty bravo to PBS and whomever came up with this idea as it was a complete and utter doozy of one, that's for sure. Here in 'Visions of Puerto Rico', everything you wanted to know about the island is here, beautifully capture, and wonderfully presented by Rita Moreno.
'Visions of Puerto Rico' features aerial and ground footage shot in high-definition with the latest technology; informative narration about the island's rich history, architecture and lush natural beauty; and a soundtrack of local favorites including the omnipresent chirp of the tiny coqui frog.
Running at 55 minutes, the overall imagery, music score and narration are top-notch throughout and the stories they tell are ones that, perhaps, you weren't even aware of yourselves. The cinematography is breathtaking and the personal stories help students make a human connection with the Caribbean people.
The best-known holidays and traditions are mentioned in an entertaining manner and given the fact that it's nearly an hour long, and very all-encompassing, one assumes that it would also be a great introduction for individual presentations on the Caribbean's rich culture and history.
This latest edition to the whole Visions catalogue is a great, and unique one and I hope you'll love it as much as I did. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Beguiled' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital / R / 2017 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Overview: From acclaimed writer/director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) comes an atmospheric thriller that unfolds at a secluded girls' boarding school in Civil War-era Virginia.
When a wounded Union soldier, Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell), is found near the school, he's taken in by its headmistress, Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman). As the young women provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries when McBurney seduces several of the girls.
Blu-ray Verdict: Sensibly crafted, patiently narrated and brimming with sexual tension at all times, 'The Beguiled' is a sophisticated example of restrained film making that envelops its tale with an uneasy atmosphere, is brilliantly steered by Sofia Coppola, and is thoroughly shepherded by strong performances from its committed cast.
Taking place in a Southern girls' boarding school during the American Civil War, the story of 'The Beguiled' is set into motion when one of the girls finds a wounded Union soldier in the woods and brings him to the house. As the ladies tend to his injuries & provide him refuge until he recovers, they start vying for his attention and affection.
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, the story is approached with both confidence and composure as Coppola takes her time to add more depth to the characters, and unfolds the plot in an unhurried fashion. The dense ambiance and slow pace do provide an immersive quality to the picture but there are also moments interspersed with sudden intensity.
The script packs well-defined characters but the story still needed a bit more refinement, for some moments linger on for longer than required while the finale lacks that extra punch. Cinematography is pitch-perfect as its muted color palette and low-light photography not only amplify its bleak aura but also add a Gothic touch and hint of sinister to its images.
Production design team does well to provide an authentic touch to its timeline and setting, and their work is wonderfully assisted by the era-appropriate costumes. Editing is a mixed bag, for the slow pace is fitting here yet there are a few scenes it could've done without. Sound is finely utilized and makes sure that the ongoing war's presence remains in the vicinity while Phoenix contributes with a complementary score.
Coming to the acting department, 'The Beguiled' features a talented cast in Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, and they are all effective in their given roles. Kidman delivers a sharp input, Farrell portrays both the kind and cruel side of his character with ease, Dunst chips in with a subdued performance, Fanning's seductive role is just as interesting but it's the chemistry between them that remains the film's major highlight.
On an overall scale, 'The Beguiled' takes a slow, methodical approach in bringing its tale to life but it's gripping and technically polished throughout, and is a solid addition to Sofia Coppola's filmography. What benefits it most is the smart, subtle and seductive performances from its cast and the palpable sexual tension that permeates its thick atmosphere. What it lacks, however, is that ingredient which makes a good film great but even without that, 'The Beguiled' makes up for a fascinating viewing. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
A Shift in Perspective
A Southern Style
Digital Copy of The Beguiled (2017)
'Sting - Live at The Olympia Paris' [Blu-ray]
(Sting / Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / Eagle Vision Entertainment)
Overview: From acclaimed writer/director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) comes an atmospheric thriller that unfolds at a secluded girls' boarding school in Civil War-era Virginia. When a wounded Union soldier, Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell), is found near the school, he's taken in by its headmistress, Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman). As the young women provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries when McBurney seduces several of the girls.
Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the know, although they must rank in the far and few between, Sting (aka Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, CBE) is an English musician, singer, songwriter and actor.
