MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrap: City Island, The Back-Up Plan, $5 a Day, Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg, The Square, Abandoned and more …

City Island: Blu-ray

If Leo Tolstoy had written Anna Karenina in the 1970s, instead of the 1870s, and as a screenplay, instead of a novel, it might have begun thusly, “Happy families are all alike; every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way.” Or to put it another way, “Happy families belong in TV sitcoms; unhappy families are more at home in quirky indie films co-starring Alan Arkin.”

The 76-year-old Second City alum isn’t required to steal any scenes in City Island, as he did in Little Miss Sunshine and The Slums of Beverly Hills. but his presence is duly noted at key moments.

As the title implies, Raymond De Felitta’s offbeat dramedy is set in the former oystermen’s enclave of City Island, which is located at the edge of New York City, just beyond Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and surrounded by the waters of western Long Island Sound and Eastchester Bay.

Various Rizzos have lived in the lovely, if exceedingly noisy house on the edge of the bay for generations. The current iteration includes Vincent Rizzo (Andy Garcia), a New York City corrections officer too embarrassed to admit he’s attending acting school; his wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), who believes Vince’s “poker nights” are a smokescreen for an affair; daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Andy’s real-life daughter), who’s been expelled from college and is secretly working as a stripper; and Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller), a teenage “chubby chaser” who recognizes a neighbor as hostess of BBW website.

Also along for the ride are Vince’s acting partner, Molly (Emily Mortimer), and a handsome young stranger, Tony (Steven Strait), an ex-con who Vince rescues from jail to help convert a shack into a cabana. (Arkin plays Molly and Vince’s no-nonsense acting coach.) Although they, too, eventually get caught up in the maelstrom of lies, secrets and paranoia clogging the Rizzos’ arteries, outsiders Molly and Tony represent the last hope for making a fully functional family unit again.

Everyone in the ensemble cast is excellent and each of their characters is given moments of their own to shine. Especially amusing is Vince’s obsession with Marlon Brando and Method acting. The Blu-ray package adds commentary by De Felitta and Garcia; deleted scenes; and the chatty Dinner With the Rizzos. Anyone who enjoys City Island is encouraged to pick up De Felitta’s Two Family House (2000), another story of dreams and secrets, this one set on New York’s Staten Island. – Gary Dretzka

The Back-Up Plan: Blu-ray

Whoever decided to steer Jennifer Lopez away from movies of substance and ambition – Out of Sight, U Turn, Blood and Wine, Mi Familia, Selena, The Cell – into the morass of Hollywood-style romantic comedies ought to be drawn and quartered in front of the Chinese Theater. No sooner had the former Fly Girl convinced audiences and critics that she could act than she started accepting work in movies only an agent could love, such as The Wedding Planner, Gigli, Maid in Manhattan and Monster-in-Law.

By the time Lopez returned to dramas – El Cantante, Bordertown, An Unfinished Life – her fan base had disappeared into thin air. After a four-year hiatus, during which she became the mother of twins, the 41-year-old singer/dancer/actor accepted the lead role in Alan Poul’s The Back-Up Plan, in which she plays an unmarried woman so frustrated with men that she decides to start a family without one.

The difference between The Back-Up Plan and the newly released The Switch is that while Lopez’ Zoe finds Mr. Perfect (Alex O’Loughlin) almost immediately after becoming artificially inseminated, it takes Jennifer Aniston seven years to learn the true identity of her baby’s biological father. (The Kids Are Alright is based on the same sort of baster-is-better conceit, as well.)

Lopez acquits herself well as the mother-to-be and looks appropriately radiant to boot. Zoe can’t see the silver lining in the coincidental arrival of both her long-awaited pregnancy and a man who meets every one of her strict standards, so, naturally, she spends most of Back-Up Plan attempting to sabotage her own back-up plan. These things can happen only in Hollywood and fairy-tale re-creations of litter-free New York neighborhoods, where everyone knows your name and business. Welcome additions to the cast are Robert Klein, Linda Lavin, Tom Bosley and Anthony Anderson. The Blu-ray supplements include Belly Laughs: Making The Back-Up Plan; four deleted scenes; BD-Live functionality; MovieIQ connectivity; and a bunch of trailers. – Gary Dretzka

$5 a Day: Blu-ray

Most people would consider the release of any movie starring Christopher Walken as a reason for celebration. Apparently, very few of them handle distribution in Hollywood. In the nearly straight-to-DVD $5 a Day, Walken plays both a lifelong con artist and the estranged father of a young man who decided to get out of the family business after spending a couple of years in prison for a failed scam.

