Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive Trilogy, Cinema Paradiso and Psychomania

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


A controversy is raging right now that will affect so many movie and TV fans and yet most are probably not aware of it. The sales of DVDs and blu-rays has dropped recently. Most are citing the digital and streaming services that are out there. One thing you need to realize is that if you lose your internet connection or a server crashes all of what you own digitally or watch streaming is suddenly unavailable. This is why I for one support the existence of hands on media in the form of discs. They’re always there whenever you want them.

And one of the best things to happen with the release of DVDs is the ability to collect a TV series that you either grew up with or have grown to love. A number of these have reached shelves at reasonable prices. Some have come out in season form so that you could purchase them one at a time. But CBS Video has taken it a step further and begun selling off entire series in a box set that takes up less space. It might make for a hefty one time price but it ends up being cheaper than buying each season alone.

With that in mind let me talk about one that is being released this week, a box set heavy enough to make a doorstop. If you grew up in the sixties you knew this show and its theme son, one that got heavy airplay on the radio. I know it was in my collection of 45s from the time (kids ask your grandparents what 45s were). The show took place in Hawaii and revolved around a special state government task force to combat crime. The series was HAWAII FIVE-O and the entire original series is now out in a special box set.

HAWAII FIVE-O told us the story of U.S. Naval Officer Steve McGarret (Jack Lord), an imposing figure who stood tall, wore a suit and tie and was the epitome of a straight up law enforcement agent. The Five-O task force was put together by the governor and only answered to him. Each week the group would take on anything from kidnappers to secret agents, crime lords to foreign spies. No crime was too big or small for them to take on. Well maybe dognapping but little else.

While led by McGarrett he was ably assisted by his team. Danny “Danno” Williams was a younger officer played by James McArthur. It was McGarrett’s catch phrase to Williams that most folks remember, the old “Book him, Danno”. Williams stayed with the series almost as long as Lord, dropping out before the last season.

Also in his task force were two sidekicks. Chin Ho played by Kam Fong who was actually born on Hawaii was an Asian-American actor who actually served as a police officer for 16 years before becoming an actor. He made several movies but it was this series that made him recognizable. The other was Kono played by Zulu. Here again we had another native Hawaiian who made a name for himself in this series.

The islands of Hawaii were a major part of the series too, as if they were a partner in it all. The series was shot on Hawaii, something rare at the time. It exposed the rest of the country to the beauty of the islands with opening shots of clear blue skies, beautiful beaches and swaying hips in grass skirts to the opening theme song that became so familiar and was a hit for the surf rock band The Ventures. There is little doubt that the series, even though it depicted crimes taking place there each week, was a great help in promoting tourism on the islands.

This series was a hit at the time lasting longer than many. It ran for 12 seasons from 1968 through 1980. It lasted for 281 episodes. At an average of 50 minutes per episode that means there are just over 14,050 hours of show to watch. That means it would take 585 days running around the clock to watch the entire series. All of those episodes are gathered together in this box set. Fortunately if you have it on hand you won’t have to watch it in consecutive 24 hour time periods. You can take your time and enjoy them as you like and have them bring back memories of the family gathered around the TV set doing so.

As I said, this doesn’t come cheap. Right now amazon has it on sale for $116.40 with a suggested retail price of $179.98. But like I said, the amount of episodes coupled with the memories they provide makes it worth the investment for diehard fans. I mean that comes out to about a penny an hour. You can’t even park a car that cheap. If you are one of those diehard fans then make a point of picking this one up. The show along with a few extras will make you smile for days to come.

Click here to order.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


On September 8, 1966, a new series began on NBC. The show was not a ratings success though. It carried on lasting only three seasons and those at the studio claimed there was no interest in the series. And yet here we are, some 50 years later, still talking about that series. Its name? START TREK.

The series didn’t develop a cult following like some series, it developed a mainstream following. By 1979 a feature film starring the original cast was made and followed by numerous sequels. Then in 1987 a new series, THE NEXT GENERATION came about. That was followed by DEEP SPACE 9 in 1993, VOYAGER in 1995 and ENTERPRISE in 2001. These last two series are now being offered in a special packaging that fans will want to add to their collection.

STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE takes us back in time, before the original series took place. It follows the adventures of Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) as he takes out the first Enterprise spaceship into space. Earth has been contacted by the Vulcans and one of those, T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) accompanies Archer and his crew on their journeys. The show only lasted 98 episodes but fans loved it.

A box set of the series is now available from CBS for a great price, much lower than in the past. Individual seasons of the show sell on amazon for anywhere from $35 to $45 dollars and with 4 seasons that can add up. The new box set is currently listed on amazon for just $49.96 with a standard price of $57.69. Not only that it will take up less room on your shelf with the packaging they’ve come up with.

If that weren’t enough CBS also has a new packaging on the series VOYAGER as well. Running seven seasons VOYAGER told the story of Starfleet Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and the crew of the starship Voyager. Taking place during the same time period as DEEP SPACE NINE, the first episode saw the crew and ship on the trail of a rebel spaceship only to be sucked into something unusual that took them 70,000 light years from Earth. The series then followed them as they attempted to find a way home, hoping to find a way of getting them there that would not take them the 75 years it would to travel at their highest speed.

This series lasted 172 episodes. Here again individual seasons range in various prices from $18 to $70. But this new packaging features the entire series, every episode, for as little as $82.99 currently ($144.99 standard). Even at the standard price trying to pick up all the seasons of the show amounts to a more expensive proposition. And, again, the packaging makes this collection much easier to store on your shelf.

So what draws us to the stories of Starfleet and the future? What makes fans of Star Trek so dedicated that even after studio heads felt no one was interested we are still not only watching and re-watching the old episodes but new movies are being made as is another series? Most have realized that the series gives us something that many science fiction films had never done in the past: hope. It showed us a future where there might be other civilizations set on destruction and controlling the universe but at the same time the combination of planets and peoples who made up Starfleet were numerous, cooperating and living in peace. With the Vietnam War raging when the first series came out and wars raging since then, people found a certain amount of solace in the fact that the future held a much brighter picture. And we as a people were included as well!

The series also gave us plenty of action, stories that went deeper than most seen on TV and casts that were perfect in so many ways. We were allowed to visit other planets, to discover other people and, yes, to boldly go where no man had gone before. Is it any wonder that we are all still there watching each and every series that was created?

With the release of these two new packagings fans now have the opportunity to add them to their collection at a reasonable price, to enjoy over and over again. Most of the others are available as well but these are the latest offered this way. If you are a STAR TREK fan you’ll want to pick these up. And at these prices you’ll live long and…prosper. Sorry I had to say it.


Growing up in the sixties and seventies we were exposed to a ton of music and musical styles that seem lacking in today’s world. At any time you could turn on the radio and find Frank Sinatra, Black Sabbath and Sly and the Family Stone all on the same channel. Today we tend to compartmentalize music into sub-genres and limit listening to only what we love without exposure to anything different. Had that been the case back then music would never have evolved and led to different styles. Such was the case with the Detroit band known as The Stooges.

This documentary follows the early beginnings through to the last moments of the Stooges career along with their front man Iggy Pop. It runs like most rock documentaries in that it follows the timeline, shows them performing and combines that with interviews past and present to form a cohesive of the band start to finish.

As with most bands that began in the sixties there is plenty of open talk about the drugs they took from marijuana to acid to heroin. It doesn’t glorify the use of those drugs but it was a part of the lifestyle they lived. It was a part of the rock culture at the time and the fact they survived those days without serious overdose or multiple deaths shows it didn’t always end that way. That they don’t discourage or encourage the use of drugs shows a more even keel in the discussion rather than aging rock stars saying “I did this but you shouldn’t”, something most rock docs seem to do. It becomes a hollow piece of advice in those.

The sound of the Stooges was raw and it was powerful and that’s what drew fans to them and their music. I got the sense that this stemmed from their home base of Detroit, of being exposed to that working class atmosphere, of listening to the hammering of metal in factories in the area. Many bands that came from the area were exposed to the same thing and it is apparent in the sound of bands like Grand Funk, Alice Cooper, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent and The Stooges. But The Stooges sounds was rawer than most with the exception of perhaps MC5 who played a major role in their early years as seen here.

This sound The Stooges created influenced so many bands and was also part of the foundation for the next big genre of rock music to come, punk. Their influence can be heard and is commented on in the film with their style replicating in bands like The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Sonic Youth and more. It was hard, it was fast, it was loud and it was raw. That word comes up a lot when thinking about The Stooges and deservedly so.

The movie doesn’t spend any time discussing the solo career of Iggy Pop and actually that turns out to be a good thing and goes along with what he says in the film. He talks about how the band were true Communists when they began, not in the sense of political ideology but in that they shared and shared alike. Money coming in was divided evenly. This extended to their return to the stage in 2003 at Coachella where he was offered so much to perform and said they’d have to triple the amount so each band member would get the same. To his surprise the backers agreed and they played.

The movie does give a historical perspective of the band and that’s great that a new generation will possibly find the band through the film. Many will be surprised at how influential they were. The biggest surprise in the film for me was that while directed by Jim Jarmusch his style of filmmaking isn’t on display here making the film about himself instead of the band. Rather he sticks to the straight forward format used in most rock docs and it pays off in the end.

As far as rock docs go this one is among the better that I’ve seen. It tells the story of its focus, The Stooges, rather than become a movie about stylistic choices of the director. It moves along from start to finish for the band and offers them in performance all along the way. It presents the band and its individual members in a respective tone allowing each to speak never giving one more on screen time than the rest with perhaps the exception in a small amount to Iggy. It doesn’t glamourize nor demonize the band. It just lets the music do the talking. And what powerful talking it does.

Click here to order.