ISTANBUL - Arif Mardin’s name might not sound familiar, but his musical work is stuck in your head. Ever try to escape the funk of the Average White Band’s “Pick Up the Pieces?” That’s Mardin. The longtime producer at Atlantic Records worked the controls on hits from the ’60s until the early 21st century. The 12 time Grammy winner might be the most successful producer for the duration of a career. He’s a guy whose discography includes The Rascals, Aretha Franklin, the BeeGees, Scritti Politti, Hall & Oates and Norah Jones. The Greatest Ears in Town: The Arif Mardin Story documents his final project and his entire life. The movie is out on DVD from Shelter Island.
Mardin might slip under the radar compared to famous producers. He didn’t have a sound like Joe Meek or Phil Spector. He didn’t get miles of publicity like Rick Rubin. He was a rather unassuming man who never went out of fashion. He was able to innovate so that he wasn’t completely stuck in an era. He brought out the disco and falsetto in the BeeGees. He mixed it up for Chaka Khan’s hip hop epic “I Feel For You.” Even after he was retired by Atlantic records, Arif arrived on the Grammy stage with Norah Jones’ Come Away with Me. This is a man who didn’t stop making music until the end.
I had a chance to talk with his son Joe Mardin who co-directed the documentary and co-produced his father’s final album, “All My Friends Are Here.” The film does its best to explain the secret to his dad’s longterm success in an industry that went from the British Invasion to house music.
“He was a modernist, but he was grounded in traditional music,” Joe said. This was how he could traverse the classics, jazz, pop, hip hop and new wave. He got his studio start at Atlantic doing arrangements for groups. Eventually this allowed Ahmet Ertegun to put Arif in the studio as a producer with the Rascals. This collaboration led to “Good Lovin” and “Groovin.” He was a producer who knew what the artists needed to take the song up a level.
Joe explained, “As Felix Cavaliere says in the film, ‘We’d work out something the day before. Then Arif would say I’ll write something. Don’t worry about it. This arrangement would come in with strings and horns and things we weren’t expecting.’”
We spoke a bit about producers tinkering with a band while they’re in the studio.
“By the time they were making a record like “I Feel For You,” there was a lot of tinkering going on,” Joe said. “A lot of different musicians contributions being tried out and experimented with. The way that the “Chaka Khan…Chaka Khan” Melle Mel sample happened was they had put the sample into the machine and you pressed the button and it would trigger the sample. Arif’s finger slipped on the button and so all of a sudden it went “Chaka Khan…Chaka Khan.” And it was an ‘Oh, we’re onto something here.’”
The movie does a fine job of putting Arif with his contemporary peers that follow the same musical philosophy. “One of the things I’m proud of in the film is the summit between Arif Mardin, Quincy Jones, Sir George Martin and Phil Ramone,” Joe said. “How these great producers were advocates for the artist. If they managed to get something in that maybe had a little bit of a signature; fine. As long as it served the artists. Ultimately they were looking to get the best out of the artist and the song. ”
“Norah expressed concern that working with such a legendary figure that maybe he’d impose his own judgments or values on the project. He said, ‘Look, I work for you. I work in service of the artist and try to realize what you want to realize musically and artistically. But he added, ‘I’m not a yes man. If I’m not happy with the way something is going, I’ll say it. I work for you,’” Joe related. “It was always with the artists in mind. What would show them in the best light.”
One of the astounding facts in the film was that even though Mardin was with Atlantic for nearly 40 years, he only discovered on artist toward the end of his tenure. Did Mardin wish he could have done more A&R work at the label?”
“My father was happy to be more in the studio and having to be out looking for artists and wining and dining,” Joe said. “He wanted to be making the music more than anything else. When you look at his discography, there really wasn’t that much time.”
The Greatest Ears in Town has a connection to Muscle Shoals about the Alabama town with the two legendary studios. “I remember as a child hearing frequently, “Dad, where are you going?” “Muscle Shoals.” He did a Cher record there.
What’s amazing about Arif’s story is that he didn’t get sucked into the debauchery that normally accompanies being part of hit records at the primetime of the music industry. “We had a very stable home life created by both of our parents. He wasn’t in the rock and roll lifestyle. He loved being in the studio and creating and being with musicians.” Watching the footage of him in the control booth hints that his big vice seemed to be good take-out food. “And the Mardinis!” Joe pointed out.
There’s a lot of musicians who miss Arif’s special way of mixing up a martini.