The son, Ritchie (Alessandro Nivola), is lured to Atlantic City after learning that his dad, Nat, is suffering from terminal cancer. Walken is so invested in his character’s profession that it’s impossible to tell with any certainty if he’s running a game on Ritchie. In the time left to him, Nat wants to embark on a road trip from New Jersey to New Mexico, where he has some unfinished business with a former partner (Peter Coyote). Along the way, they visit several places of mutual interest, including the home of a sexy blond grifter (Sharon Stone) of a certain age, who once babysat Ritchie and now has other things on her mind for him.

Among the movie’s running gags is Nat’s obsession with spending the minimum amount of his own money on anything. It explains why the tiny pink car used by father and son on their road trip is tricked out to resemble a packet of Sweet’N’Low. The company is picking up the tab for a year’s worth of gas. Nat also won the grand prize in a contest sponsored by IHOP, so they’re going to eat a lot of pancakes along the way, as well. Even though Ritchie has vowed not to encourage his dad’s bad behavior, he can’t ignore the bond forged much earlier through various cons.

$5 a Day isn’t a perfect comedy, by any means, but Walken is a delight to watch throughout and director Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls) effectively blends familiar ingredients of road, buddy, bromance and male-bonding flicks into an entertaining whole. Stone’s comic turn is a blast, as well. The Blu-ray adds cast and director interviews, mostly extolling the joys of working with Walken, and a stills gallery. – Gary Dretzka

Three Silent Classics by Josef Von Sternberg: Criterion Collection

Watching the trio of silent features — Underworld, Last Command, The Docks of New York – that comprise Criterion Collection’s splendid Three Silent Classics by Josef Von Sternberg, it’s easy to imagine you’re observing the birth of the contemporary American cinema. The Vienna-born, New York–raised Von Sternberg created these wonderful entertainments in the final years of the Silent Era, at the precise point at which technology and storytelling would re-write the rules of commercial filmmaking.

Although D.W. Griffith and Anita Loos’ 1912 The Musketeers of Pig Alley is widely credited as being the first gangster movie, it was only 17 minutes long and unspooled at 16 frames per second. Released 15 years later, Von Sternberg and Ben Hecht’s Underworld would weigh in at 80 minutes, a length that would allow a a multi-dimensional portrait of Prohibition-era gangsters. Its crisp, violent narrative became the template upon which the melodramatic crime “talkies” of the 1930s would be built. Like Musketeers, Underworld remains an extremely compelling document.

In the complex drama Last Command, Emil Jannings plays an exiled Russian military officer, who, while employed as a movie extra in Hollywood, is forced to endure the humiliation of being lectured to about the demeanor of a czarist general. Janning’s performance would earn the first Oscar for acting.

In the dark, moody and boisterous Docks of New York, a burly ship’s stoker spends his last 24 hours on shore getting drunk, trading punches with low-lives and comrades alike, saving a dance-hall doll from drowning, marrying her and, a few hours later, deserting her for another tour on the high seas. Blessedly, after all the pathos and revelry, Von Sternberg also finds the time for a happy ending. The Expressionistic cinematography, alone, would be enough to recommend Docks of New York to a generation 80 years removed from the film’s release, but its depiction of lower-class, cabaret life is exceptional, as well.

Von Sternberg would go to make an easy transition to talkies, with Morocco, alternate English- and German-language versions of The Blue Angel and a half-dozen movies also starring Marlene Dietrich. All of the pictures in the Criterion package have been restored, with high-definition digital transfers. Each title offers a choice of two scores, by Robert Israel and the Alloy Orchestra, as well as visual essays by Donald Sosin and Joanna Seaton, a 1968 Swedish television interview with Von Sternberg and a 96 -page booklet. – Gary Dretzka

The Square: Blu-ray

Like Lantana before it, The Square is an intricate exploration of crime, sin and comeuppance in the sunny working-class suburbs of New South Wales. While it employs noir conceits to prime the narrative pump – a regular Joe is handed a bag of ill-gotten cash by his ambitious lover and spends the rest of the movie regretting meeting her — The Square is simply a cleverly designed crime story, as much a psycho-thriller as a moral tale.

