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Saturday, February 28, 2015
After reviewing season DVDs for series such as "The Love Boat" and "Hotel", I've discovered that certains shows I wouldn't have been caught dead watching when they were new are now strangely entertaining in an "I Love the 70s" kind of way. They're just as cheesy (to put it mildly), just as poorly-made, and just as dumb, but watching them now through cheese-colored glasses somehow makes them magically entertaining in their own weird way.
One show that perfectly embodies this phenomenon is showcased in the new Warner Bros. Home Entertainment 5-disc, 23-episode DVD set CHiPS: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON. I never watched a single episode of "CHiPS" during its original run (1977–1983) because I always had something better to do (I was basking in the revelries of my wild youth, after all) or at least something better to watch. Now, however, I have plenty of time to sit back, relax, and savor the whiz-bang Cheeto-flavored exploits of these totally unrealistic motorcycle cops to my heart's content.
All teeth, hair, and muscles, cycle cops Frank "Ponch" Poncherello (Latino ladies' man Erik Estrada) and Jon Baker (WASP-y beach boy Larry Wilcox) are the epitome of benignly uber-macho hunks of beefcake with hearts of gold. This helps them deal with all the screwed-up guest stars they encounter on the freeways of So-Cal and juggle their different subplots until the big lugs are able to straighten everything out by episode's end.
One thing's for sure--this show couldn't be any more 70s if it tried. And I'm talking bad 70s, which, of course, are now good 70s, at least in a so bad it's good type of way. For example, the two-part season premiere (titled, incredibly, "Roller Disco") revolves around a big beachfront roller-disco bash so that we can enjoy plenty of slow-motion bikini babes on wheels doin' their thang.
Of course, roller skates are relevant in other essential ways as well. The powerhouse team-up of Jim Brown (THE DIRTY DOZEN) and Fred "The Hammer" Williamson (FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) is totally squandered on a goofy subplot in which they play petty smash-and-grab thieves on skates. Helena Kallianiotes, the spacey chick from FIVE EASY PIECES and the Raquel Welch roller epic KANSAS CITY BOMBER, is also on hand as their leader, with hidden pop-out wheels built into her platform shoes to help her cover their escape after each job.
The big cliffhanger at the end of part one is Fred's stuntman in an aerial freeze-frame during a skate jump over a flight of steps while fleeing from an off-duty Ponch, who also happens to be wearing skates. (I'm not making any of this up--it's all documented right here on the DVD.) A pesky kid ups the "aww" factor by initially wanting emulate the thieves before turning over a new leaf and helping the good guys. Yay!
Meanwhile, more 70s goodness is exuded from our TV screens with Leif Garrett playing a "rock star" (uh-huh) exhausted by the grueling schedule laid down by his manager, played by "The Bob Newhart Show" and "I Dream of Jeannie" vet Bill Daily. Leif seeks refuge from the world in Jon's apartment, which just doesn't work out for a number of reasons but allows him to do lots of great Leif Garrett acting and, well, just being Leif Garrett.
Not only that, but a giggling Larry Linville (Frank Burns of "M*A*S*H") and the great Larry Storch ("F Troop", "Ghost Busters") are getting revenge on tailgaters by riding around the freeway with a special back-mounted rig that spews sparks on anyone who gets too close and causes them to have spectacular slow-motion traffic accidents for our entertainment while Linville (in a neck brace) cackles maniacally. Who could ask for more?
But there's plenty more, because the grand finale of this epic two-parter is a celebrity-packed roller boogie party featuring not only Leif Garrett lip-synching one of his worst songs ("Give In"), but also a ton of familiar faces from 70s TV. This stellar roster includes such faves as Todd Bridges, Dana Plato, Earl Holliman, Lee Meriwether, Jo Ann Pflug, Melissa Sue Anderson, Michael Cole, Ruth Buzzi, Antonio Fargas, George Peppard, and several others. Talk about going for broke!
Subsequent episodes continue with the usual meat-and-potatoes production values, bland acting, and simple plotlines that are sometimes reminiscent of those "message" stories from the old "Shazam!" live-action series on Saturday mornings. The main cops never draw their guns, and most of the action comes from frequent chase scenes accompanied by the endless "thump-thump-thump" of generic disco music (by, of all people, future ace movie composer Alan Silvestri), with tons of stunt driving and metal-grinding car crashes (filmed mainly on not-yet-finished freeways) to satisfy our lust for destruction porn.
In "Valley Go Home!", a beach turf war between surfer dudes and Latinos from the valley ("Vals") is handled diplomatically by Ponch and Jon (at one point Ponch barks, "Can the feud jive, guys!") while the cops also try to solve a series of thefts in which CB radios and 8-track tape decks are being stolen out of parked cars, a delightfully dated reference. And even with all that, they manage to get romantically involved with some bikini babes who take them catamaran sailing.
"High Octane" features big-time gasoline thieves during the famous gas shortage of the 70s, while "Counterfeit" and "Hot Wheels" are self-explanatory. "Death Watch", one of the show's rare somber episodes, is about the death and funeral of a fallen cop. This is the show where Christopher Stone and Dee Wallace first met before becoming one of Hollywood's most enduring married couples.
"Return of the Super-Cycle" finds Jon going after a stunt-cycle-riding jewel thief on a specially-built cycle of his own. During filming on this one, Erik Estrada was injured and had to spend several episodes in a hospital bed while Jon rode with various other partners including their easygoing boss, Sgt. Getraer (Robert Pine).
Other semi-regular characters include Randi Oakes as Officer Bonnie Clark, Brodie Greer as Officer Barry Baricza, Paul Linke as Officer Arthur "Grossie" Grossman, Lou Wagner as nerdy, fastidious motorcycle mechanic Harlan Arliss, and future "Star Trek: The Next Generation" star Michael "Worf" Dorn as Officer Jebediah Turner. Most episodes end on a "funny" gag, often at the expense of Officer Ponch (even "Death Watch"), followed by the old laughing freeze-frame.