The lack of demons or a massive fall and comeback did concern Joe. This is a world where people want those VH1 Behind the Music tales of drugs, sex and near suicides. Arif was an anomaly for a rock and roll success story.
“That was the dilemma when we were editing the film was there wasn’t a rehab or third wife or the kids going into rehab. Our family wasn’t like that,” Joe said. “Without having that, we really had to show the other things that hopefully keep people’s interest for an hour and a half.” Sadly there is a major drama in the film when it’s disclosed that Arif is battling cancer while finishing his album. This what spurred Joe into bringing a videocamera into the studio to capture his father at work.
“We had started recording the album in November of 2005. By March of 2006, I was kinda saying, we better start documenting these things. Who knows how much longer we’re going to have him,” Joe said. “I enlisted Doug Biro who had made a wonderful film about Herbie Hancock called “Possibilities.” Doug came in and started shooting the sessions with various camera people. We didn’t know exactly what we were going to be doing, but we knew that would be the beginnings of this film about Arif.”
The process of working on the album was hard for the son.
“It very emotionally taxing,” Joe admitted. “When it dawned on me that we were going to lose my father before he would had the opportunity to finish this album that he referred to as his “life’s work.” It included elements of composition he had composed over a span of 50 years plus new pieces. When it hit me that I was going to have to finish this without him; that was very hard. Finishing the album was a huge challenge. Fortunately my father and I discussed a lot of elements of music and the album in his last week.
“I would joke with people that maybe if he didn’t trust me so much, maybe he would have lived longer. He knew that between me and Michael O’Reilly, our engineer, that the music had reached the point that it was in good hands. He felt that it would be completed in the way he liked for it to be completed. But it’s still very sad to me that this extraordinary, accomplished, successful man didn’t get to put the finishing touches on his final masterpiece”
Even after the album was completed, there was the documentary for Joe to finish.
“Being in the editing room month and after month watching the footage was very draining. ” “I had to look at it and make sure it was working. It was an honor, but it wasn’t very easy.”
One person who made the process a little bit easier was Darryl Hall from Hall and Oates. Arif was behind the board when the duo recorded “She’s Gone.” Darryl considered Arif his musical father. Darryl was to take part in the all-star title song on the project, but the timing was unfortunate.
“Darryl was so wonderful,” Joe said. “The session that Darryl comes in does his part on “All My Friends Are Here” was the day after my dad passed away. I asked T Bone Wolk, ‘We lost Arif. If Darryl feels it’s too heavy, to go in and record the day after, we can reschedule.’ Word came back, ‘No. Darryl is up for it.’ My mother was saying, ‘My father would have wanted you to continue and not postpone it.’ Darryl came by and he was just brilliant, accommodating, creative. It had the potential to be the hardest session of my life, but because of Darryl, it was one of the easiest.”
The film interviews so many stars that worked with Arif over the decades. Turns out it wasn’t too hard for Joe to find eager participants. “The wonderful thing about a lot of those interviews is that I’ve known so many of these people since I’ve been 10 years old,”
The Greatest Ears in Town really gives Arif Mardin his due. What’s amazing is that he never went out of fashion during his nearly five decades behind the mixing board.
The media and Wall Street has a huge boner for Netflix streaming as the future of television. Sure they’ve done well since the disaster of splitting the service. A lot of cable cord cutters have decided that Netflix is their only legitimate source for movies and TV shows. They’ve gotten into original productions that have brought them glory. So why am I not sold on this future?
Maybe it’s because way too many times I’ll think of a movie or TV show and Netflix doesn’t have it. Or even worse, the kid wants to see a title and it doesn’t’ exist in the selections. Often times even if I find a title listed, I spend a few minutes watching the Loading Bar before it kicks me back to the previous selection menu. Is this their cute way to act like they have a title or is the system screwed up? It’s more frustrating that back when I’d try to fine tune the cable box to get a hint of what was showing on the Playboy Channel. Half the time I’m better off looking for a movie on Youtube.
Call me a luddite, but I’d rather have the DVDs or Blu-rays for a movie or TV show that I enjoy. And I don’t’ trust the cloud. Most streaming services that allow you to “buy” movies have an amazing little clause in their licensing agreement that points out that they cancel your membership and deny you access to your films. Why? Because you didn’t buy the digital content. You bought unlimited access to the content through the service. Unlimited until it’s cut off. Don’t give up your shiny discs.