David Roberts, who resembles a young Rod Taylor, plays the boss of a construction crew who agrees to help his mistress escape her hoodlum boyfriend and get away with his cash reserve. Ray’s marriage is no great shakes, either, so why not? Naturally, their clever, seemingly fool-proof plan goes horribly wrong and Ray’s suddenly overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and threats by the thug he hired and his half-wit girlfriend. Suddenly, his alibi isn’t quite so secure, after all. The rest of the picture involves Ray pulling himself out of the hole he dug for himself.

Tellingly, the Australian sun that soaked the first half of the movie eventually disappears behind a thick ceiling of storm clouds and torrential rain. The Square represents the first feature for director Nash Edgerton, who, hitherto, has been regarded as one of the top stuntmen in the Aussie film industry. Anyone who hasn’t seen Lantana, in which Anthony LePaglia’s penis leads him into a dense thicket of crime, could do worse than renting both films, making a stack of Vegemite sandwiches, grabbing a cold Foster’s and curling up in front of the telly for a double-dose of kangaroo-free thrillers. – Gary Dretzka

Addicted to Her Love

Sadly, Brittany Murphy is more likely to be remembered for her self-destructive personality – along with the bizarre antics of her subsequently late husband and “grieving” mother – than her many fine performances on film and television. Michael Feifer’s cursed-hospital thriller Abandoned won’t change any minds, but it’s far from the worst thing she’s ever done. Indeed, she fares far better in her penultimate project than co-stars Dean Cain, Mimi Rogers and Peter Bogdanovich, who have no excuses.

Murphy plays Mary Walsh, a bright young lady pulled into an elaborate con game by forces well beyond her control. After Mary returns to the soon-to-close hospital, where she dropped off her boyfriend Kevin (Cain) for routine outpatient surgery, she’s told that no such person has checked in, let alone been treated. We know she isn’t lying to police and hospital security, but the unexplained absence and doubts voiced by shrinks and administrators cause Mary to doubt her own sanity.

Her frantic search for clues into Kevin’s disappearance turns Abandoned into something of a chase movie. If the ending isn’t terribly plausible, Feifer is able to camouflage the flaws pretty well. The straight-to-DVD product arrives with a dedication to the actor, but no bonus features. Of all the movies she made after 8 Mile and Sin City, Murphy’s little-seen comedy, The Ramen Girl, captured her spirit the best.

The very appealing Lizzy Caplan, who, at 24, could still play a high school senior, reminds me a great deal of Murphy physically and in her on-screen quirks. In addition to lots of work on television (Party Down, True Blood, The Class), Caplan has lately appeared in Hot Tub Time Machine, My Best Friend’s Girl and Cloverfield. Addicted to Her Love (a.k.a., Love Is the Drug) was given a tentative release in 2006 and arrives four years later in virtual straight-to-video form.

At its core, Addicted to Her Love is a cautionary tale masquerading as a raunchy teen rom-com. Caplan plays the luscious, if constantly stoned Sara Weller, who’s been the object of affection for nerdy Jonah Brand (John Patrick Amedori) throughout high school. At a graduation-night party, Jonah finally gets the attention of Sara and her devil-may-care pals by informing them that he works as delivery boy for a pharmacy. Naturally, in return for their friendship, Jonah agrees to skim a couple of pills off the top of the containers he takes to people in need of pain-killers or diet drugs.

The kids still treat him as if he’s a dweeb, but allow him to hang out with them as a fifth wheel. No need to spoil the events that lead to the moral lesson, but they’re nowhere near as amusing as the early scenes, in which the private-school grads party ‘til the cows come home. – Gary Dretzka

The Age of Stupid
Instant Expert: Oil

Franny Armstrong probably could have called her frightening documentary, Global Warming for Dummies, and drawn a bit more attention to the target of its wrath. Given the title, The Age of Stupid, it could just as logically be a chronicle of the Bush years, the rise of the Tea Bag movement, teaching standards at fundamentalist Islamic madrassas or the dumbing-down of the American media. No matter. Armstrong’s intent was to create a film that, like Traffic, would present widely divergent aspects of the global-warming controversy and demonstrate how all are interrelated.

She chose to employ a sci-fi conceit, using Pete Postlethwaite as an archivist from the Year 2055 as narrator, speaking to us from the Great Beyond. By then, the Earth has been inundated with once-frozen water and all of its treasures, books and history have been stored in a mammoth skyscraper, somewhere near Greenland. It differs from An Inconvenient Truth primarily in its decision to stray from a data-based presentation and let viewers know up-front that the material to be shown has been taken from mainstream publications and accepted science (except if you’re Republican politician or Fox News commentator).

