MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka Dretzka@moviecitynews.com

A Prophet: Blu-ray

With all due respect for the lives of the guards and inmates slaughtered by New York State Police at the Attica Correctional Facility in 1971, it’s reasonable to assume that American prisons are more hospitable places to spend a few years of incarceration than those in, say, Turkey, Thailand, China, Brazil, South Africa and Northern Ireland.

Or, so we’ve been led to believe by such movies as Midnight Express, Brokedown Palace, Red Corner, Pixote, Cry Freedom and Hunger. You can add to that list Jacques Audiard’s harrowing A Prophet, which was honored with the Grand Prize of the Jury at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

The story of survival in a maximum-security French prison features a stunning performance by newcomer Tahar Rahim as Malik El Djebena, an illiterate French-Arab orphan who decides early on that it’s better to be exploited by jailed Corsican mobsters than similarly predatory prisoners of his own background. After agreeing to kill a snitch, Malik is rewarded with protection and promises of better conditions by the Corsican godfather, César Luciani (Niels Arestrup, of Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped).

Toiling primarily as a go-fer, Malik makes the most of his servile status by eavesdropping on the Corsicans’ deliberations and serving as a conduit to other prison factions. His favored position also attracts the attention of prison grifters and corrupt prison guards, willing to facilitate the drug trade and other mutually beneficial services. Luciani never allows his ward to forget that the Corsicans control his destiny, but cuts him enough slack to attend classes and profit financially from his various enterprises. The old man also arranges for Malik, a likely candidate for parole, to leave the prison occasionally to learn a trade … supposedly, anyway.

Instead, under the cover of outside allies, Luciani requires Malik to perform certain odd jobs for the mob. In the time he has left over, Malik is able to create a criminal enterprise of his own. There’s no need to reveal any more of the narrative’s twists, except to point out that prisoners are no more immune to the complexities of rapidly shifting social sands than anyone living outside the walls.

In addition to presenting a damning indictment of the French penal system, A Prophet shares with HBO’s Oz an ability to shock, disgust, provoke and entertain viewers almost simultaneously. Lest one think the film is an apologia for bad behavior by caged felons, Audiard leaves little doubt as to the depravity of the characters or their willingness to destroy anyone who gets in the way of their criminal aspirations. What’s also obvious is the improbability of initiating reform in a system overwhelmed by ethnic and gang rivalries, overcrowding, corruption, moral ambiguity and political expediency.

Watching Malik leave prison after six years, we want to believe he’s achieved a level of maturity that would allow him to succeed without resorting to more criminality and violence. Ultimately, our fear is that he’ll only be exchanging one kind of prison for another. The performances in A Prophet are universally excellent, with Rahim and Arestup’s being of the quality that defines greatness. The Blu-ray set adds deleted scenes, rehearsal and audition footage, commentary and interviews. – Gary Dretzka

The Ghost Writer

Leaving aside any debate over the reasonableness of forcing Roman Polanski to return to the United States to accept his fate in a case that’s older than most of today’s movie-goers, can we agree that he’s still capable of making outstanding movies? In the last decade, the multiple Oscar-nominee has directed only three movies – The Pianist, Oliver Twist and The Ghost Writer – all of which have been embraced by critics, if not the audiences that currently haunt the nation’s multiplexes. If Ghost Writer is familiar to those masses, at all, it’s because it was mentioned in news articles as the film Polanski was forced to finish while he was being held prisoner in Switzerland.

Only someone very familiar with the process would be able to tell what, if anything, the director had to forgo artistically to get the movie finished in time for its scheduled release. As it is, Ghost Writer is a terrifically entertaining and highly literate political thriller. Adapted from a novel by author/screenwriter Robert Harris, it describes what transpires when a writer agrees to “ghost” the memoirs of the disgraced British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). Lang is supposed to remind us of Tony Blair, a politician whose support of the Iraq invasion was based primarily on lies propagated by President Bush. Ewan McGregor plays the writer, known simply as Ghost, who accepts the assignment even knowing that his predecessor died under mysterious circumstances. No sooner does he accept the gig than Ghost is mugged outside his home by someone who mistakes a different manuscript for the Lang autobiography.

