Monday, January 20, 2014

Vault of Coolness: Sport Magazine from 1974 (part 1)

Vault of Coolness is back with a look at the cover of this fascinating circa 1974 issue of Sport. I offer it to you as something to tide you over till I get to This Week in DVD and Instant Watching--it's gonna be a busy week, and that'll likely be the only other post--and also because another ARCTIC BLAST of cold air is coming in this week, and I'm already looking forward to warmer times.

So let's look to spring, a time when you can go out and play tennis...a time when love is in bloom...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

Lee Daniels' The Butler: Remember when this was coming out and we wanted to mock the hell out of the pretentiousness of the director putting his name in the title? And then we found out it was actually because a greedy corporation put in a frivolous copyright claim and made him do it? Well, unfortunately, I still remember that second part, so I'm still not gonna mock the title.

Enough Said: A delightful romantic comedy with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini. If you're wondering why I don't have a wise-ass remark about this, it's not because I think it's too soon to disrespect the deceased. No, it's because the guy still scares the hell out of me.

Carrie: You mean this is NOT the vintage Europe World Tour concert movie we've all been waiting for? It's another version of the Stephen King story? Yawn.

Riddick: I get the ominous feeling Vin Diesel is just gonna keep bringing this character back every few years whether we like it or not. Hey, wait, Karl Urban is in this? I might have to take a look.

Wow, my man crush is way out of control.

Fruitvale Station: I thought this dramatization of the story of a young man who was killed by a rapid transit police officer was a significant, meaningful film. But it didn't get any Oscar nominations, so now I know I can skip it.

20 Feet from Stardom: This documentary about backup singers DID get a nomination, so we can all be sure it's worth watching.

You're Next: Don't prejudge this one just because it was made in 2011 and released in 2013. Prejudge it because it's a slasher movie.

Rewind This!: A documentary of the rise and fall of VHS? How awesome is it that it comes out just after Blockbuster closes? I gotta see this one.
The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Season 2: For you cheapskates that didn't buy the complete series, you can keep buying 'em one season at a time.

And in streaming...

Hey, I like to make fun of Hulu here a lot, but it did two cool things lately: It made its interface on my Blu-Ray player a lot better, and it added 71 episodes of the classic Naked City, a mix of half-hour and hourlong installments. Score one for the good guys!

I noticed this week that Crackle now has the complete run of The Larry Sanders Show, and I was worried it would be edited until I fired up an episode and heard Hank Kingsley fire a glorious F-bomb. Hey, now!

I'm still catching up with the big updates Warner Instant made at the end of December/beginning of January. Last week, the service added more noir, like Larry Tierney in Born to Kill, Deadline at Dawn, Nobody Lives Forever, and The Set-Up. Plus there is proto-noir (if there is such a thing) Strangers on the Third Floor with Peter Lorre. Ape fans can enjoy Mighty Joe Young and Son of Kong. I believe From the Earth to the Moon was also just added, cult hit Snow Devils is new, along with a few Errol Flynns--Virginia City and Gentleman Jim,. And if I mentioned this last week, I apologize, but it's always worth mentioning an appearance by the great Dick Powell--this time, it's Varsity Show.

Netflix has been pretty slow so far this year, but it has added some quality titles. New original documentary The Square joins the also just-added The Act of Killing as fresh Oscar nominees that are available.

Ricky Gervais brings us travelogue series An Idiot Abroad, and all of it is now on Instant Watching. Last year's Kevin Hart concert film Let Me Explain is another new add.

Some WWE videos are back on, and it's disappointing that they're "reruns" but cool that they are back. It'll be interesting to see if the WWE/Netflix arrangement continues, and to what extent, when the WWE Network (which promises to offer the entire WWE home video library) next month.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Don't these guys have agents that can work this kind of thing out ahead of time?

I'm sure many of you saw the commercials for the new CBS fall TV drama "Hostages," starring Dylan McDermott. I'm also sure almost all of you then ignored the show, as I did. Well, it's some kind of thriller with political overtones, as Dylan tries to force Toni Collette to botch a surgery on the President...or something like that...while holding her family hostage. Yes, this somehow is taking place over an entire season and not a two-hour single movie.

OK, so "Hostages" is going along on CBS with Dylan McDermott. Got that? Dylan McDermott.

The other day, I was reading a preview of upcoming midseason series debuts, and I noticed an item about "Crisis" on NBC. The tagline is "How Far Would You Go to Protect the Ones You Love?" A rookie Secret Service agent is embroiled in a crisis (hence the title) when a group of kids, including the President's son, are kidnapped. In other words, it's a political thriller.