The anecdotal evidence is gathered from post-Katrina New Orleans; an oil-rich, dirt-poor community in Nigeria; a faux ski resort in Dubai; the rubble of war-torn Iraq; a gradually disappearing glacier in the Alps; a potential wind-farm site In Cornwall, England; and Mumbai, India, where one man’s idea of being “green” is launching an affordable airline. That the western world’s reliance on oil and unwillingness to invest in alternative sources of power is criminal hardly qualifies as news at this point in history.

What’s fascinating about The Age of Stupid is that the people we meet aren’t scientists or liberal eggheads, but everyday citizens of their respective countries. Their lives began to be directly affected by global warming in the mid-aughts, not closer to 2055. Armstrong doesn’t seem to have spent much time looking for opposing points of view, except to introduce us to a Shell Oil worker who lost his home in Katrina, is an avid outdoorsman and still sees a place for fossil fuel in our future.

She also demonstrates how the greatest hurdle facing environmental reform comes in the form of otherwise progressive citizens who don’t want windmills to spoil the view from their front porch – Teddy Kennedy and his constituents objected to wind turbines off Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for the same reason — and people who continue to buy large, inefficient automobiles. The Age of Stupid is a horror show and, as such, could appeal to the same audiences drawn to 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and, even, Ice Age: the Meltdown.”

I’ve never been able to understand how the deaths of a few hundred thousand dinosaurs a billion or so years ago not only could have provided sufficient oil to power the Industrial Age, but also the many SUVs driven by America’s army of soccer moms. If I’m ever going to come to terms with global warming, it’s probably time to learn as much about crude oil as I do about wind turbines, solar cells at battery-powered cars. Now, I do. That the folks at History have launched a series of DVDs titled Instant Expert also should come as welcome news to college freshmen having problems balancing their social lives with classes in environmental science 101.

Indeed, there’s a lot to be learned by everyone in Instant Expert: Oil, which, at times, feels like a Roger Corman movie. The video presentations are quite well done, as are the discussions with scientists, researchers and historians. They’re nothing at all like the dull-ass educational films that put kids to sleep in the 1950s-60s. Each DVD comes with an interactive quiz, study guide, discussion questions and other activities. Among other topics covered in the series are the Mayflower, French Revolution, Egypt, Ben Franklin and “Beowulf.” – Gary Dretzka

Chuck Close

Completed shortly before the filmmaker’s death in 2006, Marion Cajori’s bio-doc exists as a glowing portrait of a master of portraiture, Chuck Close. It expands on her previous short, Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress, this time focusing on the exacting process used to create his monumental faces. Even if Close’s name doesn’t ring a bell, his images will be familiar to anyone who’s paged through a volume of contemporary photography, graphics or painting. Close, who is partially paralyzed and works from a wheelchair, photographs his subjects, blows up the image to gigantic proportions and divides it into a detailed grid, using a complex set of colors and patterns to reconstruct each face.

Appropriately, Chuck Close follows the 82-day creation of a self-portrait that is now in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. It truly is a fascinating process and each portion can be studied as if it were a separate entity. Among the artists who contribute to the inspirational documentary are Philip Glass, Arne Glimcher, Kiki Smith, Elizabeth Murray, Alex Katz, Kirk Varnedoe, Robert Storr, and Robert Rauschenberg. – Gary Dretzka

Open House

Our vampire movie du jour is Metamorphosis, a distinctly lightweight updating of the legend of the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was either history’s most prolific female serial killer or a very hungry vampire. In it, the last living descendent of the Bathory clan (Christopher Lambert) disrupts a funeral, somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains of Hungary, simultaneous to the arrival of a trio of American college kids.

One of the young men claims to be interested in doing a paper on the countess, who he believes to be “misunderstood.” This endears him to a spectacularly beautiful hitchhiker, also named Elizabeth (Irena A. Hoffman). I’ll let you connect the dots from there. The best thing about Metamorphosis is the setting, which takes advantage of the natural beauty of the mountains and inherent creepiness of the castles, monuments, churches and local rustics. Otherwise, Hungarian writer/director Jenö Hodi’s vampire flick is generic.