He was the principal songwriter, lead singer, and bassist for the new wave rock band the Police from 1977 to 1986, and also launched a massively successful solo career in 1985.
Sting’s 57th & 9th World Tour celebrates his first rock/pop album in more than a decade. This concert, filmed at the Olympia Paris in April 2017, reflects the impulsive energy of the 57th & 9th album recording sessions and brings with it live cuts fro some of his most historic musical past.
Sting is joined onstage by a 4-piece band including his longtime guitarist, Dominic Miller, Josh Freese (drums), Rufus Miller (guitar) and Percy Cardona (accordion), with backing vocals from Joe Sumner plus Diego Navaira & Jerry Fuentes of Warner Music Nashville recording artists, The Last Bandoleros.
Blu-ray Track Listing:
1. "Synchronicity II"
2. "Spirits in the Material World"
3. "Englishman in New York"
4. "I Can't Stop Thinking About You"
5. "One Fine Day"
6. "She's Too Good for Me"
7. "I Hung My Head"
8. "Fields of Gold"
9. "Petrol Head"
10. "Down, Down, Down"
11. "Shape of My Heart"
12. "Pretty Young Soldier"
13. "Message in a Bottle"
14. "Ashes to Ashes"
16. "Walking on the Moon"
17. "So Lonely"
18. "Desert Rose"
19. "Roxanne" / "Ain't No Sunshine"
20. "Next to You"
21. "Every Breath You Take"
Bonus Features: STING & JOE SUMNER
1. "Heading South On The Great North Road" JOE SUMNER
2. "Looking For Me, Looking For You"
3. "Don't Change The Love"
4. "Jellybean" THE LAST BANDOLEROS
6. "River Man"
7. "Take Me To It"
8. "I Don’t Want To Know"
9. "Where Do You Go?"
As the darkened stage and arena suddenly give way to the well know opening to "Synchronicity II", the roar of the crowd and the appearance of Sting and his band members alone is enough to make you realize that filming this show was one of the best ideas anyone has ever had.
Featuring en masse of stunningly orchestrated performances of new songs from his most recent release, 59th & 9th along with classics from his days with the Police and solo work, and showcasing his range with some different musical styling of songs that have influenced through the years, the 16-time Grammy winner is on fire here.
Dressed super casual, as usual, Sting takes the power behind that first Police song and continues it onward with the brilliant "Spirits In The Material World", before he brings the tone right down via a sextet of mid tempo melodies and low tempo ballads: "Englishman in New York," "I Can't Stop Thinking About You", "One Fine Day", "She's Too Good for Me", "I Hung My Head", and "Fields of Gold".
Adding another new track to the live show in "Petrol Head", in between that and "Pretty Young Soldier" we get both "Down, Down, Down" and the lush "Shape of My Heart". Another blast from the Police past comes in the form of the heartfelt "Message in a Bottle", before one of the highlight of the night, for me, at least, comes to the fore. His version of David Bowie's iconic "Ashes to Ashes" is simply one of the major highlights of the whole show, and he backs that up, after another new track ("50,000"), with his own iconic hit singles, "Walking on the Moon" and "So Lonely".
A beautiful "Desert Rose" is yet another highlight of the show, and that's backed by the double act medley of "Roxanne" / "Ain't No Sunshine", before the vibrant "Next to You" is performed. Always a pleasure to hear, "Every Breath You Take" is up next, and then the night rounds out after the second encore on a quiet note with the delightful "Fragile". Waving, thanking the crowd with his hand gestures, he leaves the stage, but not before bidding adieu to his audience with an “Au Revoir and Merci”.
Complete with bonus material that features 9 performances from Sting and special guests, Joe Sumner and The Last Bandoleros, 'Sting - Live at The Olympia Paris' [Blu-ray] is the complete package for all fans of his throughout the entire world. Of that, come Christmas, have no doubt. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Atomic Blonde' [4K Ultra HD]
(Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Bill Skarsgard, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2017 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
4K Ultra Blu-ray Overview: Oscar winner Charlize Theron explodes into summer in 'Atomic Blonde', a breakneck action-thriller that follows MI6’s most lethal assassin through a ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and double-crossing hives of traitors.