BRUCE IN A BOX
Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection gives the martial arts legend a fitting boxset for his Golden Harvest films. There are DVDs and Blu-rays for The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon and The Game of Death. These are the restored HD transfers from Asia that so many people had been pleading to see in America. While this boxset was supposed to come out in the middle of the summer, the wait has been worth it. Bruce Lee shines on the HDTV as he kicks so many asses across Hong Kong, Rome and Thailand. The Big Boss has Bruce arrive in Thailand looking to work with relatives at an ice factory. Turns out the place is a front for a drug running operation. The owners don’t like it when the employees discover their profit making side business. It’s up to Bruce to stop these criminals. Fist of Fury is a period piece when Japan had taken control of part of China. Bruce must defend his martial arts school against a bunch of prickish Japanese martial artists who won’t back down. Way of the Dragon sends Bruce Lee off to Rome to battle mobsters that have invaded a relative’s Chinese restaurant. This is best known for the major fight between Bruce and Chuck Norris in the Colosseum. They are the last true gladiators to fight to the death inside the ancient wonder. The Game of Death was a movie project finished after Bruce’s death. They slapped together a plot involving an actor who fakes his death to find out who is trying to kill him. It’s hilarious to see what they did to fake Bruce into scenes including a cardboard head. What matters is that the Blu-ray has Game of Death Revisited which gives the 35 minutes of real flight footage Lee shot for the movie. The best is his battle with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This is so much better than the movie. There are quite a few documentaries in the boxset about Lee’s life. “Bruce Lee: The Man and the legend” focuses on his funerals in Hong Kong and Seattle. It’s a very intimate portrait of how those close to him mourned his passing. Steve McQueen makes an appearance. Amongst the bonus features is Bob Wall talking about his work on Way of the Dragon and The Game of Death. The former martial arts champion is brilliantly intense as he talks about having to rough up his co-stars if they weren’t delivering the proper fake fighting techniques. Bob Wall is on my short list of people who you need to sit next to on a long airplane flight.
The original DVD boxset of Bruce Lee films had prints that looked like they had been used by Lee as punching targets. These transfers are so much cleaner. You can get all the detail of the bird’s nest on Chuck Norris’ chest. There will be a few whiners wondering why the boxset doesn’t have Enter the Dragon? He made that movie for Warner Brothers so you’ll have to buy the Blu-ray for that separately. The DVDs and Blu-rays are housed within a large book with plenty of photos and promotional material from all the films. This is a great way to experience the cinematic genius of the iconic fighter who’s still the best in the world even 40 years after his death.
SCREAM FACTORY DELIVERY
Night of the Comet: Collector’s Edition is one of the great teen flicks from the ’80s. Imagine The Walking Dead if all that was left to fight the zombies were a Valley Girl and her cheerleader sister. It’s that cool. This is like End Times At Ridgemont High. Everyone in Los Angeles is excited about an approaching comet. It becomes the party sensation of the decade with people eager to see this heavenly event. Regina Belmont (The Last Starfighter’s Catherine Mary Stewart) and sister Samantha (Chopping Mall’s Kelli Maroney) miss out on witnessing the streak. While this might seem like a bad thing, something evil happens to those that got a peek. The lucky were burned into piles of ash. The unfortunate became zombies. A handful of lucky humans were about to survive without any issues. But now they must fight for survival in the deserted city. While a mall that doesn’t require you to pay sounds like a Valley Girl’s dream, there are nightmares lurking in the food court. The movie deserves its cult status. There’s a proper level of apocalyptic action. There’s three different audio commentaries that give Stewart and Maroney a chance to remember. They also are interviewed on camera for “Valley Girls at the End of the World.” Robert Beltran recounts being “The Last Man on Earth?” Photo galleries give a peak at faking a deserted Los Angeles. A perfect film to watch while waiting for the pumpkin pies to cool.
Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear is an anthology of horror with five tales aimed at your head and hands. The movie opens up with a superb title sequence showing a victim being tortured and having his senses removed. “Smell” sniffs the dangers of the good life. A slug of a guy gets offered the ultimate musk from a demented Avon lady. Turns out the stuff does turn around his life at work and with the ladies. However there’s a minor side effect. The big effect however makes him want to keep using the scent. “See” opens with the sci-fi conceit of an optometrist that has created a machine that allows him to see what’s in his patients’ eyes. He has to deal with one violent patient since he can’t quite take his evidence to the cops. “Touch” is the best of the bunch when a blind kid must travel through the woods to find help for his parents trapped in a car wreck. Trouble comes when the friendly farmer turns out to be a raving psycho. “Taste” is a horror comedy about one of those bad job interviews. “Listen” is a faux-documentary about a song that drives people to kill. Strangely enough it’s not sung by Susan Boyle. The anthology reminds me a touch of Tales From the Darkside in tone although with a little extra gore than network TV allowed back then.
