Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Video Roundup

[As I have noted here on previous occasions, it is perhaps a wonderful testament to the essential goodness of human nature that there are still publicists at various video companies who continue to send new product to an undeserving scribbler at an obscure blog. Herewith, then, in an attempt to justify this largesse, are my thoughts on a a couple of the more interesting cinematic and television artifacts to have crossed my desk of late; unless otherwise noted, I viewed them all on DVD. -- S.S.]

1. Murdoch Mysteries Season 8 (Acorn)

If you've never seen this show, which is world famous in its native Canada, it's essentially CSI: Toronto, set at the tail end of the Victorian Era. Which is to say it's tons of fun -- the period detail and history stuff in particular are a hoot (the titular Murdoch, a brilliant police constable with a penchant for inventing all sorts of forensic gizmos, is constantly encountering real life figures, including in season 8 W.C. Fields, Thomas Edison, and Teddy Roosevelt). It's currently running on American cable (Ovation -- check your local listings) under the odd title The Artful Detective, but Acorn Video's DVD version looks significantly better. Trust me -- watch any episode from this most recent set and you'll want to go back and watch all seven previous seasons, which are also available from the good folks at Acorn. As will, one presumes at some point, the 9th season, which is currently in production. [18 episodes on five discs]

2. The Code (Acorn)

[The Magnificence That is] Lucy Lawless proves once again that there is life after Xena, Warrior Princess in this sharply written cyber-political thriller series. The official synopsis: "Deep in the Australian outback, two joyriding teenagers are involved in a deadly crash, setting off an escalating chain of events that could unravel some of the government's darkest secrets." I miss Lawless's ululating, but other than that, highly recommended, and in case you get hooked, they've commissioned a second season that will air Down Under next year. [six edisodes on two discs]

3. Sullivan's Travels (Criterion Collection)

From the great writer/director Preston Sturges, one of the best film comedies ever made in the English language (and there are moments, particularly butler Eric Blore's speech about the evil of poverty, that approach Shavian levels of eloquence and wit). This first Criterion Blu-ray version features a brand new, and excellent high-def restoration (a significant improvement on Criterion's 2001 edition), along with audio commentary from that earlier version (featuring Chris Guest and Michael McKean), plus an interesting PBS documentary on Sturges that originally aired on American Masters. Incidentally, the trailer above doesn't look anywhere near as good as the new video transfer. [Blu-ray, one disc]

4. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Series 3 (Acorn)

The Divine Essie Davis (I mean that quite literally; I am convinced the show's producers crucified her and she then rose three days later) stars as the titular sleuth, a rich, alarmingly liberated woman in 1928 Melbourne, who assists the local police (including a chief inspector with whom there is, shall we say, sexual tension), shows off her skill as an aviatrix, and fucks around quite shamelessly. Essentially it's a smuttier version of Miss Marple, with drop dead gorgeous clothes, and Davis, of course, is quite a dish (know what I mean, guys?). Alas, it appears that the series will not be returning for a fourth season, but hope springs eternal, at least at Casa Simels. [eight episodes on three discs]

5. Broadchurch: The Complete Second Season (Entertainment One)

An amazing police procedural, set in (and revealing the complex web of lies and secrets at) a small resort town in England. If that sounds familiar, it's because there was an American remake (Gracepoint) set in California, and in fact star David Tenant is in both of them. This second series picks up almost exactly where the first one (the Brit version had a different ending than the American) left off, and if anything it's even more despairing and grim. Highly recommended, if not for the faint of heart; the video transfers here are spectacular (and this is a very handsome show, with amazing location photography). Season three airs in the UK next year, and I for one plan to check it out. [eight episodes on three discs]

6. Ron Jeremy: Life After the Buffet (Breaking Glass)

For those readers who have led more virtuous lives than your humble scribe, let me explain upfront that Jeremy is the world's shlubbiest porn star; entire generations of men have grown up watching his movies and thinking "If this guy can get laid, why can't I?" In any case, he had a major health scare in 2013, and this documentary -- in part -- follows him "on his spiritual awakening and personal journey to discover the existence of a greater power than what is here on earth." Okay. Jeremy comes off as a nice enough guy (and to give him his due, he's done amusing work as an actor in non-porn films, my favorite being Detroit Rock City in 1999), but let's just say that I'm profoundly uncomfortable using the words "Ron Jeremy" and "spiritual awakening" in the same sentence.

