Downton Abbey: A New Era

May 23, 2022


I am happy to report the second Downton Abbey film, Downton Abbey: A New Era continues the tradition of being a perfect love letter to fans. It’s no easy feat to create sequels which hold up, but this one shines beautifully. When was the last time Reel Charlie went to the theater? I can tell you. It was 2019, before COVID. And we saw a little known film called you guessed it, Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture. I actually prefer to watch films on my beautiful OLED TV in the comfort of home. But we not only trekked to the theater to see this, we went to an indie theater in Stamford, CT at 11:30 on a Saturday morning. There were only a handful of others in attendance. It was a great experience and we supported a local business.

The film begins with a wedding. Fans can guess, but no spoilers here. And ends with a death and finally a birth. In-between half of the upper and lower floors head off to the French Riviera. The other half stay behind and host a film crew. Lots of new characters and of course nearly all of the favorite series regulars return. The two stories bounce back and forth. There are funny lines (especially from Maggie Smith), and tearful scenes. There’s gorgeous scenery and sets and costumes – all the perfect trappings of what Downton is know for – Downton gives good costume drama. The grandchildren are older, but the focus is still on the older generations. Old Lady Grantham, her children, and grandchildren and the people who serve them. Regular followers of Reel Charlie know I just can’t get enough of this series. Thanks to my dear friends Nina and Joe, I have the original on Blu-ray, which we watch regularly whenever we need a pick me up. And the first film on Blu-ray as well. This new film will find a place along with the other Blu-rays as soon as the film is released on disk. I adored Downton Abbey: A New Era. Tell all your Downton friends to be sure not to miss this special event! 5 out of 5.

Downton Abbey: A New Era currently screens in movie theaters across the country and the world.


Releases on Blu-ray

May 21, 2022

Shout Factory just released the television series, The Six Million Dollar Man on Blu-ray. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with releasing this Lee Majors show from the 70’s. But now that they’ve done it, I have a list of really great films and television begging to be remastered for quality viewing:

9 to 5
First Love
The Watermelon Woman
You Can Count on Me
Muriel’s Wedding
Station Agent
Lilies (all John Greyson)
Walk on Water – (all Eytan Fox)
TV: The Golden Girls, Queer as Folk(U.S. 2000), and Six Feet Under

Since keeping this list for the past few years, I will say a few made it to Blu-ray. Hurray for:

Suddenly Last Summer (Indicator)
Secrets and Lies (Criterion)
Hairspray (Warner Bros)

Please, please, please continue releasing great films and television on Blu-ray and 4K. Meanwhile, what are your gems you’d like to see remastered in Hi-Def?

Shadow of a Doubt 4K

May 19, 2022

Splurged on the 4K disk for one of my favorite Hitchcock films, Shadow of a Doubt. Click here or on the image to read Reel Charlie’s updated review.

Rock Hudson’s Home Movies

May 17, 2022

Mark Rappaport’s 1992 documentary, Rock Hudson’s Home Movies combines actor Eric Farr playing a fictionalized version of Hudson who died of AIDS seven years prior to the creation of this film, along with grainy VHS clips from Hudson’s film. The entire project focuses on the gay undertones to most of Rock’s roles. It’s a brilliant, experimental, and easily digestible indie film from the New Queer Cinema movement coming in at at a scant 63 minutes. You won’t quite think of Hudson’s films in the same way after watching Rappaport’s documentary. Criterion remastered the film and released it in 2019 as part of the extras in Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows. Sirk and Hudson collaborated on nine films together. Rappaport wrote on this very subject for Criterion in 2009 in an article titled, The Sirk-Hudson Connection. The film deserves to stand arm-in-arm with Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet and the more recent trans visibility release, Disclosure. I wish someone would do a lesbian documentary about lesbian characters in cinema to add to this treasure trove of docs on queer history. Meanwhile, 5 out of 5 for this essential and timeless documentary.

My own History of LBGTQ Film and Television presentation which begins with Vito’s material can be found on YouTube, recorded in 2020 for Triangle Community Center (Norwalk, CT).

Rock Hudson’s Home Movies is available streaming or on disk from Kino Lorber, or from your local public library.

Queer Writers of Crime Book Recommendation #3

May 15, 2022

I had so much fun this month with Brad Shreve on his podcast, Queer Writers of Crime. For May 2022, I had the fortune of reviewing, Grant Michael’s A Do-Si-Do With Death (A Stan Kraychik Mystery #7). The author died in 2009 after publishing six Stan Kraychik Mysteries. A seventh manuscript claimed to be located somewhere in Grant’s papers. Publisher ReQueered Tales did the heavy lifting and not only found the manuscript, but obtained the rights to publish. As a result, a brand-new Stan Kraychik releases this month and I am pleased to present a book recommendation for it on Queer Writers of Crime.

Click here or on the image to listen, or find Queer Writers of Crime on your favorite podcast platform.


Criss Cross

May 13, 2022

Film Noir can be hit or miss for me. I have loved a few over the years, but some of the more secondary films rarely hold my interest. Such is the case with Criss Cross, a 1949 film starring Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, and Dan Duryea. Lancaster plays an armored car guard who gets caught in a heist after falling once again for his ex-wife who’s now married to a gangster. Watched this for a film series we are hosting at the library this year. Can’t say I’m enamored with the film. Lost my interest early on, though Lancaster and De Carlo make a good looking couple. 2.5 out of 5. Next.

Criss Cross is available for a rental fee from various streaming platforms including Amazon, and on disk from your local public library.