That manuscript is hardly the stuff of intrigue and controversy. It’s exceedingly boring and requires several more interviews with Lang, who’s more concerned with avoiding trial in The Hague for war crimes than spicing up his autobiography. Ensconced in the PM’s compound in Martha’s Vineyard, Ghost discovers a clue that leads to further suspicion about the previous writer’s death, if not a clear motive. That will arrive in due time, as well. Ewan McGregor is very good as a reporter who can’t help but get entangled in a web of intrigue that involves Lang’s politically savvy wife (Olivia Williams), his advisor and likely mistress (Kim Cattrall), a devious Harvard professor (Tom Wilkinson) and salty old Vineyard resident (Eli Wallach). Polanski allows the story to unravel at a slow and deliberate pace, under leaden winter skies. And, yes, it’s OK to draw comparisons to Hitchcock.

Despite the obvious political overtones, Ghost Writer is far more a mystery than another excuse to bash the former resident of the White House or be seen as commentary on the director’s own incarceration. In any case, Harris’ original target was Blair, a world leader whose legacy will forever be tainted by his dealings with Bush and Dick Cheney. The bonus features include a makeshift interview with Polanski; interviews with cast members; a featurette, The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality?; and an interesting piece on how Polanski was able to re-create Martha’s Vineyard on a stretch of German beach. – Gary Dretzka

The Kim Novak Collection

If model-turned-starlet Kim Novak is less remembered today than fellow “blond bombshells” of the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, it’s only because she managed to make it out of Hollywood alive. The sultry Chicago native was discovered after touring the country as Miss Deep Freeze, for an appliance company. After a couple of bit roles as a pretty face in the background, Novak was hired by Columbia as its answer to Monroe.

She was given the nickname, The Lavender Girl, after the studio’s brain trust decided to add a touch of color to her platinum-colored hair. Before long, though, Novak was able to drop the affectation and stand on her own as a female lead. Even if her “torrid affairs” with directors, foreign dictators and business magnates, princes and big-name actors – the mob and studio executives famously put the kibosh on her romance with Sammy Davis Jr. — would keep studio publicists and the editors of gossip magazines hopping, it was her screen allure that paid the utility bills at Harry Cohn’s house. The movies included in this collection — Picnic, Jeanne Eagels, Bell, Book and Candle, Middle of the Night, Pal Joey — may cover only a few years of work, but they represent the surprising range of her talent.

Not included are Novak’s most prominent roles, in The Man With the Golden Arm and Vertigo, for which her talent was “loaned” to rival studios. Novak’s glamorous screen persona fell out of favor in the ’60s, causing her to think about taking early retirement. She would accept occasional assignments until 1991, but, mostly, she filled her days painting and riding horses in her Big Sur and rural Oregon homes.

In Picnic (1955), a handsome drifter played by William Holden arrives in a Kansas town, just in time for the annual Labor Day picnic. An old college chum, the son of the city’s wealthiest man, offers him a job at one of the family’s grain elevators, but their friendship begins to go sideways when he attracts the attention of his buddy’s girlfriend, a 19-year-old beauty queen played by Novak.

The worldliness of Holden’s Hal cuts against the grain of the town’s old-fashioned values and wariness of all things related to sex. It isn’t really the former athlete’s fault that the locals can’t handle his happy-go-lucky personality, but Hal pays the price for the hangovers they endure the morning after the picnic, nonetheless. Despite the fact that Holden was several years too old for the part, director Joshua Logan’s insistence that Picnic be shot on location in Kansas paid off in verisimilitude.

George Sidney’s biopic of Jeanne Eagels, a huge star in 1920s, gave Novak an opportunity to prove she could chew the scenery with the best of ‘em. As portrayed in the 1957 weeper, Eagels’ career evolved from small-town beauty and carnival shimmy dancer, to the heights of Broadway and Hollywood success. Eagels was so driven by her desire to play in the big leagues that she routinely refused to accept the advice of her well-intentioned mentors (Jeff Chandler, Agnes Moorehead), who could only stand by and watch the actor stumble down the road to self-destruction. Ultimately, Eagels succumbed to the twin evils of alcohol and drug addiction.

Also released in 1957, Sidney’s loose adaptation of the Broadway musical Pal Joey paired Novak with Rita Hayworth and Frank Sinatra. In the movie version, Sinatra plays a ring-a-ding-ding saloon singer who rarely succeeds in staying one step ahead of the law in the cities not already hip to his game. Joey Evans arrives in San Francisco broke, but quickly finds work in a nightclub in desperate need of a singer and emcee. (He was a hoofer in the stage musical.) Joey’s immediately attracted to Novak’s Linda English, a showgirl who initially plays hard to get, but ultimately sets his sights on a rich widow (Hayworth) he first met when she was a chorus girl and stripper.