Assault on Precinct 13: Collector’s Edition brings out the magic of John Carpenter’s masterpiece. This tells the classic tale of people stuck inside an outpost under siege from a mysterious enemy. Although instead of taking place in Saharan desert or the wild wet, the attack takes place in Los Angeles. A police precinct is being deactivated. There’s even less than a skeleton crew manning the place. While normally this doesn’t matter, a local street gang has decided it’s the perfect night to exact their revenge on the law. The people stuck inside the jail are completely unprepared for the onslaught. Can they survive the night? Is the law and order cop willing to arm his prisoner? Carpenter really ups the tension in the film. A true masterpiece from the guy who’d soon deliver Halloween. Carpenter does an audio commentary plus a video interview about the film. Actress Nancy Loomis Kyes discusses what it too to keep up the pressure on screen. The trailers and radio spots pump up the excitement. Of course what’s a real keeper of this Scream Factory release is the cover art from the Great James Rheem Davis. It’s a alteration of his poster from the Cinema Overdrive screening in Raleigh. Hopefully thousands will love the artwork since I have one of the original prints hanging on my living room wall. The Blu-ray is a must get for fans of Carpenter.
John Carpenter’s Body Bags Collector’s Edition contains a movie that was supposed to be a Showtime series meant to rival HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. During the production, the pay channel decided it didn’t want a series. Thus the three complete episodes were spliced together to become a horror anthology movie. This explains why Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) seems to get shunned having directed the middle segment and not getting to share title credit with Carpenter. “The Gas Station” locks Alex Datcher inside the cashier booth for the overnight shift. As she starts her first shift, she’s given the startling news that a dangerous inmate has escaped the local mental hospital. She fears all of her customers are the killer. Sam Raimi and Wes Craven have cameos. “Hair” makes Stacey Keach goes nuts about his balding head. He fears Sheena Easton will dump him. He’s willing to do anything including seeing a doctor that has Deborah Harry as his nurse. This was directed by Hooper. Mark Hamill is a big league pitcher who gets into a car wreck that ruins one of his eyes in “Eye” He’s eager to get his vision back so he agrees to a revolutionary eye replacement surgery. The side effect is a chance of seeing what the dead guy saw with the eye. For Hamill, he sees through the eye of a killer. He fears the killer is going to take over his mind and body. John Agar, Roger Corman and Charles Napier pop up. This would have made a good series for the early ’90s. Carpenter is fine and twisted as the morgue attendant host. Hooper helps out with the bodies on his installment. There’s plenty of bonus features include a DVD version of all the stuff on the Blu-ray. John Carpenter and Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds and King of the Nerds) provide a commentary track on “Gas Station.” Carpenter returns with Stacey Keach (Titus and Mike Hammer) to review “Hair.” A featurette breaks down how it went from shot to anthology movie. It’s just a shame that Carpenter couldn’t have had the series so he could have started a bone feud with the Crypt Keeper.
Eve of Destruction is an android gone wild story. Eve VIII is made to look like her creator (The Fourth Man’s Renee Soutendijk). She has been programmed to have the same actions and inflections of Dr. Eve Simmons. The corporation sends the mechanical woman into the outside world as a test to see how many people she can fool into thinking it’s just another human being. However the experiment goes wrong when she interrupts a bank robbery. She gets damaged to the point where she abandons her programmed route. She’s become a killing machine and can kill even more if her atomic power source explodes. Gregory Hines (The Cotton Club) is assigned to track down the android and shut her down before she blow up. His partner for the mission is the creator (also Soutendijk). He thinks he can fine Eve If he knows what Dr. Eve would do next. Eve of Destruction makes a great double feature with Scream Factory’s recent release of Dark Angel (”I” Come in Peace). There aren’t any bonus features outside of the trailer. This is probably due to Hines and director Duncan Gibbins having died and Soutendijk going back to Europe.
George A. Romero’s Knightriders dares to mingle Sons of Anarchy with A Knight’s Tale. Instead of a zombie future, we’re told of a time when knights rode around the country jousting on their motorcycles. This is not an alternative universe. Instead it’s just a bunch of hardcore members of the Ren Fair circuit. Ed Harris (The Right Stuff) goes by King William as he leads his merry band of bikers. He’s happy with the way things are going, however economic realities are starting to take hold. A promoter wants to take their tournaments to the next level, but at a price. Also William must deal with a rival biker (Dawn of the Dead’s Tom Savini) claiming the crown. It’s an epic tale of power struggles and dealing with being an outsider to the present tense. This is epic storytelling from Romero with 145 minutes of length to give us the saga of King William. It’s a great film to watch with your Warcraft and Cosplaying buddies. The numerous bonus features include a commentary track and a featurette that has Romero, Savini and Harris talk about the days of Ol’ when men wore as much metal as their Harley Davidson hog.
The Gambler brought the magic of Kenny Rogers’ hit song to the small screen in the spring of 1980. There was only one person who could play the gambler and that’s Kenny Rogers. He was in his prime with the bright white beard and no creepy plastic surgery results. He became a true western star when this aired in primetime. His gambler did a little more than just sing a song at the Poker table. He’s a loner drifting around the Wild West from table to table collecting his winnings. He gets a message from his long lost son and decides it’s time to be a dad. But the journey to be a dad is long and bumpy. Along the way he meets a cowboy named Billy Montana (Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Bruce Boxleitner) that needs a few lessons in how to play the game. He didn’t know how to hold ‘em. This naturally leads to the recounting of all the rules from the Gambler. The duo have to help a hooker before confronting Clu Gulager. It’s just a good old fashioned Western that inspired quite a few sequels. Shame Kenny didn’t try to go big screen with the character. During the ’80s, Kenny would run clips of his upcoming Gambler movies as an intermission.
Syrup brings us a tale of how you can use high level marketing to make people think they need worthless crap. Scat (Evil Dead’s Shiloh Fernandez) is the new face at a Madison Avenue advertising company. He’s got big dreams, but finds it hard to get them up the corporate ladder. He’s a big time dreamer since he also has a major desire for Amber Heard (Drive Angry). Not only is she above his pay grade, she’s also a lesbian. But he’s a man who thinks he know how he can sell anyone anything and why can’t this philosophy work on a woman who doesn’t want a man in her bed? This is the first true romantic comedy aimed at MBA programs. “It’s not real. It’s marketing” are words to live by. The bonus features include an interview with producer/costume designer Sophia Banks-Coloma and the special from AXS TV about the film.
Mad Men Season 6 drags Don Draper (Jon Hamm) under the cultural changes. He’s losing his golden boy status as a new breed of man is arriving in 1967. He perfected himself as the perfect Madison Avenue creature for the Kennedy era with his haircut, suits and gravitas. He seemed ready for the new frontier. Then Beatlemania hit and he became part of the old guard. His tales of American values have been undercut by Eastern philosophy and drug use. He’s still fighting wearing sideburns. Making matters more complex is that he hasn’t a chance to transform once more. In order to land a major client, his firm must merge with a rival. When they land the account, he finds himself frustrated at the pace as they arrive in the big leagues of advertising. Things are bad at home as his wife (Jessica Pare) is getting well known as a soap opera actress. Don finds himself having a fling with his neighbor’s wife (Freaks and Geeks‘ Linda Cardellini). One of their trysts turns into a 50 Shade of Don as he does his best to take control of her to feel like he has control in his life. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) proves he’s not the joke of the partnership. Joan (Christine Hendricks) wants to be more than a silent partner in the firm. She put in a lot to land that Jaguar account. Don’s identity becomes an issue when his apartment gets robbed. The burglar tells Sally (Kiernan Shipka) that she’s a relative. Since Sally has no idea of her father’s real past, she can’t protest. The end of the season has Don at what seems like the end of the line. Is he going to jump out the window like the man in the opening credits? It’s another fine season in the vast novel that is Mad Men. This remains the most addicting suave show on TV. Bonus features include what it took to recreate 1967-68 on the set and Timothy Leary’s LSD experiments.
Gentle Ben: Season One brings back the magic of a young Clint Howard (Ron’s brother). He’s a kid growing up in the Florida Everglades. His dad (McCloud’s Dennis Weaver) is a game warden who gets to skip around the swamp in a fan boat. That’s kinda cool. What really makes Clint’s life amazing is his trained raccoon and pet black bear, Gentle Ben. What kid wouldn’t want to roam the woods with his bear instead of a lame dog? Of course having a pet bear does unnerve a lot of people who don’t think that they can really be tamed creatures. Clint is out to show how bears are really nice unless you’re covered in honey. The most dangerous thing in the swamp is hillbillies. “Fish and Chips” has a Simon Oakland (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) as a poacher who might want to deal in bear paws. Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights) crashes a plane in “Voices from the Wilderness.” Weaver and Reynolds were both ex-Gunsmoke castmates. Ron Howard (Arrested Development) also shows up as an evil hillbilly kid in “Green Eyed Bear.” Ron wants to kidnap three bear cubs to sell on the black market. How can Opie and Richie Cunningham be so cruel? Even Tom Poston gets to play evil in “Trophy Bear.” There’s only two seasons of Gentle Ben so hopefully the other 28 episodes will be released soon. The big bonus feature is Clint and his father Rance giving commentaries on a few episodes. They bonded during their time on the Florida location. This is still a fine family show that ought to be watched with a small dose of Flipper and Grizzly Adams.
Power Rangers: Seasons 8- 12 contains Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, Wild Force, Ninja Storm and Dino Thunder. It’s a huge box of the Power Rangers series that ran from 2000 to . Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue picks up from Lost Galaxy. Turns out the city of Mariner Bay has a major foundation issue. Is it a fault line? Nope. Beneath the sweet little town is an ancient demon burial site. Turns out the construction has woken up the evil. The only chance the town has is for the head of the police force to recruit 4 kids along with his daughter to the Lightspeed Ranger program. Ultimately a sixth kid is recruited to become the Titanium Ranger. It’s a major real estate battle over the course of 40 episodes. Power Rangers Time Force involves the evil Ransik from the year 3000 coming back to 2001 to put his 1,000 years of crime knowledge to work. Humanity’s best hope is uncovered at a dig. It’s the Quantum Rangers Morpher. A group of kids get the powers so they can try their best to keep Ransik from ruling the world or at least their little town. This also lasted 40 episodes on Fox Kids. Power Rangers Wild Force is the most fantastical of the installments. A boy that grew up in the jungle returns to what seems like boring Turtle Cove. He discovers that above them is a floating island of Animarium. Him and the other rangers have to battle the evil Orgs. The special episode to celebrate this 10th season involves all 10 of the Red Power Rangers appearing together. Who could have imagined this long of a lifespan since kid programming was notorious for having maybe 3 seasons before they’d be abandoned to reruns. Power Rangers Ninja Storm has a different atmosphere since the production was moved to New Zealand. The kids who get the power to morph are part of the Wind Ninja Academy in Blue Bay Harbor. Unlike previous series, there’s only three Rangers at the start. Although their numbers are bolstered as they fight Lothor. Dana Carvey contributes voices to the big battles. Power Rangers Dino Thunder brings out Mesogog, a villain who wants to take the world back to the age of dinosaurs. The local kids want to go back to the Flintstones. They fight him using the powers of various dinosaurs. “Legacy of Power” celebrates the 500th episode of the series. At this point, couldn’t they make a Power Rangers cable channel? Along with a booklet that covers all the cast members, a bonus disc gives more insight to the series. There are featurettes that focus on ADR sessions, tales from cast members, memories from the Titanium Ranger and a look at the internet fandom. This is a great boxset for viewers that really got into the show with the arrival of the 21st Century.
MADtv: The Complete Fourth Season marks the moment when the show divested itself from the humor magazine outside of the title. No longer was Alfred E Neuman part of the graphics. He was replaced by Michael McDonald who made loyal fans not worry that the show would slip. He became such a reliable force that it’s strange to think that he wasn’t part of the original cast. son Saturdays. He was such a natural fit with Alex Borstein, Nicole Sullivan, Phil Lamar, Arie Spears and Will Sasso. This is the prime cast for the rival to Saturday Night Live. This is the reason it gets rerun to death on Comedy Central. Bornstein’s Ms Swan is a sensation at this point. The studio audience demands her to put on the apron. The same is met with Sullivan’s Vancome Lady. Sasso’s dead on impersonation of Steven Seagal . They merge Beverly Hills 90210 with the Halloween movies to create the best show on Fox. Magic Johnson tries to come back from The Magic Hourwith his own courtroom show. Gary Coleman attempts another comeback. The Halloween Special features musical guest Kiss. They still had all the original members and not two guys wearing Ace and Peter’s outfits. Wrestling fans will delight when Bret “The Hitman” Hart guest stars. “The Son of Dolomite” returns the Rudy Ray Moore action hero to the public’s attention. Jerry Springer and Donny Osmond get dragged into the fun. The 25 episodes are worth rewatching as they take us back to what was funny way back in 1999. Little did they know what Y2K would hold for civilization.
Action-Packed Movie Marathon Volume Two gives four flicks that are out to give a powerful dose of mid-’70s and ’80s excitement. Bamboo Gods & Iron Men is another epic from the Philippines starring James Iglehart (Death Force). This time he has to bust criminals that are dealing with a major explosive device hidden in a Buddha’s belly. Vic Diaz has a small role. Trackdown warns young women what can happen when they move to Los Angeles and meet Erik Estrada. For one girl, he steals her suitcase and leads her onto the path of being a hooker with Anne Archer. Luckily her brother is rancher Jim Mitchum (Robert Mitchum’s son). He’s out to liberate her using his McCloud skills. Scorchy suggests that Connie Stevens is America’s hottest undercover agent. She’s out to stop a drug ring that circled by William Smith (Hawaii Five-O). The film was made in Seattle, but isn’t so misty. The star of this marathon is Gary Busey’s Bulletproof. His McBain is a perfect over the top macho cop. The guy removes his own bullet wounds. He’s that tough. He’s the only hope the government has for recovering a top secret assault vehicle that’s in the hands of terrorists. Henry Silva (The Manchurian Candidate) gets to play the heavy. But he has to hope of going beyond Busey’s maverick cop attitude. The four films are spread over two DVDs so the picture looks fine as things get hairy for the stars.
Girl Most Likely lets Kristen Wiig do what she does best - play a delusional character who just might find a piece of footing in reality if everyone else around her isn’t in their own goofy world. Wiig dreams of becoming a big time playwright. She has the fantasy about winning that fat Tony Award. She’s always been pegged as a future success. However the burden of expectations crash inside her. This puts her in a mental ward. Her only hope at getting out is being taken home by her mother (Annette Bening). Turns out Mom is more insane than her cellmates. Adding to the nutty nature is mom’s new man Matt Dillon (Drugstore Cowboy). He’s also in his own little reality with his fictional background. Adding to the weirdness is that it takes place in New Jersey. If you laughed through Bridesmaids, you’ll enjoy another round of Wigginess. Certain critics complained that the film played like a sitcom which means it’s perfect to watch on home video. The bonus features include a gag reel, two short features about making the film and deleted scenes. There’s also Ultraviolet access to the film so you can watch it anywhere including New Jersey.
Ice Road Truckers: Season 7 brings us another winter season in the arctic for hauling loads into the remote world. The History Channel show needs a bit of a major gimmick to keep it from being just another year of trucking in the snow. While that is exciting since there’s always that chance of seeing a truck crack through and submerge mid-journey, people need to be able to see the game upped. Thus Hugh “The Polar Bear” Rowland brings a new element of tension to the frozen North. He goes all in to open up his own trucking firm. The Polar Bear dares to threaten Polar Industries for domination. To make things even more interesting, Alex Debogorski and Lisa Kelly drive for the old company. Ultimately it’s not about a team competition and more about the driver versus the unforgiving Arctic winter. How many loads can they all handle during the short season? Will someone press the gas pedal too far and lose control on a treacherous bend? Will the History Channel editors use the same underwater shot of a tire on the ice more than twice an episode? The 12 episodes on 3 DVDs cover the competition. The show is still a bit exciting with its mix of extreme working and human interest. There is about 30 minutes of extra footage that wasn’t originally aired.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: A Pony For Every Season let each of the six key ponies have the spotlight in six episodes. “Wonderbolt Academy” admits Rainbow Dash for training. She meets Lightning Dust, her natural rival. Which pony will end up at the top of the class? “Look Before You Sleep” puts Rarity in library slumber part with her friends. Can they sleep with so many tomes around? “Apple Family Reunion” goes overboard when Applejack wants bring her kin together. However she goes too far in setting up major events to dominate the day. “Keep Calm and Flutter On” rehabilitates Discord with the help of Fluttershy. “Winter Wrap Up” cleans up Ponyville before Spring arrives. Twilight Sparkle has to slept up the campaign. “Too Many Pinkie Pies” explains why cloning yourself isn’t a great idea. Pinkie Pie wants to hang out with everyone at once. The bonus is sing-along fun. What’s strange is knowing that Anthony Bourdain knows too much about My Little Pony thanks to his kid.