7. Toy Story That Time Forgot (Disney)

A short (22 minute) Christmas special from 2014, with most of the regulars from the previous installments in the franchise reprising their voice roles. It's not the masterpiece that Toy Story 3 was, but it's still completely delightful, and in no way feels like a direct-to-video quickie. Bonuses include some deleted scenes, and a Karaoke-style sing-along (my personal favorite). Disney's Blu-Ray version looks absolutely astounding, and Michael Giacchino's score (I guess Randy Newman was busy) is gorgeous and sounds great when cranked up in a decent home theatre system. [one Blu-ray plus digital HD download]


Anonymous said...

Amen to Sullivan's Travels. Joel McCrea and support are wonderful. Saw it first as a teen on the Late Late Show interspersed with unending Cal Worthington commercials. A photographer-mentor-special friend told me I had to see it. We were snuggling in his Burbank bedroom drinking coffee spiked with Brandy and smoking cheap Mexican weed. Memorable evening .... with a little sex in it.

VR - As for the rest of that shit you reviewed, I just don't have the time.

Anonymous said...

Ron Jeremy: Life After the Buffet

Great video roundup, Steve.

Mark said...

Of the items you reviewed that I've seen, BROADCHURCH is the real deal. My wife and I watched both seasons when it ran on BBC America. Great cast, great story lines, great tone. We also watched GRACEPOINT on Fox and could never figure out why Fox felt it necessary to make a U.S. version.

But Steve, MISS FISHER'S MURDER MYSTERIES. Regardless of Essie Davis' godliness, and apart from the 1920s flappers-in-Melbourne setting, the Fisher cast (and especially Nathan Page as Detective Jack Robinson) should win Australian Emmy awards (called Logies) annually because they somehow manage NOT to crack up each time Davis enters a set location to pose! My wife refuses to watch the show anymore -- the show runs on WLIW on Long Island -- and even I've come to think that as a crime solver, Fisher's 1. no Father Brown, and 2. they got the wrong sister at the circus.

Now I've got to check out SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS.

steve simels said...

Mark -- if you've never seen SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS, I think you're gonna be...impressed.

Anonymous said...

RE: Ron Jeremy.

A high school friend of my daughter worked in a hair cutting salon in which the stylists wore skimpy bikinis. She put herself through medical tech school with the money and tips. Anyway, in the same commercial area was a strip club, might have been a Spearmint Rhino.

Sandy, my daughter and I went to the salon for some sort of anniversary celebration at which there was a raffle. Actually, Sandy won the $1,000.00 prize. My daughter's friend informed us that Ron Jeremy was making a personal appearance at the strip club next door that same day.

We went over there and took some pictures with him. Me and Sandy were both taller than him. We took one shot where we each got on our knees on either side of him and were beginning to undo his belt as if to share a bit of his fame. He was a good sport and, from what little we saw of him, seemed like a pretty nice guy. But he is unquestionably fugly as hell. Maybe more so in person, if that's possible. Nine inch nails certainly come in a lot better packages than that. He's lucky he got in the game eons ago or he would be driving truck.

My son had that 5 x 7 of me and Sandy flanking Jeremy on our knees blown up. Then he put it in a desk frame which he proudly shows to his friends, clients and business associates. It's become a conversation piece for him. He thinks his mom and Aunt Sandy are cool. Other folks might not have the same sense of humor about it. But fuck them.

VR - I know 50 times as much about trouble as you ever will ... so ... buy me some ham and eggs before I bite you.

Anonymous said...

I love how VR doesn't have the time to consider the rest of the "shit" you put up (she's only interested in the one thing she's actually seen), but she can find the time to blather on endlessly about her sex life.

Anonymous said...

Vicki, speaking of Randy Newman, you saw him recently ... how was he?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Randy Newman person:

Newman was better than the Zombies. He still does two sets for a total of over 2 and half hours. Hadn't seen him since he played the House of Blues in 1999. Royce Hall is a nice place and I had excellent seats up close and center. His stage banter was often funny, as expected. The show would make a very good live album. He had a few new songs too.

The Zombies, on the other hand, were kinda off their game. And from my vantage point, the sound was pretty cruddy at the Saban (aka Fox-Wilshire). I've seen them perform much better and in nicer venues. Too bad they had to kinda choke in L.A. on the O&O Tour.

VR - Could I still come and push you in the pool sometimes?

P.S. I love I Married a Witch too. My mother and I view it at least twice a year. Given our pagan philosphy and necromantic skills, we find it amusing, if inaccurate. I like Veronica Lake. Sometimes when I'm dom-ing Sandy, who is a blonde, I put her in restraints and then brush her hair in the Lake style. The old-school brush becomes the first thing I spank her with when I begin the ritual awakening that floods the mind and flesh with the hot blood of desire. Needless to say, it always ends well. But I digress.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Vicki for the Randy review. And everything else too.

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