It takes all of Joey’s sleazy skills to balance his interest in both women with his dream of hoping a nightclub of his own, financed by someone else’s money. Eventually, both women run out of patience with the cad. The movie also differs from the stage version in the soundtrack. Two of the movie’s most popular songs, My Funny Valentine and The Lady Is A Tramp, were lifted from the 1937 musical Babes in Arms, while I Didn’t Know What Time It Was came from Too Many Girls (1939) and There’s a Small Hotel was introduced in On Your Toes (1936). Nevertheless, it’s fun to watch the stars interact on a set decorated to take full advantage of the Technicolor palette.

In Bell, Book, and Candle (1958), Novak plays a sexy Greenwich Village shopkeeper and sorceress, who’s tired of the witchy lifestyle and wants to attract a normal guy. Enter upstairs neighbor Shep Henderson, as played by James Stewart, as normal a guy who’s ever walked the Earth. Despite her desire to go straight, Gillian casts a spell on Shep to free him from the clutches of his society-girl fiancé. It backfires after the befuddled publisher realizes that all of his lover’s friends and relatives are witches and his feelings may be based on false pretenses. All works out in the end, of course, thanks in no small part to enchanting characters played by Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold and Elsa Lanchester.

Middle of the Night (1959) may be the most noteworthy title in the collection, if only for its unfamiliarity and the writing of Paddy Chayefsky. In it, a recently divorced receptionist at a New York clothing company succumbs to the advances of her much-older boss (Frederick March), who lost his wife several years earlier. The receptionist is no gold-digger and the gentleman isn’t interested in her as a fling. Really, the only things standing in the way of a compatible relationship are the protestations of their respective families and the boss’ increasingly possessive behavior. Delbert Mann’s shrewdly paced direction allows viewers to savor the nuances of Chayefsky’s very smart script and make their own decision as to the appropriateness of the relationship. Also wonderful is the movie’s gritty urban feel, which owes much to the fact that many of the scenes were shot in Manhattan’s bustling streets. The supporting cast includes Martin Balsam and Lee Grant.

The collection includes Novak’s reflections on the movies and commentary on select scenes, as well as the featurettes Kim Novak’s Hollywood Picnic, Backstage and at Home With Kim Novak and Bewitched, Bothered and Beautiful. – Gary Dretzka

Finding Bliss

Leelee Sobieski, Kristen Johnston and Denise Richards share the spotlight in this unconvincing romantic comedy, set against the backdrop of Los Angeles’ porn industry. Sobieski plays a NYU film-school graduate who moves west to make movies, but, instead, can only find a gig editing a XXX-rated flick with aspirations of being taking seriously as art. Instead of being completed discouraged, Sobieski’s character decides to film a project of her own creation at the Valley studio at night and on weekends.

Although she holds an open audition, she ends up with a cast comprised of porn stars looking to break into more traditional movies. Most of the conflicts take the form of petty disagreements between Sobieski and her boss (Matthew Davis), who initially seems like a sleaze-ball, but is really a pussy cat. Finding Bliss certainly won’t make anyone forget Boogie Nights. It’s not completely devoid of humor or romance, though. It simply doesn’t look as if writer/director Julie Davis (Amy’s Orgasm) spent more than five minutes researching the industry and watching those porn flicks that actually succeed in achieving something resembling art. – Gary Dretzka

Chow Down

This cautionary documentary does two things effectively. One, it shines needed light on the twin epidemics of diabetes and heart disease in the U.S., and, two, it offers an alternative solution to surgery and pharmaceuticals for both diseases. “Chow Down” makes the generally accepted point that surgery is a more of a band-aid than a cure-all, when it comes to eliminating the threat of future heart attacks and strokes, and it’s worth even less if patients refuse to lose weight, exercise or actually take their medication as prescribed. According to the doctors and patients interviewed here, a strict plant-based diet has already been shown to reduce the symptoms of such diseases and reversed many of the conditions that force emergency treatment.