DVD Verdict: Before we begin the review, let's start by acknowledging the INCREDIBLE, brighter, deeper, more lifelike color that these 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays bring forth, each and every time. For they are, well, INCREDIBLE and truly allow you to see things that the generic Blu-ray vision simply cannot. I mean, the color alone on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc (1 BD-50, 1 BD-66) is just so crisp, so clear, so crystal.
For those that wish to be in the know, let's break down some of the geeky stats, shall we. This is a Codec: HEVC / H.265, with a Resolution: 4K (2160p), HDR10, Layers @ BD-66, and an overall Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1. The Audio is English: Dolby Atmos + English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 + Spanish: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 + French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1, and the Subtitles are: English SDH, Brazilian Portuguese, French Canadian, French European and Latin American Spanish.
Finally, and leaving the best for last, this 4K Ultra HD movie experience means that we have a 4X sharper picture image than regular HD, HDR (High Dynamic Range) means we get brilliant brights and deepest darks within the film, and with Immersive Audio, we get that multi-dimensional sound experience throughout.
OK, on to the actual movie review and, wow, what an INCREDIBLE movie this truly is! And as we quickly discover, even a Cold War can have rising temperatures. When fighting is no longer televised, it usually runs amuck in the undergrounds. Soldiers trade in uniforms for wires, and ammunition for information. When terrorism hides, spies dance. Loraine waltzes cautiously through a town split by an iron divide. She was sent to extract hard data, but then again maybe she wanted to come here all along.
Loraine has a kiss of death and many suitors. Being a maiden of her own will, she protests aggressively and has the skills to resist. High heels become lethal in her palms, and lipstick doubles as urban camouflage. She is a student of her environment and commissions the most unlikely weapons.
Her partner, David, passes from being reluctant to being obstructive. She acknowledges his handsome operations, but barks at his careful composure. A tedious game of cat and cat ensues, and claw marks rip into each other's confident facades.
Espionage unfolds like a cracking ice sheet on a pond. Very slow all the way until the critical moment, then all the weak points sojourn to the barrier's demise. Loraine watches this deterioration, sunk at the bottom of the pond. She is in the information business, and her competitors have caught all the gossip. Her battered bones attest to brutality of discovering intel a moment too late.
In this foreign pool of entropy, she entwines herself with Delphine, a poet turned informant. Delphine speaks in prose, but observes in stanzas. Rarely enthused, Loraine is tackled by this woman's fearless ignorance. They find themselves wrapped in a mortal coil, a professional love with ulterior motives. Even the purest connection must be scrutinized when your head contains lethal secrets.
Privileged knowledge breeds death. "Top secret" folders are the plagues of elitism. Chairmen look for red flags, but their agents have painted their entire existence red. Uncertainty is a government's biggest fear, and their employees carry out terrorism in the name of obscurity.
Besides how the movie is made and how good the actors are, there is another main character that gains the audience attention: the music. Pure '80s music that will take you to your childhood or to a previous life, or if you weren't alive then, you wish you had been. You won't be able to replay the songs one after another in your head or in your Spotify list.
In closing, 'Atomic Blonde' is a really enjoyable movie, that now is getting some copycats. A movie that will let you forget about everything else and will make you want to travel back in time into Cold War Berlin to have some adventures of your own. Best of all, we can smell a sequel on its way, so let's hope is as good as the original one. Which, by the way, is based in a comic, so there is a background for it, ready and waiting.
And, once again, watching it all on this 4K Ultra HD it truly is amazing to see everything unfold in front of you. Even watching all the crystal clear special features is rather delightful in this manner, with one of the stand outs being "Welcome to Berlin" (HD, 4:33) which takes us behind the scenes of how they built the sets and made the feel of the movie locked into the perfect spy era of the Cold War time.
Another greatly informative on is "Blondes Have More Gun" (HD, 7:01) where we watch Theron being put through her paces by her stunt co-coordinator and so much more. Chock full of action and fight choreography, all lovingly brought to us by the 87eleven fight team, what Theron goes through to get this character right is unbelievable. Three months of training with these guys showcases that come the end, just before filming began, Theron's use of choreographed brutality and athleticism is beyond a joke impressive.