The show is rife with "spot the familiar face" guest stars such as Andy Robinson (DIRTY HARRY), Ralph Meeker, Michelle Pfeiffer, William Smith, Anne Lockhart, Andrew Duggan, Billy Barty, Mark Slade, Martin Kove, Anne Ramsey, Bruce Glover, Brion James (BLADE RUNNER), Leon Isaac Kennedy, Simon Oakland, Don Mitchell, Billy Green Bush, Angel Tompkins (LITTLE CIGARS), William Schallert, Ellen Geer, Timothy Carey, Jayne Kennedy, Edd Byrnes, Morgan Woodward, Ron Soble, Paul Nicholas (TOMMY), and Joan Freeman (PANIC IN YEAR ZERO, THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT).
Some of the series' directors include Don Weis (PAJAMA PARTY), Gordon Hessler (THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, THE OBLONG BOX), and even co-star Larry Wilcox, who helmed the episode "Tow-Truck Lady."
Here's the complete list of 24 one-hour episodes in the set:
Roller Disco, Part I
Roller Disco, Part II
Valley Go Home
Return of the Supercycle
Drive Lady Drive - Part I
Drive Lady Drive - Part II
The Watch Commander
Jailbirds (in which Ponch and Jon end up behind bars themselves)
Tow Truck Lady
The 5-disc DVD set from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is in standard full-screen format as originally aired, with Dolby Digital soundtracks in English and Japanese and subtitles in English, Japanese, and French. No extras save for an episode guide inserted into the keepcase.
Genial buddy-cop fun, miles of mindless action and crunched cars, a little of the old "jiggle" here and there, really bad disco, and, occasionally, some actual realistic police work--CHiPs: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON has it all. Betcha can't watch just one!
Buy it at the WBShop.com
Own "CHiPs: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON" on March 3rd.
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 12:33 AM
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
BLU-RAY MUSICALS COLLECTION -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle (THE BAND WAGON/ CALAMITY JANE/ KISS ME KATE/ SINGIN' IN THE RAIN)
Bursting with glorious Technicolor and boasting an array of Hollywood's finest and most beloved musical stars, the four films in Warner Bros. Home Entertainment's new 4-disc set BLU-RAY MUSICALS COLLECTION (available March 3rd)--THE BAND WAGON, CALAMITY JANE, KISS ME KATE, and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN--are a treasure trove for fans of the genre.
And if you have yet to discover that most unique of film genres, this is an ideal starting point from which to begin an in-depth exploration--four of the best in all their Blu-ray splendor (both the 3D and 2D versions of KISS ME KATE are included), attractively packaged in a rigid page-turner slip case splashed with photos from the films, and loaded with extras (included four collectible stills).
THE BAND WAGON (1953)
Cyd Charisse, although often seen as a slinky seductress (as in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and THE BAND WAGON'S own elaborate finale), was also a graceful ballet dancer at heart and could put those long, willowy limbs of hers to use in the most elegant fashion. She was, to me, rivaled only by Esther Williams as the most beautiful of musical stars.
Here, the emphasis is on pure song-and-dance numbers and big-production indulgence splashed in vivid Technicolor--"musical porn", one might say--with a slender plot to hang it all on. Astaire plays washed-up Hollywood actor Tony Hunter, who has returned to New York in hopes of getting work on Broadway. His writer friends, married couple Lily and Lester Marton (an ebullient Nanette Fabray and endearingly grumpy Oscar Levant acting as surrogates for writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green), introduce him to eccentric producer Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan), who plunges Tony into the lead role of his grievously ill-conceived musical version of "Faust."
The play is a disaster, but while still on the road all the participants decide to totally overhaul it into a splashy, fun romp with all-new songs and dance numbers which they'll try out on the road before taking it back to New York. And aside from the requisite love story, with Astaire falling for the initially aloof primadonna Charisse while she still carries a fading torch for someone else, that's the extent of the plot--just a dazzling succession of unrestrained musical exuberance that lives up to the film's signature theme song, "That's Entertainment."
With Vincente Minelli (MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS) at the helm and a gaggle of delightful songs by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, watching THE BAND WAGON is like savoring a slice of seven-layer cake washed down with bubbling champagne. It's the classic backstage musical, with even the "real-life" settings coming off like stylized stage backdrops and a story that never takes itself too seriously--at least after Cyd's glum would-be boyfriend Paul (James Mitchell) makes an early exit.
Astaire's melancholy opening number "By Myself" (look for actor Steve Forrest as an extra) gives way to a colorfully idealized Times Square setting for the breezy "Shine On Your Shoes", a delightful romp in which the downcast Tony Hunter lifts his own spirits with the help of his fellow New Yorkers. Tony and Gaby (Cyd Charisse) overcome their initial stylistic and personality conflicts with a sleek, romantic dance interlude in Central Park to "Dancing in the Dark."
Cordova's "Faust" debacle yields some fun moments, but it's when the troup decide to bounce back with a newer, better show under Tony's direction that the fun really starts. The always dynamic Charisse performs "New Sun in the Sky", Fabray's talents are showcased in "Louisiana Hayride", and Astaire and Buchanan duet on the simple but sweet soft-shoe ditty "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan." For pure hilarity, nothing beats the sight of Astaire, Fabray, and Buchanan as babies with adult heads and infant bodies (a wonderful illusion), bounding out of their high chairs to pound out the supremely silly "Triplets."