Get this: One of the stars--not THE Secret Service guy, but one of them--is none other than...Dermot Mulroney!

So it took America something like 15 years to be able to tell the two apart, and now Dylan McDermott and Dermot Mulroney are both starring in ongoing broadcast network political thrillers. In fact, I'm not even sure America HAS the hang of this yet. Did YOU just look them up? Come on, be honest.

How does this happen? The last thing these guys need is to be infringing on each other's territory in any way, shape, or form. While one has a series, the other should be focusing on movies, or doing a podcast, or making personalized wallets to sell on Etsy--anything besides starring in a series.

I don't understand how these guys don't sit down and work it out ahead of time, or at least call each other on the phone:

DYLAN: Hello?
DERMOT: Yeah, hey, Dermot, it's me. Dylan.
DYLAN: Wait, I'M Dylan. YOU'RE Dermot. Remember?
DERMOT: I am? Oh, no, wait, you're right. Anyway, my series just got picked up. SO...
DYLAN: Well, my series is already shooting. Remember I told you about that a few months ago?
DERMOT: You did? Well, I guess I forgot. It's just that this is such a great script and a real juicy part, so I think I'm gonna do it, anyway.
DYLAN: This is really gonna make our lives tougher, Dylan!
DERMOT: Dylan.
DYLAN: Yeah. What?
DERMOT: No, you called ME Dylan. I'm Dermot.
DYLAN: Whatever!

OK, so maybe their agents should be planning this kind of thing for them.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cut the Cord...redux

I hereby declare that the official theme song for "Cut the Cord," at least when it is said on this blog, will be sung to the tune of  "Cut the Cake" by Average White Band. I don't have any words other than "Cut the Cord," but then, how many words does "Cut the Cake" have?

Today's dispatch from the front lines of cable TV absurdity should be taken with a grain of salt because the CONcast on-screen programming guide manages to be both sparse and unreliable. But while I can't verify that the phenomenon I am about to describe did happen, I do vow to you that I saw that it was going to happen when I was scanning the guide.

Apparently, for at least one hour today, "The Brady Bunch" aired on two different channels. Now, that in itself isn't a huge deal, and if you're looking for me to hate on the Bradys, well, you've come to the wrong blog (I am available for bitter rants about Tom Brady and the Patriots). The beef I have here is not that it aired on Inspiration and TV Land (two channels that have aired the sitcom recently) at the same time. No, the problem here is that the two channels were in fact...

Hallmark and Hallmark Movie Channel.

Yes, Hallmark and Hallmark Movie Channel. I'm pretty sure those are sister networks. Know what my biggest clue is? The fact that they both have "Hallmark in their names.

It's not even a situation of channels like AMC and IFC each showing the same program. Hallmark Movie Channel is still a niche channel. Heck, HALLMARK itself is probably a niche channel by many metrics. Therefore I would submit to you that the vast majority of people who have Hallmark Movies also have Hallmark proper, meaning it's useless to put the same thing on each.

I kind of wished I had tuned in today to see if they cross-promoted. "Don't like this episode of The Brady Bunch? We've got another one over here on our other network. Don't worry, it's edited and stuffed with commercials, too!"

Sunday, January 12, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching Part 2

It was an active beginning to 2014 for Netflix as the company executed its usual first-of-the-month purge of titles, accompanied by its usual first-of-the-month addition of titles. Somehow the media decided to make a big deal out of it, though conveniently failing to mention that many of the disappearing movies are in fact the same MGM titles that rotate in and out every 3 months or so. Yeah, a lot of stuff went bye-bye, but a lot of interesting stuff came in, too.

In the certified 5-star classics category, we get The Apartment, The Grapes of Wrath, The Day the Earth Stood Still (note the smattering of Fox classics each month), and 1941's Dressed to Kill. OK, so that last one may not be a guaranteed 5-star classic, but it's Lloyd Nolan as Michael Shayne, and I think it's a great there. Breakfast at Tiffany's is also streaming, and though they are a tad more recent, I think it's worth mentioning when Raging Bull and Bull Durham show up. And they did, so I mention it.

People love complaining about the dearth of recent theatricals on the channel, but in the past few weeks we got Jack Reacher, Ah-Nuld's starring comeback in The Last Stand, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, the latest Texas Chainsaw reboot, Meryl Streep as The Iron Lady, and, Lord help me for mentioning this, The Guilt Trip. Joe Swnaberg's intriguing-looking Drinking Buddies is there, too, for the more independently inclined among you. Then again, if you gamble a few hours on Hansel and Gretel and find yourself enjoying it, you're probably as independent-minded as anyone else around here.