Julia: Season 1

May 11, 2022

The first season of the fictionalized Julia Child series on HBO Max simply titled Julia whisked me away to a kinder, more gentler place. And wow did I need that. There’s no messy, hardcore drama in the series. Of course there’s sexism, and racism, and homophobia. It’s the early 1960’s. And straight white men run the show – literally. But we all know Julia Child triumphed and so do those around her, which makes this show delicious and relaxing. I loved watching the series come together on the local Boston PBS station. I loved seeing the young African-American female producer sell it to other affiliates. I loved seeing Julia mingle with James Beard in a pre-Stonewall gay bar with a drag queen doing Julia Child. And I loved the cast so much. Perfect casting. Sarah Lancashire melts away into the lead so effortlessly, I forget she’s not really Julia. Bebe Neuwirth and David Hyde Pierce prove pitch perfect as Julia’s best friend and husband. And the younger cast – Brittany Bradford, Fiona Gladcott, and Fran Kranz hold their own beautifully with the seasoned actors. A wonderful television series meant to relax and invigorate you. 4 out of 5 for the yummy Julia.

Julia currently streams on HBO Max.

Grace and Frankie Season 7, Part 2 (The Final Episodes)

May 9, 2022

No other television show in recent history has left me feeling more ambiguous than Grace and Frankie. Throughout the entire seven seasons, I found found joy in watching Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda star in a project in their 80’s. I have also felt horror over the cheesy, formulaic network sit-com style scripts creators  Marta Kauffman (Friends, groan) and Howard J. Morris brought to Netflix. I honestly don’t think I’ve watched a series all the way through with nearly every season’s rating being a 3 out of 5. That’s just not compelling television to me. I kept hoping for more from Jane and Lily. The secondary characters tried. They aren’t bad actors. The content’s just ordinary and mundane. And Martin Sheen tried his best, but it’s hard being good with Sam Waterston yelling all of his lines. I am sure he was coached. Still they probably had fun doing it. Maybe? Who knows? I would probably give the show a 2 out of 5 for this final season, but it’s Lily and Jane. How do I do that? It’s kooky, it’s boring in places, it’s stupid in other places. Spoiler alert: yes Dolly finally appears, but even that’s not enough. But it’s Grace and Frankie – Jane and Lily. It’s mostly just great to see them together fumbling through their characters’ old age. And for that dear followers, I give the final episodes of Grace and Frankie 3 out of 5.

Grace and Frankie currently stream on Netflix.

Season 1: 3 stars
Season 2: 5 stars
Season 3: 3 stars
Season 4: 3 stars
Season 5: 3 stars
Season 6: 3 stars
Season 7.1: 3 stars
Season 7.2: 3 stars

Ozark: Season 4, Part 2 (final season)

May 7, 2022

Ozark: the end. Not sure where to begin. Perhaps the fact that this binge-loving television watcher could only inhale one episode a day of this intense series says something. It says a lot actually. I have loved Ozark throughout its run. Yes, it’s uber-violent. Yes, it’s depressing. Yes, with that violence comes the reality of constantly saying goodbye to characters. All that balances out with outstanding writing, directing, and acting. Ozark‘s atmospheric, lush, beautiful, and full of surprises. It’s been a journey with Wendy and Marty. Well journey may not exactly be the right word. Maybe car crash would be a better description. They’ve left a trail of chaos and death in their dust as they sunk deeper and deeper into a life of crime. Ozark continues to be a stark metaphor for the greed and lawlessness of our time. It is the perfect companion to this era. The second half of the final season of Ozark left a bloody pile of bodies as we all wondered who would survive? Is it even possible for Marty and Wendy to survive? Many thanks to creators Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams. And of course Ozark would not be Ozark without the stellar cast including Jason Bateman, Laura Linney (Mary Ann Singleton transformed forever), Skylar Gaertner, Julia Garner, Sofia Hublitz, Felix Solis, Richard Thomas (yes, that Richard Thomas), and Veronica Falcón. An outstanding end to to an amazing run. Dark Shadows gave me nightmares as a kid. Ozark gave me nightmares as an adult. 5 out of 5. Shiver.

Ozark currently streams on Netflix.

Reel Charlie ratings:
Ozark: Season 1: 4/5
Ozark: Season 2: 4/5
Ozark: Season 3: 4/5
Ozark: Season 4,1: 5/5
Ozark: Season 4.2: 5/5
Overall Ozark score: 4.4

Russian Doll: Season 2

May 5, 2022

Spoiler Alert: Natasha Lyonne’s insanely creative television show, Russian Doll came back for a second season. I wasn’t prepared for the severe right turn the story takes. But I should have known that would happen. The first season proved to be one of the most creative television shows in recent history. The loop, the death, the discovery Lyonne’s character is not alone, and the quest to figure out how to get them out of the loop all proved to be scintillating television. The fact that so much of the show was filmed in the East Village, specifically on Avenue A near Tompkins Square Park was just a huge glob of icing on the cake. So Season 2 began and WTF? It’s no longer about death, it’s now about time travel. And it specifically seems to be about Lyonne’s Nadia and Charlie Barnett’s Alan figuring out how to help their relatives in the strangest of ways right some major wrongs. And Alan’s even got a bi/pan thing going on with a German man in the past. Except maybe it’s technically not really bi/pan since Charlie’s really… oh hell, I’m not spoiling that part. This time, the science fiction aspect of the story barrels into time travel in the most NYC way – through the subway system. Our favorite band of secondary characters are back including the phenomenal Elizabeth Ashley and Greta Lee who should literally have her own series yesterday. Yes, it took me a while to get in the groove, but once I let go, the story captivated me with so much suspense and even more questions. I made it through one complete viewing. The complexity of the writing – including a number of historical markers – and the complexity of the stories makes for sophisticated watching. I live for these kinds of shows. As the tagline says, “all aboard the crazy train.” Indeed. 5 out of 5 for Season 2 of Russian Doll. I can’t wait to go back and watch it again.

Russian Doll currently streams on Netflix.

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