The extended stage-show-within-the-movie ends with a lengthy Mickey Spillane-style segment entitled "Girl Hunt", with Astaire as a private detective named Rod Riley dancing his way through the shadowy criminal underworld in search of mystery woman Charisse. (Look for a young Julie Newmar in a bit part.) The whole thing's way too complicated and cinematic to be a stage number, but we don't really care since, aside from being just plain nutty, it's a thrilling performance by the leads with some of their most jazzy and sophisticatedly sexy dancing yet.
Naturally, everything turns out okay in the end, with all romantic and showbiz-related complications settled just in time for the cast to reprise "That's Entertainment!" with renewed vigor. As a story, the whole thing's paper thin and loaded with all the old "let's put on a show!" cliche's that could be stuffed into it. But neither Vincent Minelli, Fred Astaire, nor anyone else involved let any of that stop them from turning THE BAND WAGON into a non-stop celebration of music and dance that has become one of the most beloved musicals of all time.
In addition to a bubbly commentary track by musical experts Liza Minelli and Michael Feinstein (who rate this as their favorite musical), there are two lengthy and informative documentaries--"Get Aboard! The Band Wagon" and "The Man Who Made the Movies: Vincent Minelli", the latter featuring Minelli himself commenting on his own brilliant career along with copious footage from his films. Then there's a 1929 Vitaphone short with a young Jack Buchanan doing some vaudeville-style comedy with the Glee Quartet, the delightful MGM Droopy cartoon "Three Little Pups", and a trailer.
CALAMITY JANE (1953)
The film hits the ground running with Doris Day's rousing opening number, "The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away!)", in which she sails into town riding shotgun on the stagecoach and then makes her way into the saloon-slash-theater "The Golden Garter" to regale all her friends with tall tales of her latest exploits.
Doris Day is a hoot playing a blonde, female version of Gabby Hayes who, as the film progresses and she acquires a few wardrobe and makeup refinements, gradually reveals her true hidden beauty to her stunned male friends including Howard Keel's "Wild Bill" Hickock.
Keel is his usual tall, oak-solid self with a singing voice as deep as the ocean. Philip Carey is adequate though a tad nondescript as dashing cavalry officer Lt. Daniel Gilmartin. The rest of the cast is populated by a delightful assortment of motley Western types along with Dick Wesson as tenderfoot actor Francis Fryer from back East (who must perform in drag when the Golden Garter's owner accidentally books him as a female performer). Keep a sharp eye out for Glenn Strange and Bess Flowers in bit parts as well.
Allyn Ann McLerie, who would later play a matronly schoolmarm in the John Wayne classic THE COWBOYS, makes a wonderful transition from shy, homely maid to ravishing dancehall singer as Katie Brown. When Calamity travels to Chicago to ask sought-after beauty Adelaid Adams to perform at the Golden Garter, she mistakes Miss Adams' maid Katie for the famous singer and fetches back her instead.
The nervous Katie's true identity is quickly revealed during her disastrous debut performance, but with Calamity's prompting the rowdy audience gives her a second chance and, with renewed self-confidence, she wins them over on her own.
While the first half of the movie is an endlessly frothy fountain of fun, the second threatens to bog down in romantic plot complications when the four main characters--Calamity, Bill, Katie, and Danny--all fall in love with the wrong people. Fortunately, the film is carried along by some genuine heartfelt sentiment (mainly through song) before bursting forth with the requisite happy-ending vibes as everyone gets paired up like we know they're meant to be.
The songs by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster are just plain delightful. In addition to the exhilarating "The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away!)", Doris gets to perform such toe-tappers as "Just Blew in from the Windy City", "A Woman's Touch" (with Allyn Ann McLerie), and her duelling duet with Keel, "I Can Do Without You." I'd forgotten that the Billboard chart-topper "Secret Love" originated from this show, so it was to my very pleasant surprise to hear Doris' beautiful rendition of it late in the film.
Keel solos on the love song "My Heart Is Higher Than a Hawk (Deeper Than a Well)" and McLerie gets two onstage numbers, "Hive Full of Honey" and "It's Harry I'm Planning to Marry", while displaying one of the shapeliest pairs of gams you're likely to see in quite a spell. A reprise of the film's opening number takes us into the feelgood fadeout with a goofy smile on our faces and a renewed appreciation for the divine Dodo.
Not much related to the movie besides a couple of brief newsreels and a trailer. In addition to that, there's an amusing Joe McDoakes short, "So You Love Your Dog" (1953), with George O'Hanlon (the future voice of George Jetson) and a stunning blonde Phyllis Coates, and the vintage Daffy Duck-Porky Pig cartoon "Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a Half Century" with guest star Marvin the Martian.
KISS ME KATE (1953)
The movie begins in the penthouse of Broadway actor and director Fred Graham (Howard Keel) who invites Cole Porter (Ron Randall) and his volatile ex-wife Lilli (Kathryn Grayson) over to look at a new script he wants to produce which is a musical version of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." What we're in for, as you might guess, will be a stage production which will parallel in many ways the temptestuous relationship and eventual reconciliation of Fred and Lilli, with plenty of song and dance numbers squeezed in along the way.
Just as this first section begins to drag a bit, Ann Miller (playing a dancer with the unlikely name of Lois Lane) comes in and blows the doors off the place with an incredible solo performance of "Too Darn Hot" that sets the bar high for the rest of the film. There was just never anything like her that I've ever seen in any musical--unlimited charm, energy, and blazing talent coupled with a seemingly insatiable desire to show it off. Not to mention an utterly uninhibited, sexy charm that you simply don't see every day.
Her appearances throughout the film are like B-12 shots that enliven and invigorate things whenever Howard and Kathryn's mildly amusing romantic conflicts grow a tad tiresome. Joining her in this is athletic hoofer Tommy Rall as her unreliable boyfriend Bill, another dynamo whose powerful dancing is augmented by gymnastic moves.