Little Brother Big Trouble: A Christmas Adventure is the sequel to The Flight Before Christmas. This is a little more complicated than the average Christmas special involving Santa’s magical reindeer. Niko is somewhat upset that his mother has remarried and he’s stuck with a stepbrother, Jonni. But that feeling is quickly forgotten when the stepbrother is kidnapped by evil eagles. Niko must rely on the help of Tobias, who isn’t a great help since the old reindeer is nearly blind. But he does have the background of working for Santa. There’s a lot of revenge aspects in this holiday tale. But all this can be explained since this CGI animated feature film was made in Finland. The reindeer design is good and goofy. The bonus features include the process of making a CGI feature film.
Bratz Babyz Save Christmas: The Movie will make any parent ponder the thought: They make Bratz Babyz. Thankfully the feature length cartoon is a lot more family friendly than the Bratz. They also look like they’ve eaten a cheeseburger. The kids have to do a major good dead instead of being bratty. During a trip to the mall, they get the shocking news that Santa might be having a delivery issue this Christmas. Turns out there’s major issues in the North Pole. The Baby Bratz appear to be the only solution. They scramble to the land of Santa in order to become certified elves. Besides doing elf jobs, they must defend Santa’s workshop from those who wish to destroy Christmas. It’s not really as bratty of a Christmas special as the tile would suggest. There’s no sarcasm in their attempt to make the world a happy place on Christmas morning.
Bonnie & Clyde: Justified is another view of America’s favorite crime couple. During the depression Clyde Barrow (Jim Poole) and Bonnie (Magic Mike’s Ashley Hayes) captured the media’s attention with the bank robbing exploits. They didn’t mind sharing their loot with the broke families that were all over America. They were like Robin Hood and his gunmoll in the imagination of the time. But they were still bank robbers and killers wanted by every lawman in the nation. What the couple didn’t count on was Eric Roberts (Star 80) on their trail. Dee Wallace (E.T.) gets into the hunt. The low budget production does a fine job of getting a feeling for the time. The bonus feature is a Ultraviolet version of the film to stream or download from the Cloud.
Bonnie & Clyde: The Real Story includes two History Channel specials about the crime duo. The special mix authentic items with recreated moments to flesh out their cross country crime spree. “Bonnie and Clyde: The Story of Love and Death” is the old Biography episode from 1995. Is that really 18 years ago? Good old Jack Perkins (not MST3K’s Mike Nelson dressed as Jack Perkins) hosts this special that explains how these two came together and quickly became the hottest couple in America in the media. The archival footage talks about their bloody ending when their car was riddled with more bullets than an episode of The Untouchables. “Man, Moment, Machine: Hunting Bonnie and Clyde” was an interesting History Channel series from 2005. This is less about the outlaws and more about the guns that were used to kill them. Expect to learn a lot about the Browning Automatic Rifle.
WWII 3-Film Collection brings together three History Channel specials in one boxset. WWII in HD brings a new level of clarity to the archival footage. The producers dug through vaults and uncovered more military footage from the European and Pacific theaters. There’s a lot of good images that puts you in the middle of firefights. The footage is from the various countries to give the view from both sides of the front. This is a 10 part special. WWII in HD: The Air War takes the camera up in the air for dog fights and bombing runs. Once more you get a fresh perspective on the combat in the sky. WWII in Space is an interesting special that uses CGI to let you see how various battles were fought from above. It gives a great sense of strategies from the various generals. This is perfect for those wanting to get a better understanding of what happened during World War II.
Stan Lee’s Superhumans: Season Two searches for people that just might have real life mutant skills. Marvel Superhero UberCreator Stan Lee sends Daniel Browning Smith around the globe to meet and investigate these people with special skills. Are they really genetic freaks like Scott Steiner? Daniel ought to know if they’re lying since he’s the World’s Most Flexible Man. The show does it’s best to give an update to That’s Incredible. “Unbreakable” has a Shaolin monk take a drill to his skull. A man from Ghana drinks more water than a human can supposedly handle. “Shins of Steel” is a man who can’t be threatened by mobsters with baseball bats. A man can put his hands in a cougar trap. There’s a lot of gross things like a guy who can pull a car with his eyelids. There are also women put to the test including a lady who climbs like Spider-man. Stan Lee will be the judge of that claim. Stan Lee does his best to find the X-Men. that walk amongst us.
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