The cover of Open House brazenly announces the presence of True Blood stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer among the cast members. They’re also in the foreground of the photograph, in which they appear to hover over a haunted house. Truth be told, the foreboding image only tells about a tenth of the story. In fact, Paquin and Moyer’s appearances can be summed up in one word: cameo. (That Paquin’s brother directed the movie explains their not-so-coincidental appearances.) Otherwise, the movie describes what happens when an estranged couple attempts to sell their home, but a pair of potential buyers – psycho-killers, of course – refuse to leave after the open house is finished. – Gary Dretzka

Time Bandits: Blu-ray
The Long Good Friday: Blu-ray
Mona Lisa: Blu-ray
Withnail and I: Blu-ray

The common thread running through this diverse quartet of British titles is the shingle under which they were produced, HandMade Films, a company formed by George Harrison and business partner Denis O’Brien to finance Monty Python’s Life of Brian. The Python link was extended with Time Bandits, a wildly imaginative time-travel adventure directed by Terry Gilliam and co-written by Gilliam and Michael Palin.

In it, a boy prone to daydreaming is kidnapped by a roguish band of little people – formerly known as midgets – who use worm holes through history to work scams on such notable figures as Napoleon (Ian Holm), Robin Hood (John Cleese) and King Agamemnon (Sean Connery). David Warner plays the Evil Genius, while Ralph Richardson represents the Supreme Being, who the Time Bandits are trying to avoid at all costs. Also along for the wild ride are Shelley Duvall, Katherine Helmond, Jim Broadbent and Palin. It’s a lot of fun, even if the Blu-ray only adds Q&A with the director.

The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa were two of best crime dramas of the 1980s. Both starred Bob Hoskins, a British stage and television veteran with the body of a fireplug and bark of an English bulldog. Few Americans had yet seen his breakthrough performance in Pennies From Heaven, so his turn as an embattled mob boss in Long Good Friday came as quite a surprise to audiences here.

Throw in Helen Mirren, as the queen of his underworld empire, and an IRA hitman played by a virtually unknown Pierce Brosnan, and HandMade’s second release promised great things for the company’s future. Six years later, Hoskins would return to the HandMade fold in Mona Lisa, a terrific character study of a Cockney ex-con reduced to chauffeuring a high-class call girl around London. When the past comes back to haunt the prostitute, she pulls her driver into a world of trouble. Hoskins would be nominated for a BAFTA award for his work in Long Good Friday and take home the trophy for Mona Lisa, for which he was also nominated for an Oscar. Both DVDs would have benefitted from bonus features.

Withnail & I is one of the most memorable movies about drinking vast quantities of booze, smoking huge joints and trying to communicate great thoughts while shit-faced. It enjoys a great cult following in England, where fans have memorized key lines and aren’t reluctant to shout them out at screenings or during benders of their own. Set in the waning days of the 1960s, a pair of chronically unemployed actors spends most of their waking hours trading pipedreams and admiring their own cleverness.

Writer-director Bruce Robinson based the story on his own hedonistic revelries with friends during their less successful days, when they lived mostly on cigarettes, booze and the occasional fish and chip. The later actor Vivian MacKerrell provided the model for Richard E. Grant’s amazing portrayal of Withnail, who might best be described as God’s Own Drunk. The character, “I,” is drawn more for Robinson’s memories. The movie really picks up speed when the lads take a break from the rigors of city life and embark on a road trip to the countryside, where they stand out like a lumberjack at a def poetry jam. It’s hilarious. The Blu-ray disc arrives without the material included in the Criterion Collection DVD. – Gary Dretzka

Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde’s enduring tale of the pursuit of eternal youth in Victorian England is given a credible adaptation by director Oliver Parker and writer Toby Finlay. Up-and-coming leading man Ben Barnes (Chronicles of Narnia) plays Dorian Gray, who, under the tutelage of Lord Henry Wotton (Colin Firth) learns to love the high life and makes a deal with the devil so he can party on forever. Alas, Gray’s ability to survive a life of debauchery couldn’t last. The DVD adds commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, cast interviews, deleted scenes, a blooper reel and photo gallery. – Gary Dretzka

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg
The Great Rift: Africa’s Greatest Story
The Incredible Human Journey
Gossip Girl: The Complete Third Season
Pawn Stars: Season Two
Ax Men: The Complete Season 3
Gangland: Complete Season 5
The Simpsons: The 13th Season [Blu-ray]

In the history of network television, few individuals have had as great an impact on the medium as Gertrude Berg, who, even then, was better known as America’s Jewish mother than the innovator and creative force she was. In addition to being the creator, principle writer and star of “The Goldbergs” for 17 years on radio, Berg was able to adapt the character-driven show for television, effectively creating the first domestic sitcom, in 1949.