Bill, we find, is a gambling addict who tends to sign Fred's name to his I.O.U.'s, resulting in Fred being visited by a couple of thugs named Lippy and Slug who are played by the unlikely song-and-dance team of Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore. When they refuse to leave until they're paid, Fred gets them into costume and puts them into the show, which gives KISS ME KATE some of its more endearing comedy relief.
The stage production itself tends to slow things down when too much attention is paid to actually doing bad Shakespeare. However, things pick up when Fred and Lilli's personal problems start to get played out during the performance.
Most of Cole Porter's songs are top-notch as usual, as is the choreography by Hermes Pan. The sets are attractive and photographed in vivid Technicolor. Filmed in 3D (but released as the fad began to wane and thus distributed mostly in 2D), the action is filled with people throwing things at the camera throughout the entire running time. The cast is terrific, including small parts by "Pete Smith" regular Dave O'Brien, Kurt Kasznar, and Ann Codee, who was "Tante Berthe" in THE MUMMY'S CURSE.
Highlights include Keel and Grayson's duets on songs such as "So in Love" and "Wunderbar", Keel's solos on "Were Thine That Special Face", "I've Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua", and "Where Is the Life That Late I Led", and a couple of delightful numbers by Ann Miller and Tommy Rall, "Why Can't You Behave" and "Always True to You in My Fashion." Wynn and Whitmore even get into the act with their two-left-feet schlubfest "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." Grayson's main moment in the show, which the shrewish Lilli performs with conviction, is the song "I Hate Men."
For the lengthy showstopper number "From This Moment On", which comes before the story's inevitable happy ending, director George Sidney treats us to Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Bob Fosse, Bobby Van, and Carol Haney in a dazzling exhibition of dance in which they were allowed to incorporate much of their own personal style into the choreography. This is one of the most thrilling sequences in the film and, among other things, reaffirmed my newfound admiration for Ann Miller. (I can't wait to see my old favorite ON THE TOWN again in which she co-stars with the likes of Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Vera-Ellen, and Jules Munchin.)
While not as fresh and fun as SINGIN' IN THE RAIN or as sophisticated and insouciant as THE BAND WAGON, KISS ME KATE still remains one of old Hollywood's most solid, lavish, enjoyable musicals from the glory days of MGM.
Ann Miller hosts the documentary "Cole Porter in Hollywood: Too Darn Hot", followed by the short film "Mighty Manhattan: New York's Wonder City." Also included are a hilarious 1951 MGM cartoon "Barney's Hungry Cousin" and the film's trailer.
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952)
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN comes about as close to creating a colorful explosion of pure, undiluted joy as a movie can get. Basically a "jukebox" musical--that is, a collection of already-existing song favorites written (mostly) by producer Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown which have nothing to do with each other besides being fortuitously inserted into the same story--it's a labor of love in which co-directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly teamed up to make sure the music and dance numbers were intertwined seamlessly with the narrative and staged in the most artistic and gloriously cinematic style possible.
The handsome, charismatic Kelly, who shows off his robustly masculine, athletic style in a succession of wild yet precise song-and-dance workouts, plays silent film idol Don Lockwood. We see him starting out in vaudeville along with his lifelong buddy Cosmo (Donald O'Connor) before becoming a lowly Hollywood stuntman and finally graduating to stardom along with ditzy blonde Lina Lamont, who believes the publicity about their torrid romance even though he can't stand her. Don, meanwhile, has become smitten with a cute aspiring actress named Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), who intially feigns aloofness even though she's secretly a big fan of his.
Wildly comical self-parody abounds as this big Hollywood production pokes fun at big Hollywood productions such as Don and Lina's corny silent epics. An early highlight is a typical gala premiere where the faux couple display their artificial "lofty artist" personas for an adoring crowd. But with the release of the surprise smash sensation THE JAZZ SINGER, silents are out and "talkies" are suddenly all the rage, throwing the studios and their stars into a chaotic scramble to give the public what they want.
Several real-life silent stars such as Garbo's leading man John Gilbert found their careers on the rocks when their voices proved inadequate for sound. Such is Lina's problem when it turns out her grating accent and horrendous diction threaten to make her a laughing stock on the screen. Oscar-nominated Jean Hagen (PANIC IN YEAR ZERO) is hilarious in the role, as in frazzled director Roscoe Dexter's (Douglas Fowley) vain attempts to master the new art of sound recording during a florid love scene in which Lina doggedly refuses to speak into the hidden microphone.
The solution? Hire Kathy Selden to dub both Lina's speaking and singing voices and then turn Don and Lina's latest silent picture into a musical, "The Dancing Cavalier." But while this arrangement is meant to be only temporary, Lina demands that Kathy henceforth secretly do all of her dubbing, and nothing else, thus derailing Kathy's own promising career.
While all this is going on--which we know will eventually work itself out in wonderful and amusing ways--Kelly, O'Connor, and Reynolds are working overtime to give us the best show that the film medium has to offer. The results, under the direction of stern, uncompromising choreographer/taskmaster Kelly, are nothing less than incredible.
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN bursts forth with song at the slightest provocation, yet it never seems less than spontaneous or perfectly fitting for the occasion. Don and Cosmo's breathless vaudeville montage "Fit as a Fiddle (And Ready for Love)" is just a warm-up for their screamingly funny precision dance duet "Moses Supposes" as well as O'Connor's absolutely astounding solo sensation "Make 'Em Laugh", a whirlwind of frenetic energy which he ends by literally running up the walls. It's one of the most astonishing physical performances in any musical, ever.
Debbie gets into the act with the delightfully breezy "Good Morning", which shows how impressive a dedicated song-and-dance novice can be with Gene Kelly as her tutor. While the number was obviously an ordeal to get just right, these three make it seem effortless. With "You Were Meant For Me", Kelly emphasizes the artifice of filmmaking by having Don stage an impromptu love song for Kathy in an empty studio soundstage complete with wind machine and painted backdrop. It's an elegant moment amidst the frivolity.