Some recent TV series adds include the latter seasons of Dexter--I'm not a watcher of the series, so I'll resist the temptation to assume they are the "sucky ones"--the whole run of Murder She Wrote--we know NONE of those is sucky, right--Maron Season 1, and supposedly House of Cards now has bonus commentary, though I could use the clever machinations of an operator like Frank just to help me figure out to access them. For the kids out there, new series Turbo Fast debuts, and if that one is a flop, well, you get Jake and the Neverland Pirates Season 2.

What's impressed me most is the continuing flow of new documentaries to Netflix. Recent highlights: longtime Beatles secretary is profiled in Good Ol' Freda; Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, Deceptive Practice, which is about the great Ricky Jay; and Greenwich Village, which is about the music scene back in the day and I think covers either the damned hippies or the damned folkies. Maybe both. In the "I'm almost afraid" category, Bronies looks at the cult of adult My Little Pony fanatics.

Warner Instant went nuts for the holidays. As I write this, the new arrivals row has over 80 movies, all coming in the last 3-4 weeks. For the sake of having something to write about next time I do this column, let me focus on the 60-some that came before this past Friday.

New movies include Lee Tracy in Blessed Event, several Gold Diggers movies, Broadway Melody of 1936, Garbo in Queen Christina, and another seemingly random Andy Hardy selection in You're Only Young Once. Other big-ticket old-school items: Five Star Final with Eddie G, Navy Blue and Gold with J-J-Jimmy STEWart and Lionel Barrymore, and Jimmy Cagney in Jimmy the Gent and Taxi. And how about a young Bob Young, Eleanor Parker, and Burns and Allen and Clarence Kolb  (hey, he was very good at what he did!) in Honolulu?

Some notable genre entries include the Earth 2 pilot with Gary Lockwood (not to be confused with the short-lived modern series with Rebecca Gayheart, though hilarity would surely ensue if someone were to confuse Gary Lockwood with Rebecca Gayheart), The Hypnotic Eye, and The Cyclops.

Hulu continued to crash my Roku every other time I launched it.

Meanwhile, Acorn's first Monday of the month brought on sitcoms Fresh Fields and follow-up French Fields, Poirot Series 12, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries Series 2, Trial and Retribution (that one sounds familiar), Maigret, and non-fiction series Time Team (Series 3). Not a lot there that thrills me, but, hey, at least it's new.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching Part 1

The longest-running semi-continuous feature...on this blog skipped a few weeks, but there wasn't much going on in the DVD realm. There is a lot of streaming news, though, so much that I'll make a separate post of it if there is enough DVD news to warrant a full post. Uh, let me go check on that point.

Yep, there are some DVDs coming out this week! Let's get to it. I warn you in advance that I might get a little distracted since it's really not a marquee release time.

Runner Runner: Let this be a lesson to you, Ben Affleck: You can make prestigious movies and get folks on your side again, but as soon as you get involved with a movie that also stars Justin Timberlake, we're all gonna go ahead and ignore it.

Thanks for Sharing: I don't know about you folks, but I hear the combo of sex addiction and Gwyneth Paltrow, and I just get kind of creeped out.

Tiger Eyes: This is some kind of YA flick about a girl coping with a tragedy along with her mother. What stands out to me is that I think Amy Jo Johnson is the mother! The pink Power Ranger! Yep, I'm old.

Closed Circuit: On the surface, this movie did a lot of things right. It assembled a solid cast including Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, and Jim Broadbent; it focused on a story combining intrigue with topical nods to terrorism, it didn't give a role to Justin Timberlake...yet I'll be dadgummed if I can remember this even existing. Jeez, what happened to Eric Bana, anyway?

Barney Miller Season 4: Shout Factory continues one of its latest reclamation projects, and this looks like a solid. affordable release that should be welcomed by fans. Notable in this season: The retirement of Fish and the "promotion" of Steve Landesberg's Arthur Dietrich to a regular.

China Beach Season 2: You can get the whole series for a bazillion dollars from Time-Life/Star Vist, or you can wait and collect the individual seasons as they hit the retail market. Or you can watch your old VHS copies of "Tour of Duty," really. Hell, it doesn't matter to me. I'm just sayin'. One thing that interests is that on the Time Life website, the songs are a huge part of the marketing of the series, like, almost as if it's a jukebox that happens to have storylines. I know they want to boast (rightfully so) about clearing so much of the vintage music the show featured, but, gee, it's not like this is "Shindig," is it?