The Goldberg family may have been Jewish, but their unvarnished ethnicity spoke to an entire generation of recent immigrants and their children. The show’s trademark gimmick had neighbors in New York City apartment buildings trading gossip and recipes, while sticking their heads out of windows separated by an airshaft. The Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg DVD package is comprised of Aviva Kempner’s nostalgic bio-doc, audio commentary, episodes of the show, guest appearances by Berg on Ed Murrow and Ed Sullivan’s TV shows, recipes, additional scenes and interviews, and a print essay.

Africa’s Great Rift Valley extends 4,000 miles from the Red Sea to the mouth of the Zambezi River, in Mozambique. Now home to a vast population of animals and diverse landscapes, the rift is expected to someday split the continent and form an eighth great sea. The Rift Valley in East Africa has also provided most of the clues we have of man’s evolution, including the 3-million-year-old skeleton of “Lucy.” The Great Rift: Africa’s Greatest Story originated on the BBC and was shown here on Animal Planet. The Blu-ray edition adds Inside the Great Rift.

The five-part BBC series The Incredible Human Journey follows the trail of homo sapiens from the Rift Valley to the furthest corners of the Earth, explaining how they overcame extremes in weather, geological boundaries and animal predators. The series traces five of the routes our ancestors used to get to a hospital habitat and how they adapted to the new environment.

It’s amazing to think that, after three years on the air, most of the spoiled rich kids we met in the first season of Gossip Girl finally are old enough to purchase cocktails legally in swank bars and nightclubs … not that they’ve ever had any trouble getting served. Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side may be the only place in the United States where teenagers aren’t routinely carded. Last season’s highlights included Lilly and Rufus’ possibly ill-advised marriage, the troubled launch of Chuck’s nightclub, Dan falling in love with a pop-tart movie star, Jenny agreeing to become a drug mule for the son of a foreign ambassador, Dorota and Vanya’s big fat Polish wedding and the return of Serena’s demented father. The DVD extras an interactive viewing experience on Episode 16: “The Empire Strikes Jack,” a primer on throwing a Gossip Girl-style party, music videos from Lady Gaga and the Plastiscines, a gag reel and deleted scenes.

Alloy Entertainment, the same production company behind Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries, has also released a DVD of its web-based series, Private,another story of privileged students at an exclusive academy. Here, though, the kids must deal with forces more sinister than bloggers and fashion mavens. The package comes with several making-of and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

I don’t know how they do it, but History Channel continues to find new professions and businesses to showcase in series form. In the second season of Pawn Stars, the Las Vegas-based Harrison family introduced us to even more down-on-their luck clients with something to sell and a story to tell. The only bonus feature is additional footage.

Also on History Channel, Ax Men carried its assault on the nation’s swamps, rivers and forests into a third improbable season, with six crews battling time, weather and the elements to harvest their “green gold.” The new set adds three featurettes and additional footage.

The misadventures of 11 new street gangs are chronicled in Season 5 of Gangland. America’s domestic terrorists no longer limit themselves to urban ghettos and barrios. Increasingly, they’re calling the shots in the suburbs and rural areas where crystal meth is king and dog fights beat the boredom of summer reruns on TV.

Lucky Season 13 of The Simpsons found Lisa turning Buddhist, Bart living in a plastic bubble, Homer performing community service and the family offending the citizens of Brazil. Among the Blu-ray features are commentaries on every episode; deleted scenes; the featurettes, A Token From Matt Groening, Ralphisms, The People Ball, The 13th Crewman, Blame It on the Monkeys, The Games and The Sweet Life of Ralph; animation showcase and picture-in-picture animatics and storyboards; sketch galleries; commercials; and Easter eggs.

The long-running web-based series, Red vs. Blue, enters its seventh season with Recreation. The highlight is the return of original characters, Donut and Tucker, a move that harkens back to the basics of the sci-fi adventure. – Gary Dretzka

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One Response to “The DVD Wrap: City Island, The Back-Up Plan, $5 a Day, Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg, The Square, Abandoned and more …”

  1. Thanks! The content is very exciting and I can almost understand. Your atical is really surprising.


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Quote Unquotesee all »

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