Still moreso is Kelly's dazzling movie-within-a-movie, "Broadway Melody Ballet", a lengthy interlude in which he plays an ambitious young hoofer arriving in town looking for stardom, only to be seduced and then discarded by a gorgeous goodtime gal played to perfection by she of the long legs and slinky shape, Cyd Charisse. Their dance incorporates several styles from jazz to ballet, all of it mesmerizing.
But most memorable of all is Gene Kelly's immortal "Singin' in the Rain" sequence, in which the lovestruck Don expresses his boundless feelings for Kathy by singing and dancing gleefully down a dark city street in the middle of a downpour. It's one of cinema's most endearing expressions of pure, uninhibited optimism, made all the more impressive by the knowledge that Kelly performed it that day with a raging fever of 103 degrees.
One of the best things about SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is that the story of Hollywood's painful transition from silents to talkies is fun and entertaining on its own, while serving as an ideal vehicle for the seemingly unrelated songs--most already decades old, including the 1929 title tune--which are somehow perfectly incorporated into it. It's a giddy, affectionate, super-charged celebration of song, dance, movies, romance, and sheer joy.
The main extra here is a commentary featuring Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman (who plays Lina's harried vocal coach in the film), Stanley Donen, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, filmmaker Baz Luhrman, and film author/critic Rudy Belmer. This is followed by the feature-length documentary "Singin' in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation", in which current song and dance stars talk about how the film has influenced and inspired them. A jukebox feature allows viewers to create their own playlists of songs from the film. The original trailer is also included.
Buy it at the WBShop.com
Own "BLU-RAY MUSICALS COLLECTION" on March 3rd. KISS ME KATE, CALAMITY JANE, and THE BAND WAGON will also be available as singles.
KISS ME KATE is presented here in both 3D and 2D versions. This is the Blu-ray debut of THE BAND WAGON and CALAMITY JANE.
(Images used in review are not taken from the Blu-ray discs)
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 10:59 PM
Monday, February 23, 2015
Can the desert summon the dead?
ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT PRESENTS THE FESTIVAL SENSATION
Awakening to Blu-ray™ and DVD April 15
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – An official selection of the New York City International Film Festival and FilmQuest Film Festival, winning Best Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Director honors, the highly anticipated supernatural thriller Echoes arrives on Blu-ray™ and DVD April 15th from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The feature directorial debut of Nils Timm (who also wrote the screenplay), Echoes explores the murky realm between reality and dreams, and what could happen when these worlds collide. With a stellar cast including Steven Brand ("Teen Wolf," The Scorpion King), Kate French (Channeling, "Gossip Girl," "One Tree Hill"), Billy Wirth ("Chicago P.D.", The Lost Boys) and Steve Hanks (12/12/12, Hold Your Breath), Echoes will have viewers guessing until the final fade-out! SRP is $26.99 for the Blu-ray™ and $22.98 for the DVD, with pre-book on March 11th.
Struggling with horrifying, sleep-paralysis induced visions, Anna (French), a young writer, retreats with her boyfriend (Brand) to an isolated yet beautiful glass house in the desert. Hoping that the desert vistas surrounding her will spur her creative juices, she welcomes the opportunity to stay behind when her boyfriend must return to the city for urgent business.
However, Anna’s sleep paralysis does not abate, despite the calming environment. And now, her attacks are accompanied by a mysterious figure, caked with dirt as if it was made of sand itself. As the visions intensify, she finds herself on the verge of losing her mind...or is she being lead to uncover a life-threatening secret?
About Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment is a leading home entertainment company. Anchor Bay acquires and distributes feature films, original television programming including STARZ Original series, children's entertainment, anime (Manga Entertainment), fitness (Anchor Bay Fitness), sports, and other filmed entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray™ formats. The company has long term distribution agreements in place for select programming with AMC Networks, RADiUS, and The Weinstein Company. Headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, Anchor Bay Entertainment has offices in Troy, MI, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Anchor Bay Entertainment (www.anchorbayentertainment.com) is a Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) business, www.starz.com.
Street Date: April 15, 2015
Pre-book: March 11, 2015
Cat. #: BD62841
UPC: 0 1313 262841-7
Run Time: 88 minutes
Format: Widescreen (2.40:1) 1080p
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Street Date: April 15, 2015
Pre-book: March 11, 2015
Cat. #: DV62815
UPC: 0 1313 628815-8
Run Time: 88 minutes
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.40:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Buy it at Amazon.com:
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 9:33 AM
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Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 8:56 AM
Friday, February 20, 2015
THE FRANK DARABONT COLLECTION -- Blu-ray review by Porfle (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION/ THE MAJESTIC/ THE GREEN MILE)
Checking his IMDb credits, I was shocked to find that, while a prolific producer and writer, Frank Darabont had only helmed a total of four features. In fact, if you added 2007's THE MIST and his 1983 Stephen King short story adaptation "The Woman in the Room", then Warner Brothers' new 4-disc Blu-ray set THE FRANK DARABONT COLLECTION would serve as a complete overview of his career as a big-screen director.
As it is, though, we get three of his most important films--THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE MAJESTIC, and THE GREEN MILE--in all their Blu-ray splendor, attractively packaged (in a rigid page-turner slip case adorned with photos from the films) and loaded with extras.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)
When I first heard that a movie was being made from Stephen King's novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" I figured that the short, somewhat sketchy story would have to be heavily padded out to make an entire feature. Darabont proved otherwise by augmenting King's prison yarn in ways that were a deeply satisfying enhancement to the original material, and then turning THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) into an engrossing, visually and emotionally rich cinematic experience that few who have seen it will ever forget.