The Following Season 1: Hey, did anyone get any cool DVDs for Christmas? I did. Years after the DVD market peaked, there's still cool stuff coming out and things I never got. I never seem to get more time to watch them, though.

Maverick Season 4: Cover boy Roger Moore joins (as Beau) as James Garner bows out. Poor Jack Kelly. At least he got to share the Season 2 cover. It's nice that Warner Archive is finally cranking these out, especially considering I read that Cozi, which just added it to its weekday lineup, is butchering it.

Duck Dynasty Season 4: You know, I admit I got myself a few Christmas presents on DVD this year, only I got them several months beforehand and just kind of sat on them for a while. Not a bad way to give yourself a little extra merriment for the season.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cut that Cord! Cut that Cord! Cut that Cord...

It's been a while since I ranted about the uselessness of the majority of cable TV networks. While on vacation, I noticed "Law and Order" on WE-TV. OK, that's not a huge deal in and of itself. That network isn't on anyone's radar, anyway, so it's easy enough to ignore. Besides, I figured, maybe TNT was finally retiring its old workhorse.

Well, no. TNT is still showing "Law and Order." Plus WGN America picked up "Law and Order" and will air it in monolithic mini-marathon blocks...just like everyone else. So WE-TV adding the show is really a useless move that adds no utility to the channel.

That's not even the worst of it, though. While looking this up, I learned that yet another cable net is proud to add "L&O" as the new year arrives. That channel is...Sundance Channel! Yes, that's right, Sundance is going to show played-out TV reruns that are abundant elsewhere. I believe it is still a sister network of WE, so maybe this move makes sense for the parent company as a way to spread out the acquisition cost. But if you're a viewer, so what?

To me this is yet another sign that we have way too many cable TV channels, we are paying way too much for them, and the situation is not likely to change anytime soon. Unless someone starts trying new and creative ways to use the cable real estate, we might as well get some more consolidation. Or a la carte plans. (HA!)

Monday, January 6, 2014

"The Honeymooners" is still the best...but the Blu-Ray looks like a rip-off

My all-time favorite television show is without a doubt "The Honeymooners." Now, I love the Lost Episodes, and I enjoy the color episodes from the 1960s, but like many my favorites are the so-called Classic 39, the filmed episodes we saw for years and years in reruns.

(By the way, folks, if you have been ignoring the Lost Episodes, do yourself a favor and go get that box set. Many of those episodes are as good as if not better than the 39. End of PSA.)

WPIX ran its annual New Year's Eve 'Mooners marathon last week, and it was once again a welcome supplement to my holiday merriment. For several years in a row now, I've had it on well after midnight, ready to wave the white flag and call it a night, and decided to keep leaving it on "for one more episode," wanting to "just see which one is on next."

The next day is for leaving it on in the background while recovering/relaxing/reloading for other activities. No disrespect to the SyFy "Twilight Zone" marathon, but I choose the Honeymooners if I have access to WPIX 11.

Given that I own the show in a fine DVD collection yet am willing to watch it so often on regular TV, you might think I'd be part of the target audience for CBS Paramount's upcoming Blu-Ray set of the Classic 39. Well, yeah, I might be willing to buy these episodes all over again...if it didn't look like such a freakin' rip-off.

I wrote about this when it was first announced, but more details are now available. According to this article on TV Shows on DVD, the 5-disc set streets April 8. According to an Amazon link provided, the retail price is 130 bucks. 130! So even with an Amazon discount, the collection is up for pre-order at $110.50.

This is the best sitcom of all time, and there's no way it's worth that kind of coin. The press release indicates the episodes are "brilliantly remastered in high definition," which is cool except they already look pretty good. As for the "wealth of extras," well, the 1966 hourlong "Adoption" special (an adaptation of a Lost Episode) is something collectors have wanted for years, and the inclusion of several other anniversary specials is nice, but there is not nearly enough here to justify that high price point.

Maybe--maybe--if I didn't own these already, I would consider taking out a loan and investing in this release, but I can't justify a double dip, even on my all-time favorite, at well over 100 bucks. Here's hoping that between now and April the price goes down and the list of extras goes up. If not, I have my good old-fashioned SD set.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year!

I hereby resolve to post more content except when I'm, like, busy and stuff. I have just returned to Cultureshark Tower after a brief vacation, and I'll be back in action this week. Thanks to everyone who followed, read, commented, or even just visited the blog in 2013. I have made some upgrades at the Tower that may allow for the return of some regular features that disappeared due to technical difficulties (OK, I didn't have a scanner).

Best wishes to all of you for a happy, safe, and prosperous 2014. Hey, best wishes to myself, too, while I'm at it.