Another one is that then follows on from that last featurette is "Anatomy of a Fight Scene" (HD, 7:52), where Director David Leitch talks about the one long action fight sequence take that he has wanted to do on film for most all his directing life. And, trust me, once you have seen it, uncut and in all its glory, you'll appreciate how much time and effort went into the set up of it, let alone the three days it took to get that one shoot perfect! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, and with both this 4K Ultra HD and the standard Blu-ray edition featuring the same Special Features of:
Deleted/Extended Scenes (HD, 7:23)
Welcome to Berlin (HD, 4:33)
Blondes Have More Gun (HD, 7:01)
Spymaster (HD, 4:18)
Anatomy of a Fight Scene (HD, 7:52)
Story in Motion (HD) - "Agent Broughton" (2:16) and "The Chase" (1:38)
Feature Commentary (HD) - A feature length audio commentary with Director David Leitch and Editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir.
(Antonio Banderas, Olga Kurylenko, Mark Valley, Ben Cura, et al / Blu-ray+Digital HD / R / 2017 / Lionsgate Films)
Overview: When vacationing in Chile, an aging and pampered rock star's (Antonio Banderas) supermodel wife is suddenly kidnapped by renegades. Unable to navigate more than ordering a sandwich from room service, now he must take to the backstreets of Santiago in this hilarious caper that is as entertaining as it is hair-raising.
DVD Verdict: OK, to be fair, these days you either love or hate Antonio Banderas' films (much like those of Steven Seagal and Wesley Snipes, to be quite frank). Back in the day he was leaner, meaner, more into a lot more real action stunts, but after laying low on the film front for the past few years, Banderas is back - and straight into your living rooms.
But oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! In one of the most bizarre moves that I've seen from a movie producer and director, let alone the casting people behind the project, Banderas is terribly miscast here as an aging BRITISH rocker! With an accent that flirts in and out the entire movie, 'Gun Shy' does admittedly have some moments of genuine coolness, but all too often they are overshadowed by complete and utter, and excruciatingly bad jokes, one-liners or, well, that whole accent thing again!
Packing into it's taut frame enough comedy with enough enjoyable moments to just keep its head above water within this review, much of it plays out as if the filmmakers threw material at the wall each morning just to see which bits stuck and which fell to the floor to be swept away. Me thinks the wrong bits were swept away sometimes though, for the script itself might have worked with a real British actor in place, but leaks too fast, too soon with Banderas and his on-off again version.
As for that script, while vacationing in Chile, his wife Sheila (Olga Kurylenko) is kidnapped by a group of fishermen looking to get some money for their poor village. The million dollar ransom is not the issue if they can get the inept US government representatives from interfering.
Enter Banderas, who plays in a rock band called Metal Assassins with their hit song "Teenage A** Patrol." Seriously? Anyway, of course he sets out to save his wife, and along the way suffers prat falls, indignity at the hands of a dog, throws "BRITISH" around as if he actually knows what they mean, and falls foul of a well overused amount of beer humor.
In closing, and to make this as abundantly clear as I can, Banderas' character Turk Henry is like Inspector Jacques Clouseau or Johnny English without the powers of deduction or the fearless dedication or indomitable spirit; ie: all idiot without the savant. Banderas does an outstanding job with what he's given, fair enough, save for the accent I'll give you that, but the character seems less than fully developed. Waaaay bloody less! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:
'The Rock Star, the Pirate, and the Cast of Gun Shy
'Just Who I Can Be' - Music Montage
'To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma'
(Magma / DVD / NR / 2017 / Citrus Pie Online Inc.)
Overview: 'To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma' is a tribute to one of the greatest bands that ever existed!
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, it's always best to start from the beginning. Magma are a French progressive rock band founded in Paris in 1969 by classically trained drummer Christian Vander, who claimed as his inspiration a "vision of humanity's spiritual and ecological future" that profoundly disturbed him.
In the course of their first album, the band tells the story of a group of people fleeing a doomed Earth to settle on the planet Kobaïa. Later, conflict arises when the Kobaïans—descendants of the original colonists—encounter other Earth refugees.
Vander invented a constructed language, Kobaïan, in which most lyrics are sung. In a 1977 interview with Vander and long-time Magma vocalist Klaus Blasquiz, Blasquiz said that Kobaïan is a "phonetic language made by elements of the Slavonic and Germanic languages to be able to express some things musically. The language has of course a content, but not word by word."
Vander himself has said that, "When I wrote, the sounds [of Kobaïan] came naturally with it. I didn’t intellectualise the process by saying 'Ok, now I’m going to write some words in a particular language', it was really sounds that were coming at the same time as the music."
Later albums tell different stories set in more ancient times; however, the Kobaïan language remains an integral part of the music.
Here in 2017, the Kickstarter project 'To Life, Death and Beyond - The Music of Magma' has been lovingly brought forth by both the band and the enormous monetary backing of their fans.<>
The feature film explores one of the most visionary and innovative music of the last 50 years, Magma, sure, but it goes a lot deeper than that, trust me. Featuring a beautiful amount of archive footage, the DVD couldn't have even happened without the amazing work and tenacity of Stella Vander. Who, in addition to having been the lead female singer for Magma since the mid-seventies, is also managing the band now.
Through an in-depth interview of Christian Vander at his home conducted by Laurent Goldstein who has been a friend for over 40 years, testimonials from fans all over the world, musicians and old footage, the film is a passionate journey into the mystery of this timeless music, extraordinary band and its visionary leader Christian Vander.
'To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma' is quite unlike anything that I've ever sat down to review. Not my musical cup of tea to begin with, I put it on to try and grasp just what all the fuss was about, and boy, did I get quickly locked into this documentary.
Inclusive of that aforementioned in-depth interview of Christian Vander at his home by Laurent Goldstein, this engrossing feature film from the French director is truly one for the ages. A massive two years in the making, and a complete and total labor of love for Goldstein, to document this phenomenon known as Magma was a passion project above all others. And aided by Kickstarter donations, that finished project is out now and ready for you to invest you time and money in.
Featuring, amongst others, Christian Vander, Stella Vander, Didier Lockwood, Klaus Blasquiz, Patrick Gauthier, Simon Goubert, Laurent Thibault, Francis Maze, Dominique Bertram, Robert Trujillo, Jello Biafra, Trey Gunn, Morgan Agren, Julie Vander, Jean-Luc Chevalier, Jean-Pierre Vivante, Jean-Christophe Alluin, Davin Goudie, Jerome Martineau, Herve Aknin, Benoit Alziary, Sergio Sanchez-Ravelo and Paco Casanova, 'To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma' is executive produced by Jennifer Unruh, edited by Frederique Remy, and written and directed by Laurent Goldstein.
'Mario Lanza: The Best of Everything'
(Mario Lanza / DVD / NR / 2017 / Film Rise)
Overview: Mario Lanza was the world's most famous tenor, bigger than Pavarotti, Carreras or Domingo. His voice was from God, but within ten years of fame and success he was dead. This stunning film traces the legend that was Lanza.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the complete know, Mario Lanza was an American tenor of Italian ancestry, and an actor and Hollywood film star of the late 1940s and the 1950s.
Passing away at just 38 years-old, Lanza began studying to be a professional singer at the age of 16. After appearing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1947, Lanza signed a seven-year film contract with Louis B. Mayer, the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who saw his performance and was impressed by his singing.
Prior to that, the adult Lanza had sung only two performances of an opera. The following year (1948), however, he sang the role of Pinkerton in Puccini's Madama Butterfly in New Orleans.
'Mario Lanza: The Best of Everything' is a really fascinating documentary that, I for one, didn't know about 90% of. It covers all the above along with the fact that his film debut for MGM was in That Midnight Kiss (1949) with Kathryn Grayson and Ethel Barrymore.
A year later, in The Toast of New Orleans, his featured popular song "Be My Love" became his first million-selling hit. In 1951, he played the role of tenor Enrico Caruso, his idol, in the biopic The Great Caruso, which produced another million-seller with "The Loveliest Night of the Year" (a song which used the melody of Sobre las Olas). Indeed, The Great Caruso was the top-grossing film that year.
The title song of his next film, Because You're Mine, was his final million-selling hit song. The song went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.
After recording the soundtrack for his next film, The Student Prince, he embarked upon a protracted battle with studio head Dore Schary arising from artistic differences with director Curtis Bernhardt, and was eventually dismissed by MGM.
Not to run his history much more deeply for you guys here now, just know that this 82 minute documentary was written, produced and directed by Alan Byron of Screenbound Entertainment, a group actually specializing in biopics of various musical personalities.