The doctors and spokespersons for health organizations don’t come off as rabid vegans or anti-meat activists. Instead, case studies and other research are shared in a bright, easy-to-stomach fashion. An element of Super Size Me rhetoric is introduced when the experts describe USDA efforts to dilute such findings and include meat and less-healthy grain by-products on the official nutrition pyramids. Chow Down might make a good hint-hint gift for friends and relatives you fear may be on the road to a heart attack, if they don’t start changing their eating habits. – Gary Dretzka

Kick-Ass: Blu-ray

What do you get when you cross a story about a clueless superhero wannabe with the producer of such balls-out British gangland thrillers as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch? Short answer: Kick-Ass. Producer Matthew Vaughn made his directorial debut in 2004 with Layer Cake. In that hyper-violent drama, 007-to-be Daniel Craig played a London coke dealer whose retirement plans are put on hold by a mob boss who requests two favors from him, either one of which could delay his plans permanently. In Kick-Ass, a delusional high school dweeb convinces himself that the only real difference between him and Batman is a cowl, cape and spandex costume.

Dave Lizewski first comes to the public’s attention when he’s mugged and seriously wounded by a pair of knife-wielding car thieves he foolishly confronts in a New York parking lot. After leaving the hospital, the teen comic-book fanatic dons his costume once again, this time hoping to dispatch a quartet of thugs outside a New York diner. While Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) is only slightly more successful in this fracas, his crime-fighting efforts are captured by cellphone-wielding pedestrians, who make their videos available to local TV outlets.

The news reports attract the attention of a father-daughter vigilante team, Big Daddy (Nic Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), and a crime kingpin’s nerdy son, who also aspires to becoming a superhero, Red Mist. In addition to being genuinely hilarious, the interaction between former-cop Big Daddy and the pre-teen Hit Girl borders on the insane. Our first introduction to this dynamic duo comes when Big Daddy tests his daughter’s ability to withstand a bullet shot directly at her tiny chest. Blessedly, her torso is protected by a Kevlar vest, but we aren’t made aware of that fact until after she’s lying on the ground, seemingly lifeless. Big Daddy also teaches the potty-mouthed young’un how to use an arsenal of weapons, ranging from assault rifles to nunchucks.

There’s enough explosive action in the last half-hour of Kick-Ass to fill another two or three “Spider-Man” sequels. Kick-Ass is rated “R” for several very good reasons and parents should consider watching the movie themselves before allowing their kids to experience the comic-book mayhem and crass language. (One needn’t be a teenager to enjoy it.) The Blu-ray package includes Vaughn’s commentary; the PIP Ass-Kicking BonusView Mode, which adds multimedia material to the commentary; the featurettes, A New Kind of Superhero: The Making of Kick-Ass and It’s On! The Comic Book Origin of Kick-Ass; a gallery of art from the graphic novel; Internet connectivity; and BD Touch and Metamenu Remote features. – Gary Dretzka

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Blu-ray

Unlike Kick-Ass, not all teenage dorks want to avenge the bullying tactics of their older classmates by becoming super-heroes. Some just want to make it through the first year of middle school without drawing any attention to themselves. Berlin-born director Thor Freudenthal employs live action and some rudimentary animation in his adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s popular book and blog series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

In some school systems, middle school begins at seventh grade, before most kids have experienced growth spurts, puberty and the removal of their orthodontia. The boys, especially, stick out like sore thumbs — or fear they do — and dream of the day when something dramatic happens, automatically upgrading their status to “cool.” Undersized even by the standards set by 7th Graders, Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) assumes he’s already cool enough to hang with kids his brother’s age, but still enjoys dressing up in costumes and playing with action figures. Greg’s rotund, red-headed best friend, Rowley, is considerably lamer than the more ambitious diarist, but wisely has little desire to impress the older kids.

The characters will be immediately recognizable to kids in the target demographic and parents of children making the same adjustments as their peers in the movie. Unlike too many other movies about children in their early teens, Diary doesn’t force its characters to grapple with issues of sexual identity. The thing that finally comes between the two friends is Rowley winning a cartoon-drawing contest, sponsored by the school newspaper, something Greg wanted desperately to win. Viewers unfamiliar with Kinney’s books might find Freudenthal’s pacing to be on the slow side and wish more time was set aside for Greg’s parents, played by Steve Zahn and Rachel Harris.

Neither is Diary able to provoke the same belly laughs as the late John Hughes could in movies with characters roughly the same age as those here. But, then, how many filmmakers possess even half of Hughes’ understanding of what makes teenagers tick and empathy for their predicaments, real and imagined. Besides a DVD and digital copy, the Blu-ray package arriveswith Greg’s Deleted Diary Pages; commentary with Freudenthal and writer Gabe Sachs; deleted scenes; and Rowley’s lost Zoo-Wee Mama cartoons. – Gary Dretzka

After.Life: Blu-ray

Despite the fact that Christina Ricci spends more than half of After.Life completely naked or in a sexy red slip, the movie came and went with barely a ripple of excitement during its half-hearted 41-screen theatrical release last April. In it, Ricci plays a recently deceased school teacher, who, despite having been declared dead, wakes up on slab in funeral home.

