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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Sexuality > Stage > Book > Drama > Comedy > Politics > Behind The Burly Q – The Story Of Burlesque (2010/First Run DVD) + Pretty Things by Liz Goldwyn (Regan Books/Hardcover) + Blue Valentine (2010/Anchor Bay Blu-ray) + Cougars Inc. (2010/Image Blu-ray) +

Behind The Burly Q – The Story Of Burlesque (2010/First Run DVD) + Pretty Things by Liz Goldwyn (Regan Books/Hardcover) + Blue Valentine (2010/Anchor Bay Blu-ray) + Cougars Inc. (2010/Image Blu-ray) + Now & Later (2011/Cinema Libre DVD) + Year Of The Carnivore (2009/Maya DVD)


Picture: C+/B/B/C/C+     Sound: C+/B/B/C+/C+     Extras: C+/B-/C-/C/C-     Main Programs: B/B-/C-/C+/C     Book: B



How a society deals with sexuality in media is always an interesting situation to look at.  It has become an issue all over again in several new, interesting releases we will now look at…


Leslie Zemeckis’ documentary Behind The Burly Q (2010) deals with the earliest days of this in modern terms of the rise of Burlesque entertainment in the U.S. and is far more interesting than the Cher film.  Painstakingly researched and compiled, everything from old footage, new interviews, stills and other items have been put together to show this form of entertainment’s role in society and how it was a counterpart to mainstream entertainment and closer to it than many might have wanted to admit to at the time.


It certainly plays a big role during The Great Depression and continued to represent the most risqué in female sexuality until the 1950s and changing times started to affect the business.  We meet the stars, hear amazing stories, hear about audience reaction and just how big this was nationwide.  I found it very entertaining, smart and a long-overdue overview of a key part of the culture and its history.  Extras include a Photo Gallery, Original Theatrical Trailer, Timeline, Bonus Interviews and three featurettes: The Reunion, Memorabilia & Costumes and Behind The Scenes.  I wanted more and moiré than that Cher film, so at the same time, we got a solid hardcover coffee table book on the subject.


Pretty Things by Liz Goldwyn has some overlap with the documentary as expected, but focuses on the final generation of these often forgotten performers and is a well written, richly illustrated volume that brings home further the era with its high quality paper and photo reproduction.  At 286 pages, it is the kind of book you used to see all the time in the 1970s before home video, giving the reader as much information as possible to appreciate and much more than text.  Well researched, it makes a fine flipside piece to Behind The Burly Q.


Despite the supposed advancements over a half-century later, people (in part thanks to certain cynical, opportunistic forces) still have issues with human sexuality.  When Derek Cianfrance’s film Blue Valentine (2010) was first rated, it received an NC-17, shocking those few who had seen it.  With little violence, but a good share of nudity and sexual situations, it was tame as compared to so much garbage we see today.  That was appealed and the film now has an R-rating, so what was the big deal?


Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play a married couple at a crossroads, but their passion could save them, yet they need more.  They need to connect.  He is somewhat of a burnout at times, but does care, while she is not certain if they have a future and the film deals with that and if there is any way they can find a way to reconnect.  Their performances are daring, honest and the sexuality is just so casual and natural that it was likely a shock to the raters, yet it is never dumb, silly, unreal or sleazy.  The script keeps all in context to its narrative with interesting asides, but the film can be uneven by playing it loose (no pun intended) at times.  Little noted is the interesting chemistry the actors achieve that is not easy under these conditions.  Extras include Deleted Scenes, Home Movies, a Making Of featurette and feature length audio commentary by Cianfrance and Co-Editor Jim Helton.


Nowhere nearly as challenging, but sexual just the same is K. Asher Levin’s highly unrealistic Cougars Inc. (2010), a goofy tale of a young school guy (Kyle Gallner) becoming a de-facto pimp matching up younger men his age (from his school too) with hot and sexy older women (Denise Richards helps it in that respect) but a somewhat miscast Jim Belushi as a teacher trying to help our poor pimp and laughable opening where said pimp explains (as if he were an African American Urban Gangster type) what is happening is laughable and weak.


The script is all overt the place, so when they realize frontin’ will not carry 82 minutes of would-be narrative, it tries to be a comedy, then a drama, then have various sex scenes.  If only any of this would cohere, but this is just a cynical exploitation piece that could have had potential if they had focused on its more serious aspects and let the comedy and sex just happen.  Instead, it is a dud and any love story aspects here also seem too forced.  Extras include a Deleted Scene, dumb Cougars 101 piece, trailers and feature length audio commentary by Levin, Gallner and co-star Kathryn Morris.


Much better is Philippe Diaz’s Now & Later (2011) about a couple that comes together under odd circumstances.  Bill (James Wortham) is a financial executive on the run and about to leave the country when he meets the sexy Angela (Shari Solanis) who becomes instantly attracted to him and vice versa, so they begin a hot sexual relationship, but this is mixed with serious conversations about power, politics, money and how people are in a script that shows how people really talk about these subjects and they resonate considering he is now a criminal and she is a minority woman ignored too much by society.  The actors are also bold here.


You could say this is nearly a love relationship, but he is not staying and they know it, nor do they pretend anything.  If anything, the relationship is later challenged by one of her ideas of experimenting, after which the film does not seem to be as realistic, but it has honestly on the level of Blue Valentine and if not as successful, it is certainly as ambitious and maybe a little more graphic making it worth a look.  Extras include trailers, cast interviews and a deleted sex scene that made me debate whether it should have stayed or not.  It is certainly the most potent on the disc.


Finally we have Trish Dolman’s Year Of The Carnivore (2009), which also is about a potentially sexually honest, explicit relationship and how Sammi (Cristin Milioti) buries it in strange sex encounters and even breaking the law.  This is mostly a comedy, but has some good moments, though the ultimate problem is that it cannot concentrate on what it wants to be by trying to do too much.  Though not as scattered as Cougars, it has the same problems with trivializing the subjects addressed.  The only extra is a behind the scenes featurette.


The 1080p digital High Definition image on Valentine (1.66) and Cougars (2.35) both look good, though Valentine is a little more stylized and realistic, these are both solid HD presentations and Cougars looked better than I thought it would.  They also have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mixes and both are rich, warm and have fine soundfields.   The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 DVDs all are soft and originate on digital HD video, but Later is softer as the video format seems older and has more motion blur.  Those DVDs all have Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo that vary in quality, with Burly having its share of old monophonic sound and all have some volume drop flaws and other location audio issues, but are all adequate for what they are.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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