The story involves a brilliant young banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) unjustly convicted and sentenced to life for the murder of his wife and her lover. Aging lifer Red (Morgan Freeman) gradually forms a grudging respect for Andy due to his quiet perserverance and refusal to be cowed or dehumanized by the prison system, which is embodied by a hypocritical warden (Bob Gunton as Warden Norton) and the brutally sadistic guard Capt. Hadley (Clancy Brown).
Andy becomes an invaluable resource to his jailers when he starts doing their tax returns for them and helping the warden launder all the money he's skimming from various illegal endeavors. But whenever he steps out of line by asserting his basic humanity, he's slapped down hard. This comes to a head when a new inmate (Gil Bellows) who may have information about the true killer of Andy's wife is murdered by the warden and Hadley.
After this, it appears as though Andy, who has become something of a heroic inspiration to his fellow convicts, has finally been beaten down and demoralized. There even comes a point in which they and we fear he's on the verge of suicide.
But the beleagered and embittered Andy Dufresne has a trump card up his sleeve, one which he's been holding for several years until just the right time to play it. And when he does, it leads to one of cinema's most dazzling and satisfying examples of comeuppance and righteous revenge, not to mention the exhilarating redemption promised by the title.
Proving himself a consummate screen artist, Darabont presents this story with the richest period production design and cinematography that the viewer could wish for and populating it with a cast filled with great A-list and character actors, each of whom seems inspired by his role.
Robbins is keenly attuned to what makes Andy Dufresne tick, letting us see both the sharply-perceptive intellect and deep emotions beneath the character's sometimes aloof manner. As Red, Freeman (whose character provides the film's soulful narration) expresses wisdom, melancholy, and an aching remorse for the crime he committed as a youth, and we're glad when Andy is able to instill in him--as well as the other prisoners--a feeling of hope after years of despair.
Darabont contrasts this with the frequent brutality of prison life, including Andy being beaten and raped by the monstrous Bogs (Mark Rolston of ALIENS and ERASER) and "The Sisters" while being subjected to lengthy stays in solitary confinement whenever he courts the warden's displeasure. A particularly sad interlude occurs when an old, institutionalized con named Brooks (played by the great James Whitmore) is released against his wishes and finds himself half a century behind the times in a world that's completely alien to him.
Yet even at its darkest THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION doesn't revel in graphic violence or ugliness for its own sake. Darabont displays admirable taste and restraint, relying on his rock-solid screenplay to convey what is needed while filming it in a beautifully classical, deliberate style that takes its time and eschews such things as shaky-cam and attention-deficit editing.
The actual prison location is remarkable. The abandoned complex, filmed shortly before a date with the wrecking ball, looks almost like a medieval castle, while Darabont's team has worked their movie magic with the interiors. The vast, specially-built cell block that houses our main characters is worthy of a Ken Adam 007 set.
Among those familiar faces adding their acting talents to the project are William Sadler (the main bad guy from DIE HARD 2, later to appear in Darabont's THE GREEN MILE), Jeffrey DeMunn (THE GREEN MILE, THE MAJESTIC), Larry Brandenburg (FARGO's Stan Grossman), Neil Guintoli (MEMPHIS BELLE), David Proval ("The Sopranos"), Jude Ciccolella (SIN CITY), and Paul McCrane (ROBOCOP, THE BLOB, "ER").
While stuck with a title that didn't exactly draw people into theaters or encourage positive word-of-mouth (nobody could remember it), THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION overcame initial bad box office and a seven-nomination strikeout at the Oscars to become one of the most popular home video and cable-TV favorites of all time. (As of this writing, it's voted #1 by members of the Internet Movie Database.) Redemption indeed, both in the film's heartrendingly upbeat ending and in real life as well.
Commentary by Writer/Director Frank Darabont
Hope Springs Eternal: A look Back at The Shawshank Redemption
Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature
The Charlie Rose Show Segment Featuring Darabont, Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman
Comic Spoof The Sharktank Redemption
Stills and Collectibles Galleries
With THE MAJESTIC (2001), Frank Darabont dives all the way into the deep end of the nostalgia pool and wallows in cloying sentiment to the point of going under.
Throwing subtlety to the wind, the formerly restrained director indulges an apparent penchant for smarm while his first non-Stephen King effort ultimately morphs from a would-be tearjerker into a heavy-handed message film--a fantasy Hollywood wish-fulfillment tale in which our main character, emitting gleaming waves of Capra-esque integrity while wielding the Constitution like Captain America's shield, bucks the nasty government bad guys to a standing ovation during a HUAC hearing.
Jim Carrey divests himself of his usual mega-farcical persona and goes serious as ambitious hack screenwriter Peter Applegate, who gets accused of being a communist during the red-scare witch hunts of the 50s. When the drunk and depressed Peter accidentally drives off a bridge and is washed up onto a secluded California beach with no memory of his former life, he makes his way to a small town where he's mistaken for a missing WWII soldier named Luke who's been declared dead after several years.
Martin Landau (ED WOOD, X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE) plays Luke's father Harry Trimble, ecstatic over his son's apparent return and suddenly eager to reopen his derelict movie theater, the Majestic, with Luke's help. Meanwhile, Peter/Luke becomes a hero and inspiration to the entire town, not to mention Luke's former girlfriend, the lovely Adele (Laurie Holden of Darabont's hit TV series "The Walking Dead" ).
After suffering many losses during the war, the embittered town's dormant heart is reawakened (symbolized by the Majestic's gala, blazing-neon resurrection) by the presence of their beloved prodigal son. Peter, on the other hand, feels unworthy of such admiration, knowing somehow that he hasn't earned it. Still, he does his best to live up to everyone's image of him--especially since the love between him and Adele has been rekindled--and finds himself settling into his new life as a truly changed man.
Almost as in a Ray Bradbury short story or an episode of "The Twilight Zone", the town seems to represent Peter's idea of Heaven after his symbolicdeath, and for awhile, we almost expect something supernatural to happen. Unfortunately, what does eventually transpire--Peter's discovery, arrest, and eventual grilling before a hostile Congressional committee--is disappointingly mundane and contrived in comparison.