Standing over Anna Taylor’s body is Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson), a funeral director able to communicate with the dead during their transition from Earthly being to the Great Beyond. Deacon fits the stereotype of a traditional undertaker: exceedingly calm, compassionate, polite, professional and a bit too attached to his work. Taylor presents a bit of a problem for Deacon, in that she refuses to accept the evidence he presents of her death and traipses around the preparation room like a poltergeist in a china shop.

The funeral director also is required to deal with the corpse’s former boyfriend, whose proposal of marriage so unnerved Taylor that she ignored warnings of dangerous driving conditions and was hit by a truck. He can’t accept the coroner’s report, either. Director/co-writer Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo wants us to believe, first, that Deacon is every bit the medium he claims to be and Taylor is only prolonging the inevitable. About half-way through After.Life, however, she offers clues to support Taylor and her boyfriend’s position.

For me, at least, the guessing game continued until the very end … long after I stopped caring. After.Life looks good and benefits from a soundtrack by former Tangerine Dream member Paul Haslinger. It probably will enjoy a long afterlife in DVD, if only for Ricci’s willingness to remain undressed for such long periods of time. I can think of worse reasons to rent a movie. – Gary Dretzka

Spinnin’
Change of Life

The national argument over the legalization of same-sex marriages is so fraught with controversy that it threatens to crack the foundation of constitutional law in the United States. Liberal politicians have allowed the fire-breathing demagogues of the religious- and talk-radio right to frame the debate to fit their extremist agendas, while pro-marriage advocates struggle to neutralize the efforts of the Mormon Church to stifle any opposing opinion with financial contributions.

Spinnin’ and Change of Life represent opposite sides of the gay-marriage coin. Made in Spain, where such unions are legal, Eusebio Pastrana’s frothy romance isn’t obligated to dwell on the negative aspects of gay life in a predominantly Catholic nation. It can bypass controversy and focus on issues that inform marriages everywhere. Here, Garate and Omar have gotten to the point in their relationship where they want have children, but haven’t been able to impregnate any of their close female friends.

Instead, they befriend a woman desperate to find someone, anyone, with whom to share her pregnancy. Pastrana also is free to introduce other interesting characters, straight and gay, from their neighborhood. In this way, Spinnin’ is a movie about love and marriage that, while unconventional, delivers a message with which most movie-goers can identify.

Made in Kansas on a shoestring budget, Change of Life couldn’t be more contentious. Its central figure is a radio evangelist, Gary Catell, so fixated on his hatred for gays and lesbians that he invents scripture to fit his radical views. His flock of listeners represents the kind of rabid Christian “warriors” who picket the funerals of soldiers to protest … well, I’m not sure what they’re protesting. Turns out, Catell’s daughter is a lesbian, made so distraught by her father’s rants that she shoots herself during an on-air exchange.

This so unnerves Catell, he tells God that he’d accept any punishment, if only his daughter’s suicide could be reversed. God, in His infinite jest, saves the girl but forces the preacher to inhabit the body of a young gay man, so he can experience the pain of mindless prejudice first-hand. As such, Change of Life is a polemical cross between Heaven Can Wait and It’s a Wonderful World.

First-time writer/director/producer/cinematographer/editor Amy McClung was 21 when she made Change of Life, and her inexperience is palpable. On the plus side, the film improves as it unspools and clearly would have been better if she had any kind of budget behind her. – Gary Dretzka

Piranha: Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: Blu-ray
Humanoids From the Deep/Death Sport / Battle Truck

No American producer was able to exploit the success of other filmmakers more effectively than Roger Corman, and there’s no better example of such mimicry than Piranha. No sooner had Jaws re-written the textbook on film distribution, and Jaws II was rushed into development, than Piranha was commissioned to take advantage of the hype surrounding both pictures. Corman’s spin on the world’s most profitable fish story was to threaten tourists and campers on an inland lake not with a giant shark, but hundreds of comparatively miniscule piranhas.