It features interviews with his daughter Elissa; contemporary musicians, including tenors Joseph Calleja and Gianluca Terranova; and rare archival concert footage of Lanza, Maria Callas, Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and features the official 'Mario Lanza: The Best of Everything' trailer.
(Lea Lumanog, Aira Joy Jubilo, Lerma Coronel, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Film Rise)
Overview: Taking us into the heart of the planet's busiest maternity hospital, the viewer is dropped like an unseen outsider into the hospital's stream of activity.
DVD Verdict: The planet's busiest maternity hospital is located in one of its poorest countries: the Philippines. There, women face devastating consequences as their country struggles with reproductive health policy and the politics of conservative ideologies.
Director, Producer and Writer Ramona S. Diaz's humbling 'Motherland' (which won a Sundance Special Jury Award for “Commanding Vision") shines a readily, and immediate light on The Jose Fabella Hospital, Philippines. Boasting what they reckon is the world’s single busiest maternity unit, with as many as 100 births a day, 'Motherland' is eyeopening, to say the least.
As for why it finds itself in that position, well, that's explained simply by informing you that these mothers are all mostly poor, Catholic, and unemployed. Already burdened with several children, and no real solid place to turn for birth control, it seems that getting pregnant (aka "having fun") is about the only thing to do in this area of the world.
Not that 'Motherland' runs the gamete of mostly young girls/women, for they actually follow a handful of primary women during their overlapping hospital stays. One is a woman who, if only for a few moments, manages to lose her baby, whilst others include stories about of the men in these women's lives that cannot afford to make the trip to the hospital each day.
And the there's Lerma. An older lady with a whiplash tongue, it takes many a conversation with her before she even agrees to a tubal ligation after seven children. But, just when you, the viewer think you've accomplished something alongside the nurses, Lerma suddenly has a change of heart and the whole deal's off again.
Her newborn still suffering from pneumonia, they cannot stop her. And therein lies the heartbreak side of this documentary for as much as the nurses and doctors are all on top form, giving their all for these women, at any given time it can blow up in their face - and the only person it hurts is the mother.
Filmed in a tight, crisp manner, and obviously not rushed in its scope of time filmed, 'Motherland' is enlightening and devastating in equal measures; but always riveting and heartfelt. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and features the official 'Motherland' trailer.
'The Secret Life of Lance Letscher'
(Lance Letscher / DVD / NR / 2017 / Film Rise)
Overview: A documentary from frequent Richard Linklater collaborator and Oscar-nominated editor Sandra Adair, who has cut Linklater’s films from Boyhood to Dazed And Confused, 'The Secret Life of Lance Letscher' is a personal and psychological portrait of Letscher; an internationally known (and Austin-based) visual artist.
DVD Verdict: This quite brilliant feature documentary follows Austin-based, internationally-known, collage artist Lance Letscher as he makes a major transition from his intricately designed paper collage work to the medium of metal for a large public art piece.
Following Lance into his studio and environs around Texas - gathering metal, cutting, contemplating - the journey seeks to unveil this intense and quirky character, whose passion for collecting, and seeing potential in the seemingly antiquated, is as fascinating as his densely layered pieces that are shown in galleries and museums worldwide.
We also get to learn along the way that Letscher has been commissioned to create a large metal mural for the side of South Congress Books, in the trendy area for Austin arts and tourism. Lance will tackle the challenge much like he does his paper pieces, by gathering materials from unlikely sources to create a familiar palette in an unfamiliar medium.
Hoping to create a metal collage that speaks to the old as well as the new and which reflects the spirit of Austin, tagging visually along like this as a viewer is truly, totally and utterly enthralling.
Oscar-nominated editor Sandra Adair, the award winner may well be making her directorial debut on 'The Secret Life of Lance Letscher', but has enjoyed an ongoing artistic collaboration with film director Richard Linklater.
Having edited 18 films for him over the past 22 years, some of which include the cult classic Dazed and Confused, the 2012 comedy Bernie and the critically acclaimed Before trilogy, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, and Boyhood, their mutual respect and solid working relationship shines through here on every frame. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and features the official 'The Secret Life of Lance Letscher' trailer.