To his credit, Carrey is pretty good in this serious role but unfortunately just carries too much baggage to make us forget him as Ace Ventura, Fire Marshall Bill, the Mask, etc. The film's standout is, unsurprisingly, Martin Landau as Harry, while a radiant Laurie Holden proves to be as much at home on the big screen as she was in "The Walking Dead."
The rest of the film's rather impressive cast includes James Whitmore (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION), David Ogden Stiers, Gerry Black (RE-ANIMATOR, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION), Bob Balaban, Ron Rifkin, Allen Garfield, Chelcie Ross (THE LAST BOY SCOUT), Jeffrey DeMunn (SHAWSHANK, THE GREEN MILE), Hal Holbrook, and, in the "movie within a movie" scenes, Cliff Curtis (COLLATERAL DAMAGE, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD) and cult icon Bruce Campbell. Darabont also snagged some big name actors and directors to do offscreen voice work.
The Blu-ray disc is a bit skimpier on the extras this time around. In addition to a sequence (approx. 5 minutes) from the fictitious 50s adventure yarn "Sand Pirates of the Sahara" with Campbell and Curtis, there are some deleted scenes and a trailer.
It wouldn't be so bad if Darabont weren't trying so hard to channel Frank Capra and mold Carrey into Jimmy Stewart for the film's paint-by-numbers resolution, which ultimately attempts to recreate the tearfully joyous finale of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Like its honey-glazed period atmosphere, THE MAJESTIC's sentiment comes off as too sickly-sweet and unreal to be nearly as truly effective as either Capra's films or Darabont's own earlier triumph.
THE GREEN MILE (1999)
I recall the novelty of reading King's tale when first published not as a lengthy single volume but as a series of small paperbacks released in serial form a la Charles Dickens. I was skeptical when I heard that this riveting but highly unusual tale would be turned into a movie, a skepticism that Darabont proceeded to dash into smithereens by creating what I consider to be his finest and most thoroughly accomplished work to date.
The story takes place on Death Row in a Southern prison circa 1935, where head guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) strives to treat the condemned men with a fair amount of dignity and compassion until their date with "Old Sparky." Brawny, reliable Brutus "Brutal" Howell (David Morse) is his right hand man, aided also by the other guards Harry Terwilliger (Darabont regular Jeffrey DeMunn) and young Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN).
Paul's biggest headache, besides the occasional psycho prisoner such as fiend killer "Wild Bill" Wharton (Sam Rockwell, GALAXY QUEST, GENTLEMEN BRONCOS), is a cruel, cowardly weasel of a guard named Percy Wetmore, brilliantly played by one of my favorite actors, Doug Hutchison (MOOLA). As the spoiled nephew of the governor's wife, Percy threatens to tattle on Paul whenever he doesn't get his way or is caught abusing the prisoners. It's Hutchison's best role since that of inhuman super-creep Eugene Tooms on "The X-Files."
While his connections could secure any job he wishes, Percy remains on Death Row because he aspires to be lead guard during an execution. Anxious to be rid of him, Paul grants him this opportunity. But it turns disastrous when Percy deliberately botches the electrocution of a hated inmate, turning it into a horrifying, agonizing ordeal (which Darabont stages with exquisite aplomb) both for him and the mortified onlookers in the film's most grueling, deliciously Grand Guignol sequence. (The SPFX as the ill-fated inmate's smoking body jerks, spasms, bursts into flames, and finally roasts alive are gruesomely convincing.)
While all this horror is going on, the Green Mile--named for its faded green linoleum--receives its strangest guest yet, a monstrously huge but mild-mannered black man named John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), convicted of murdering two little girls but seemingly unable to hurt a fly. Duncan, whose only previous film credit was in ARMAGEDDON, sought the services of an acting coach for the role and this paid off handsomely when he delivered a bravura performance as the doomed behemoth with the mind and heart of a child.
The film plunges full-bore into the supernatural when it's discovered that Coffey has miraculous healing powers which he uses to bring life back to the pet mouse of fellow condemned man "Del" Delacroix, an eccentric Cajun (Michael Jeter), after Percy cruelly stomps on it. (The mouse, "Mr. Jingles", will be a crucial element of the story in unexpected ways.)
After Coffey heals his painful bladder infection as well, Paul suddenly gets a wild, farfetched idea upon which he's willing to stake not just his job but his very freedom--that perhaps, somehow, John Coffey might be able to heal the dying wife of his boss and friend, Warden Hal Moores (James Cromwell). But if Coffey is capable of doing this, how in the world can Paul preside over the man's execution? Especially now that he's convinced Coffey is actually innocent?
It's a dilemma to haunt the viewer for some time to come, as impeccably rendered by Darabont with the skills of a master screen craftsman. Here again he tells the story unhurriedly and in a formal, old-school fashion that evokes the satisfaction one feels delving into a fine novel. Beautifully designed sets and another ideal prison location, this one with a distinct Gothic atmosphere, combine with gorgeous cinematography to create a film whose period ambience is intoxicatingly effective.
Hanks is at his best here, as is Morse, both portraying the kind of good and stalwart men you'd want in such positions. (Ditto for actors DeMunn and Pepper as their fellow guards.) Duncan gives the performance of his career and earned the Oscar nomination he received for it. James Cromwell and Patricia Clarkson, as Warden and Mrs. Moores, help make their strange encounter with John Coffey unforgettable, while always likeable Bonnie Hunt provides endearing moral support and domestic romantic interest as Paul's wife, Jan.
Gary Sinise (FORREST GUMP), Eve Brent, and SHAWSHANK alum William Sadler appear briefly as well, and in the film's wraparound segments, an older Paul Edgecomb is portrayed by none other than the great character actor Dabbs Greer in one of his juiciest and most high-profile roles ever.
As in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, Darabont and King present prison inmates who are more like members of a social club than hardened criminals in order for us to more easily accept and identify with them. The first one to walk the Green Mile is Graham Greene's Arlen Bitterbuck, who gets one wonderfully poignant scene in which he wistfully recounts his happiest moment in life to Paul. Michael Jeter is profoundly effective as Del in his scenes with Mr. Jingles the mouse, which never fail to have me blubbering like a baby even more than the film's powerful finale. As Wild Bill, Sam Rockwell is both repellent and perversely hilarious. Harry Dean Stanton is also funny in a smaller role as a prison trustee.
THE GREEN MILE ultimately becomes not only a highly absorbing tale of life on Death Row from both sides of the bars, but also a fascinating and moving morality tale that mines some of our deepest and most profound emotions. Darabont achieves a perfect balance here between the story's darker, uglier aspects, which manage to hold us in morbid fascination even at their most repellent, and the joyously uplifting passages that radiate with the compassion, empathy, and love which human beings sometimes display in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
Walking the Mile (Extended Version) NEW! High-def documentary feature starring Tom Hanks, Frank Darabont, Stephen King, and Mr. Jingles, the mouse
Commentary by Frank Darabont
The Teaser Trailer: A Case Study
Walking the Mile: The Making of The Green Mile
Miracles and Mystery: Creating the Green Mile- Stephen King: Storyteller
Miracles and Mystery: Creating the Green Mile- The Art of Adaptation
Miracles and Mystery: Creating the Green Mile- Acting on the Mile
Miracles and Mystery: Creating the Green Mile- Designing the Mile
Miracles and Mystery: Creating the Green Mile- The Magic of the Mile
Miracles and Mystery: Creating the Green Mile- The Tail of Mr. Jingles
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Frank Darabont
Michael Clarke Duncan's Screen Test
Tom Hank's Old-Age Makeup Tests
Rare Unused Teaser
Buy it at the WBShop.com
Own "The FRANK DARABONT Blu-ray Collection" on February 24th. The collection includes 15th Anniversary Edition The Green Mile, Blu-ray Debut of The Majestic and The Shawshank Redemption.
(Images used in review are not taken from the Blu-ray discs)
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 9:08 AM
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Horror Film "OLD 37" To Premiere at HorrorHound Film Festival
Starring Actors Bill Moseley, Kane Hodder, Brandi Cyrus
Music from The Used, Circa Survive, Sheppard, Night Riots + more
February 18, 2015 - OLD 37, a psychological slasher about two brothers posing as paramedics who intercept 911 calls in a retired old ambulance, will be premiering at HorrorHound Film Festival this year in Cincinnati, Ohio! The screening will be held on Saturday, March 21st, at 8PM.
In addition, OLD 37 writer and producer Paul Travers will be speaking on a panel alongside four other indie filmmakers prior to the screening. This Q&A style panel will take place from 11AM to 12PM on Saturday, March 21st. For more information regarding HorrorHound Weekend, including purchasing tickets, visit www.horrorhoundweekend.com.
Regarding the premiere, HorrorHound Film Festival Director Jason Hignite stated, "HorrorHound is honored to be bringing the world premiere of OLD 37 to horror fans. The anticipation for this film has people salivating. We are excited to be presenting the madness that only Moseley and Hodder can deliver!"
Writer and Producer Paul Travers shared, "We are beyond excited to unleash OLD 37 on Horror Hounds 25k horror maniacs. We feel that this is the best possible venue to give a first look at the film that has taken so many years, blood sweat and tears to get finished. We will be forever grateful for the HH team for welcoming us to the festival."
Fast paced and blood soaked, OLD 37 taps into the most basic human fear, vulnerability. The words "don't worry I'm a paramedic" will make you think twice before dialing 9-1-1, similar to what Jaws did with people going into the water. For more information on OLD 37, please visit www.OLD37TheMovie.com.
The film stars Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th, Hatchet) and Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses) as twisted brothers working together to exact revenge on some careless teen drivers.
Already featured by Fangoria, MTV, The Insider, J14 Magazine, DreadCentral, BloodyDisgusting, Hamptons Patch and more, the star cast includes Brandi Cyrus, (Hannah Montana, Zoey 101), Caitlin Harris (Secret Life of the American Teenager), Olivia Alexander (Attack of the 50ft Cheerleader, Killer Eye), Maxwell Zagorski, Maggie Keane Williams (Audition), Ben Schneider, Mindy White (States, Lydia), Sascha Knopf (Shallow Hal, Expiration Date) and more.
OLD 37 features a performance from Aria nominated Australian rock band, Sheppard. The band, which performs live in a party scene in the film, also has 4 songs featured on the soundtrack. Each song is off their new debut full length Bombs Away, which premiered at #2 on the ARIA Charts and is certified gold. Sheppard recently signed with manager Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande), got signed to Universal Republic, and have played on ELLEN and Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. They have upcoming performances on The Today Show and Kelly + Michael. They currently have over 20 million streams on Spotify, putting them in the top 50 most played artists.
Other musicians featured on the OLD 37 soundtrack include The Used, Circa Survive, Night Riots, States, Death On Two Wheels, Survival Guide, DariusTX, and Emii.
Written and produced by Paul Travers with producing partners, Carrie Alton, Evan Greenhill, Dayna Ghiraldi, music composed by Darius Holbert (Hobo With A Shotgun, World's Greatest Dad, Cedar Rapids) and executive produced by Steven Beer, this team is ready to bring the scares. Many of the scares will be provided by Brian Spears and Pete Gerner (We Are What We Are, Late Phases, VHS), who are doing the FX.
For more information on OLD 37, please visit:
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 5:26 PM