How the predatory fish found their way into a Catskills lake is almost beside the point, except that it involves a failed military experiment. Once the piranhas are inadvertently freed from their aquariums, though, the nearby waterways are safe for no swimmer, beast or topless hottie. Today, Piranha is noteworthy primarily for the contributions of writer John Sayles and director Joe Dante. The special effects are primitive and none of the actors appear to have worked up a sweat. Based purely on its campy charm, though, Piranha stands up better than any of the Jaws sequels and is worth watching, if only in anticipation of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D.

Two years after Piranha, Humanoids From the Deep would extends the Jaws conceit even further, by introducing amphibious monsters that were as deadly as sharks, but resembled the Creature From the Black Lagoon. They, too, were the byproduct of an insane scientific experiment, this one involving salmon, frogs and human DNA. Here, though, Corman was insistent on creating a movie that pushed the limits of the horror genre when it came to gratuitous gore and sex.

Humanoids is set in a coastal city whose economy is threatened by a growing rift between racist thugs and Native Americans willing to take their case for traditional fishing rights to federal court. The issue is made moot by the arrival of the humanoids, however. In Corman’s mind, the only thing audiences needed to know was that the creatures were there to “kill the town’s men and rape the women.” Indeed, when original director Barbara Peeters delivered a version in which the killings and rapes weren’t sufficiently graphic, she was relieved of her duties. The result is a movie that, even today, might teeter on the brink of NC-17. I shudder to think what a fully digitized, 21st Century version of Humanoids From the Deep might resemble.

Also available this week as part of Shout! Factory’s Cult Classics series are Battletruck and Deathsport. The former anticipates the day when wars would be fought over the dwindling supplies of oil and gasoline necessary to fuel oversized vehicles of mass destruction. Two decades later, the same scenario would play out in Iraq, with Dick Cheney and George Bush getting top billing. Released in 1978, Deathsport is essentially a post-apocalyptical sequel to Death Race 2000, with David Carradine once again in the lead role. This time around, however, the vehicles of choice are “destructocycles.”

The Blu-ray packages feature interviews with Corman and other participants, lively commentary, original trailers and stills, behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes. – Gary Dretzka

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Movie Collection, Set 5
Stargate Universe: SGU: Season 1.5: Blu-ray
Henson’s Place: The Man Behind the Muppets
Dora’s Big Birthday Adventure

Anyone who missed the recent run of Agatha Christie movies on PBS’Masterpiece Mystery! can catch up with them in this package from Acorn Media. David Suchet plays the brilliant Belgian detective in Murder on the Orient Express, alongside Toby Jones, Barbara Hershey, Hugh Bonneville and Dame Eileen Atkins; Third Girl, in which Poirot collaborates with crime novelist Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker) to help a young heiress who thinks she may have committed a murder; and Appointment with Death, set at an archaeological dig in the Syrian Desert, where the wife of Lord Boynton (Tim Curry) is murdered. The set adds documentary in which Suchet hosts a tour of the present-day Orient Express and 120 Years With Agatha Christie.

The latest Blu-ray edition of Stargate Universe concludes the first-season episodes. (Half-season packages really ought to be banned.) Here, Robert Carlyle’s Dr. Rush must locate a tracking devise hidden somewhere on the Destiny and ferret out an Alliance mole who’s infiltrated the team. The series also stars Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Shanks, Richard Dean Anderson and Julia Benson.

The informative and entertaining documentary Henson’s Place was made in 1984, at the height of popularity for the Muppet franchise and six years before Jim Henson’s untimely death. At the time, the empire had yet to be conglomerized and its products reflected a singular vision. Among those interviewed are Henson and his wife Jane, and close associate Frank Oz. The doc also provides a behind-the-scenes looks at the Henson Workshop, where much of the magic happened.

Dora’s Big Birthday Adventure caps Nickelodeon’s Magic Storybook trilogy. Dora is young Latina, whose best friend and fellow adventurer is a monkey named Boots. Together, they must overcome a witch and other obstacles on the way back home for Dora’s birthday.

– Gary Dretzka

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One Response to “A Prophet: Blu-ray”

  1. The multiplayer was about as choppy and horrible as world at wars. so really there is zero reason to buy this game. way to take an awesome franchise and throw in the toilet at McDonalds. I personally am done with the Call of Duty games (minus MW2 since it ROCKS!) after playing this. All the talent was obviously from Infinity Wards original team. im going to go back to staring at the wall since its more worth while than Black Ops

Dretzka

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon