MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrap: Flipped, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection, Deadwood: The Complete Collection … and more


Anyone who lost faith in Rob Reiner after blowing their hard-earned dough on such star-studded duds as The Story of Us, Alex & Emma and Rumor Has It …, might want to give the filmmaker another chance. In the pre-pubescent romance Flipped, we meet a boy and girl who could have lived down the block from the kids introduced a quarter-century ago in two of Reiner’s most enduring hits, The Sure Thing and Stand by Me.

The emotional climate feels authentic, as do the actions of the parents, grandparents and teachers on view. The setting is suburban American, circa 1957-63, and the protagonists are new neighbors, Bryce and Juli (Callan McAuliffe, Madeline Carroll). And, from Minute One, it’s fair to assume they’re destined to come together somewhere near the very end of the picture. In the meantime, though, they undergo most of the same turmoil that affects kids feeling the first unexpected pangs of puppy love. Juli confounds Bryce with her aggressive pursuit of friendship.

He’s strangely attracted to the geeky girl, but is frightened by feelings he doesn’t understand and can’t define. Instead, Bryce begins treating Juli as if she has cooties. His increasingly shallow behavior is fortified by his dad (Anthony Edwards), a suburban snob who measures the worth of his neighbors by the tidiness of their lawns, and Juli’s dad (Aidan Quinn) doesn’t measure up to his standards. When Juli begins raising chickens in their backyard as an extension of a science project, Bryce’s dad convinces his son of the unwholesomeness of the eggs, which she delivers to their house as a neighborly gesture.

Fortunately, the moms (Rebecca De Mornay, Penelope Ann Miller) are more charitable than their husbands, as his Bryce’s grandfather (John Mahoney), who sees in Juli something of his late wife. The only question that remains 85 minutes into the 90-minute movie is whether Bryce will get over himself long enough to see beyond his dad’s prejudices.

Reiner borrows a literary conceit from Wendelin Van Draanen’s source novel, by telling the story through the contrasting viewpoints of Bryce and Juli. Normally, that wouldn’t present much of problem. Here, however, the device results in most of the story being advanced through narratives, instead of dialogue. It grows tiresome very quickly. So, too, does Reiner’s insistence on cluttering the background of Flipped with a steady stream of hits from the late-1950s and early-’60s.

They don’t emerge organically from the storyline — as they did in American Graffiti, for example — and probably wouldn’t be on either of these kids’ playlists, in any case. The Blu-ray extras are dominated by the teen stars, who testify to the on-set camaraderie, Reiner’s easy relationship with child actors, the inability of the chickens to stay in character and the basics of volcano-making for school science fairs.


Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed
The Big Mess

Facets Video’s essential series of movies by German filmmaker Alexander Kluge continues apace with circus-as-metaphor dramas, Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed (1968) and The Indomitable Leni Peickert (1970), and the zany parody of inter-galactic capitalism, The Big Mess (1971). Unlike the more accessible Yesterday Girl (1966), these titles will be of primary interest to foreign-film buffs and cultists. In addition to making grand statements about the relationship between art and commerce, and the predatory nature of capitalism, the films demand to be viewed in the context of a culture, which, by mid-century had nurtured more than its fair share of brilliant artists and demonic political leaders.

Among other interesting things about Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed is its title’s resistance to easy translation. Read one review and it’s, The Artist in the Circus Dome: Clueless, while in another, Artists at the Top of the Big Top: Disorientated. The bewitching Hannelore Hoger plays Leni Peickert, an artistically driven woman who inherits a circus after her father is killed during rehearsal of a perilous act. Knowing that the era of the family circus is quickly coming to an end, Peickert decides she’ll create an entertainment that isn’t reliant on traditional acts and has a humanitarian agenda.

In some ways, her ideas mirror those that would be popularized 20 years later with Cirque du Soleil. Finding the financial backing for such a concept would prove problematic, however, leaving Peickert at the mercy – or lack thereof – of bankers and other investors. The costs of feeding the animals, performers and crew, alone, would soon prove insurmountable for someone also attempting to re-invent the wheel. Two years later, in Indomitable Leni Peickert, Kluge would re-visit the would-be impresario as she attempts to find success in commercial television. Like other women protagonists in Kluge’s films, Peickert is headstrong, restless, ambitious and resistant to the word, “no.”

Typically, as well, Kluge finds places in Big Top to insert newsreel footage, pungent quotes, textual montages and incongruent musical choices (the Beatles’ “Yesterday” over Nazi footage). It’s entirely possible, as well, that Kluge was commenting on changes he’d seen in the relationship between art and commerce in cinema.

The Big Mess is just that. Kluge set his sci-fi fable in 2034, when an entire solar system – not necessarily our own – is controlled by a corporate entity known as the Suez Canal Company. A monopoly, it licenses sections of planets to various companies, which, then, can exploit raw materials and eliminate competitors. The film’s protagonists are a group of rogue salvagers, who leach revenues from the waste and excess of the various businesses.

Upon its release the movie was considered to be a Marxist answer to the first third of 2001: A Space Odyssey, during which the colonization of our moon, at least, would be financed by commercial entities (many of which no longer exist). Kluge extends the satire by creating spacecraft, moonscapes and visual effects worthy of an imaginative 10-year-old.


12 Men of Christmas
A Nanny for Christmas

Among the various conceits working against Hollywood rom-coms is an insistence on inserting bright and extremely attractive characters into situations they wouldn’t encounter in a million years. In such movies, beautiful fiancés get cheated on with far too great a regularity and a woman’s long, flowing hair and shapely legs rarely are taken into consideration when layoffs begin. It’s a reverse form of sexism that simply doesn’t exist in the workplace. (Did anyone believe for a minute that Sandra Bullock’s high-powered executive in The Proposal actually would have been sent back to Canada, for the crime of overstaying her work visa?) In these holiday-themed romantic comedies, Kristin Chenoweth and Emmanuelle Vaugier are the bombshells excused from their jobs for misdemeanors almost too silly to mention.

In Lifetime’s 12 Men of Christmas, the dangerously cute and perky Chenoweth plays an otherwise successful New York publicist, E.J. Baxter, who relocates to Montana after finding her boyfriend and boss in flagrante delicto. It is a decision that smacks of paying penance for an act she didn’t initiate and couldn’t control. Either way, she probably could have found a comparable job overnight.

In any case, E.J, agrees to spend a year in Montana creating a marketing strategy for a town in desperate need of more convention and resort business. She isn’t there more than a day before she discovers a way to publicize the local search-and-rescue team, which is comprised of enough hunks to fill a racy calendar. At the same time, of course, E.J. is required to decide if the outdoorsman of her dreams (Josh Hopkins) is worth giving up a career in New York.

Likewise, in A Nanny for Christmas, the insanely attractive Ally (Emmanuelle Vaugier) is relieved of her job as an advertising executive after neglecting to discover that a potential client once was “left at the altar.” As penance for her blunder, she accepts a job as a nanny for a filthy-rich business woman who’s allowed career demands to cloud her relationship with her family.

It isn’t long before Ally endears herself with the overly regimented kids and falls for a handsome, if overly preppy guy (Richard Ruccolo) who works in her boss’ firm. She’s embarrassed to admit she’s a nanny, instead of the ad rep he thinks she is, and, anyway, such relationships are strictly forbidden by her employer. To protect both of them, she makes up the kind of white lie that almost certainly will come back to haunt her.

Even more coincidentally, the boyfriend is working to secure the account of the same chocolate maker (Dean Cain) who caused Ally to lose her previous job. It’s Christmas, though, so viewers can expect miracles. Only fans of the cast members and made-for-cable rom-coms will find something interesting here, I’m afraid.


Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
The Search for Santa Paws

Nine years in the making, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore is a sequel to the hit comedy Cats & Dogs, in which anthropomorphic felines and canines battled for supremacy of the pet universe. That movie struck a chord, even though it overflowed with references to 1960s spy movies and other pop-cultural touchstones kids under 10 would be incapable of appreciating.

Fortunately for parents, the homage gave them something to chew on between scenes of animal antics. Any child old enough to understand the Bondian gag in the title of the sequel probably already is ready to take on the double-entendres in Austin Powers. I can’t attest to the visual quality of the Blu-ray 3D edition of the movie, but the blend of live action, puppetry and animation looks pretty good in standard hi-def.

Here, renegade M.E.O.W.S. agent Kitty Galore (voiced by Bette Midler) threatens not only the canine population, but humans and law-abiding cats, as well. Among the other voice actors are Neil Patrick Harris, James Marsden, Nick Nolte, Christina Applegate, Katt Williams, Roger Moore, Wallace Shawn, Chris O’Donnell, Sean Hayes, Joe Pantoliano, Michael Clark Duncan and Chris O’Donnell. That’s a lot of firepower for kiddie flick. The package includes a Looney Toons short, Coyote Falls; a sneak peek of the Yogi Bear theatrical film; “Dog Dishing: Tails From the Bark Side of Hollywood”; “Mash-Up: The Best of the Best Cat vs. Dog Animated Showdowns”; outtakes; and a gag reel.

Disney may be the studio behind The Search for Santa Paws, but no one should mistake it for previous collaborations with Pixar or any other of its animated theatrical features. This straight-to-video sequel to Santa Buddies and, by extension, Air Bud, Air Buddies, Space Buddies, Snow Buddies and Chestnut: Hero of Central Park comes with built-in brand recognition and is only as good as it has to be to attract kids amused by precocious puppies.

Here, Santa travels to New York to get the ball rolling on Christmas. Instead, he’s involved in an accident that leaves his memory impaired. His dog rounds up the canine crew to get a lead on Santa’s whereabouts and save Christmas. Among the bonus features are “Sing Along to Christmas Carols With the Buddies” and a “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” music video.


The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection

The very good news for fans of the inventive mid-1970s’ TV show The Six Million Dollar Man is that Time Life has finally made the entire series available in a monumental 40-disc collector’s box, with a built-in audio chip and 3D lenticular image of Steve Austin. The not-so-good news is that, for the time being, it’s available exclusively at the Time Life website or via links to it.

People who follow ebbs and flows in the TV-to-DVD game once listed The Six Million Dollar Man as one of the top-five series yet to be preserved on DVD. The delay has been attributed primarily to issues pertaining to the American rights to the show, which are claimed by several people and have changed hands several times over the years. At one point, a theatrical adaptation was on the drawing boards, with Jim Carrey adding laughs to the original premise. When that project collapsed, plans for a comprehensive DVD package were abandoned, as well.

In addition to 100 digitally re-mastered and fully restored episodes of the sci-fi/action series, which ran from 1974 to 1979, the set includes three pilot movies (The Six Million Dollar Man, Wine, Women and War, Solid Gold Kidnapping), three reunion movies (The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, Bionic Showdown, Bionic Ever After?), all of the crossover episodes with The Bionic Woman, audio commentaries, interactive features, and new interviews with Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner. It’s a tad on the expensive side, but collectors will find ways to afford such a bounty.

For those post-Baby Boomers unfamiliar with the show, Majors plays a test-pilot, who, after being seriously injured in a crash landing, literally is rebuilt with nuclear-powered prosthetic devices. Being a product of the American military, it was only natural that Austin would be given superhuman strength and hyper-speed in order to run down commies. Presumably, it would give us another edge in Cold War. As outlandish as that might have seemed in the mid-1970s, though, our ability to create bionic soldiers – originally put forward in Martin Caidin’s 1971 novel, Cyborg – is now a very real possibility.


The Pillars of the Earth: Blu-ray
Deadwood: The Complete Series: Blu-ray

The common thread uniting these two otherwise disparate mini-series is the chilling presence of characters portrayed with trademark menace by Ian McShane. Of the two shows, the least familiar will be The Pillars of the Earth, which debuted here on cable’s Starz network. Set in 12th Century England, after the ship carrying the son of King Henry – the only direct heir to the crown – is destroyed in a fire.

His presumed death opens the gate for much intrigue at court, but McShane’s devious Bishop Waleran has plans of his own for the succession. Caught in the complex machinations are a poor stonemason, Tom Builder (Rufus Sewell), and the pious Prior Philip (Matthew Macfadyen), both of whom envision a magnificent cathedral for the town of Kingsbridge. Even though the cathedral is being built for the greater glory of God, the bishop fights its construction at every turn.

Historians labeled this period of civil war and political intrigue the Anarchy, and it is represented as such. Pillars of the Earth, though, is as much about sorting out the royal succession as it is building a cathedral that’s architecturally viable and can stand as a beacon of freedom for laborers and peasants. Like The Tudors, the eight-part Pillars of the Earth is enhanced by a strict attention to period detail and narrative thrust, in keeping with Ken Follett’s source material. The package also includes several making-of featurettes and BDLive connectivity.

In Deadwood, McShane played another amoral character, saloonkeeper Al Swearegen. Besides setting the land-speed record for creative cussing, Swearegen’s cynicism was the glue that held the whole series together. The other characters, interesting as they were, were either owned by him or fearful of being perceived as his enemy. Like any bully, though, when confronted with superior firepower, Swearegen wasn’t averse to hiding behind the shield of local law-enforcement officials or the skirts of his whores.

And, in a truly insane creative touch, victims of his wrath often would be fed to Mr. Wu’s pigs, which were fed to the populace. The mini-series’ arrival in Blu-ray is especially welcome, if only for the hi-def visuals and bonus features. They include 17 full-length commentary tracks, with creator David Milch, actors Keith Carradine, Molly Parker, Brad Dourif, Robin Weigert, McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Anna Gunn and assorted other cast members and producers. Among the featurettes are “Making Deadwood: The Show Behind the Show,” “The Real Deadwood,” “The New Language of the Old West” and “The Meaning of Endings.” There also are dozens of daguerreotype photos and marketing images; Q&As with cast and crew; a set tour; and “Al Swearengen Audition Reel,” in which Man in Black Titus Welliver stages a one-man audition reel by impersonating Milch, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro.

Neither of these Blu-ray packages are for the kiddies, who may not be able to deal with the violence, sex and language. Anyone on your list without cable will welcome them as gifts.


Human Weapon: Complete Season 1: Blu-ray
Hannah Montana: Who Is Hannah Montana?

TV crime shows don’t get much more hard-edged than Luther, even on BBC America. Idris Elba (“The Wire”) plays the London police detective who always seems to be on the brink of being fired for torturing suspects, stalking his estranged wife or beating up her boyfriend. Of course, some of this can be blamed on the cases he’s assigned, which are among the city’s most heinous crimes. After establishing that a young woman likely will escape justice in the murder of her parents and house pet – she hides evidence in a soon-to-be-cremated dog – Luther suddenly finds himself at her mercy. The suspect, who’s brilliant, sees in the overbearing detective an intellectual match and challenge.

Luther is the show’s hero, to be sure, but there’s a very thin line between him and the criminals he hunts. The set includes a documentary with interviews with series creator Neil Cross, cast and crew members. In it, they explain how the series was constructed to be more “impressionistic” than “realistic.”

In the History Channel series, Human Weapon, a pair of American he-men travels the world in search of the real stories behind various martial-arts techniques. Jason Chambers, a former mixed-martial-arts champion, and Bill Duff, a former football player and wrestler, approach each new combat discipline with an appreciation for the aesthetics and culture from which it sprang. In this way, Human Weapon resembles Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. They’re also good listeners. In Season One, the men were introduced to 16 different combat styles, including Muay Thai, Eskrima stickfighting, karate, savate streetfighting, judo, pankration, krav maga, Marine Corps martial arts, MMA, kung fu, sambo, silat, ninjutsu and taekwondo. When the action gets too fast and furious, CGI artists slow it down for amateur viewers.

The latest entry in the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus DVD catalog actually is an hour-long episode from the new season. In it, the Malibu teen, Miley Stewart, reveals to anyone who hasn’t already guessed it that her alter ego is the pop superstar, Hannah. The disc adds a sneak preview of Ashley Tisdale’s upcoming movie, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure! Just for the record, Miley Cyrus turns 23 this week, so look out, world.


American Fetish

Beyond its natural appeal to bondage and nylon enthusiasts, this highly stylistic erotic thriller will be of special interest to admirers of fetish photographers Eric Kroll and Irving Klaw, models Bettie Page and Dita Von Teese, and readers of Leg Show magazine. (You know who you are.) In American Fetish, the son of an ex-con becomes obsessed with a 50-year-old unsolved murder.

His father was a nightclub owner and “blue movie” maker, who catered to the fetish crowd. The old man left behind a box full of movie tins, one of which possibly holds the key to unlocking the mystery. The case also demands that the son descends further into the demi-monde of sex clubs, exhibitionists and the cops who exploit them. Michael Simmons’ erotica is nicely lit and sensitively shot. The women who participate in the shows are extremely beautiful and empowered in the knowledge they control the circumstances under which customers satisfy their particular desires. American Fetish isn’t for everyone, but those who enjoyed The Notorious Bettie Page – or John Stagliano’s much harder Fashionistas— might want to extend the experience by checking out Simmons’ thriller.


Bangkok Adrenaline: Blu-ray

One doesn’t usually come to Thai action films expecting logical storylines and character development. No relation to the original Thai version of Bangkok Dangerous, which almost made narrative sense, Bangkok Adrenaline was the brainstorm of a group of western stuntmen, who felt as if they could concoct as good a movie as the ones in which they performed stunts.

They didn’t have a lot of money, but, as the primary actors, writers and directors, they wouldn’t be spending much on salaries or travel. They knew the fight scenes would be of greater importance than any dialogue, so that’s where they invested most of their energy. In it, a group of English-speaking back-packers decides to conclude their visit to Thailand by getting as wasted as possible and partying until the sacred cows come home (or is that India?)

Feeling as if he were invincible, one of the lads gets suckered into entering a rigged poker game. After being allowed to win for a while, the dreadlocked doofus gets his pocket picked by the rest of the players. Down a fortune, the tourists are called before a mob boss and given a demonstration of what happens to deadbeats. They’re given a week to come up with the money, but are too irresponsible to hang on to even the meager sums they earn. Instead, they decide to kidnap the enchanting daughter of an American father (stepfather?) and Thai mother.

For some unfathomable reason, the father is less incensed by the kidnapping than the ability of the guys to invade his fortress-like home undetected. Rather than pay the ransom, he decides to kill the kidnappers and lose the wise-ass daughter (stepdaughter?) in the resulting chaos. He dispatches a small army of kung-fu fighters to trap them at the drop-off point, but the westerners more than hold their ground. Another wave of fighters is similarly repulsed.

By this time, though, the foreigners have gained a couple of local allies and the respect of cops monitoring the situation from afar. All one needs to know about the action is that it’s fast, furious and wall-to-wall. If the fighting isn’t particularly artistic, it sure is fun to watch. So is Priya Suandokemai, a newcomer who’s as charming as she is pretty. The Blu-ray adds a making-of featurette that appears to have been shot using a camera left on a table and left turned on by accident.


Fire & Ice: Dragon Chronicles: Blu-ray

Made in Romania by a Romanian production company and starring lots of Romanian actors, Fire & Ice is a medieval fantasy in which flying dragons battle each other in the name of good and bad kings. (When did Romania become the new Canada?) Made on a budget that probably wouldn’t cover the drawing of a single CGI dragon’s wing, if it were made in Hollywood, Fire & Ice debuted here on the SyFy channel. It’s fairly cheesy, but could strike a chord among undemanding fans of monster and fantasy flicks.

In it, the peaceful kingdom of Carpia is besieged by a gigantic dragon that not only breathes fire, but is completely engulfed in flames, as well. Although her father refuses to engage the evil ruler of a neighboring kingdom, Princess Luisa leaves the castle to search for a famous dragon slayer. Instead, she finds the knight’s son, a Keanu Reeves look-alike (Tom Wisdom) who agrees to come to her rescue. Together, they summon the flying Ice Dragon to take on the fiery savior to slay the monster. Among the English-speaking cast are Amy Acker and John Rhys-Davies. The DVD arrives with a making-of featurette.


The Disappearance of Alice Creed: Blu-ray

This very decent abduction thriller opened in a handful of U.S. theaters last August, but, despite the presence of rising star Gemma Arterton, came and went with barely a whisper of attention paid to it. Once again, it’s our loss. Arterton does a nice job as the feisty title character in this three-person British export. It’s the responsibility of the kidnappers (Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston) to snatch Alice off of a suburban street and hold her for ransom in a safehouse made only slightly less secure than the Tower of London. Everything goes as planned, until the scared-senseless victim realizes how fragile the bond is between her abductors.

Even though she’s cuffed to bedposts, blindfolded and relieved of her clothing, Alice still manages to convince the younger kidnapper that she’s no threat to escape. And, by all appearances, her prison is secure. I don’t want to spoil the fun, by revealing anything more. Suffice to say, however, that Alice is smarter than both of the men, combined. Writer/director J. Blakeson’s freshman feature is as taut, suspenseful and as enjoyable a thriller as any you’ll find among the new releases in your local video store. The DVD package adds commentary with Blakeson, a deleted and extended scene, outtakes and storyboard comparisons.


Love Shack

Two big hurdles face filmmakers who set out to satirize the adult-film industry, especially considering that Boogie Nights was as much satire as cautionary tale. First, it’s difficult to mock an industry that takes itself seriously only on the way to the bank and AIDS-screening appointments.

Second, how can a satire, such as Love Shack, be taken seriously if its mainstream actors are too timid to show off their naughty bits? Certainly, it takes more than assigning such names as Teabag Nancy, Sebastian Bulge, Tush Bushman and Marty Sphincter to the characters. Actually, the angle taken by co-writers/directors Gregg Sacon and Michael B. Silver does hold promise: a group of former adult-film stars reunite to shoot a script left behind by a legendary producer after his death.

Even though most are at least 15 years past their prime, the actors accept the assignment with their oversized egos intact and private parts only slightly worse for the wear. Given the talent involved, it would have been difficult for the made-for-DVD Love Shack to arrive devoid of humor and clever gags. It’s just that when a filmmaker sets out to bag such big game, settling for an ear or tail isn’t sufficient reward for the cast or audience. Accept for Mark Feuerstein (Royal Pains) and porn icon Nina Hartley, it’s the faces of the actors that will be more familiar than their names. They’ve appeared as supporting characters in many TV popular TV shows, although mostly clothed.



Indie newcomers Damon O’Steen and Gary Weeks offer yet another vision of America’s post-apocalyptic future in the good-looking, if over-familiar Deadland. Filmed largely in rural Georgia and Alabama, the dystopian thriller suggests that a strong-willed survivor of a nuclear holocaust could, if he so desired, march through toxic forests, cross vast wastelands and outwit well-armed militias, if it meant finding his wife … who may or may not be dead.

Such romantic crusades have been a Hollywood staple for most of the last century, of course, whether the loved one is hijacked by Comanches, pirates or sheiks. This time around, a Los Angeles yuppie and his wife just so happen to be on the road to their mountain retreat when the vapor trails of nuclear warheads appear on the horizon. Flash ahead five years and male survivors are shown fighting for scraps of food, as well as power. Enslaved women have become sexual commodities.

Weeks, who also wrote the screenplay, plays survivor Sean Kalos. Five years of roughing it in the forest have left him buff, yet desperate. The only clue he has about his wife’s possible whereabouts is contained on a list of names, which are deciphered and interpreted by a wacko code-breaker, played by William Katt. The script reads like a hybrid of Mad Max and The Road, but the money to support such an ambitious project simply wasn’t there. Nevertheless, O’Steen and Weeks managed to squeeze every cent’s worth of action out of the bare-bones budget. Collectors of post-apocalyptic thrillers could do a lot worse than Deadland.


Sacred Triangle: Bowie, Iggy & Lou, 1971- 1973
Brian Wilson: Songwriter, 1962-1969
John Scofield: New Morning: The Paris Concert

Unlike most MTV and VH1 rockumentaries, the biographies and career retrospectives distributed by MVD Visuals more closely resemble doctoral theses than Wikipedia clip jobs. No better examples exist than the newly released Sacred Triangle: Bowie, Iggy & Lou and Brian Wilson: Songwriter.

None of the subjects of these documentaries are unknown quantities, of course. Their stories have been told countless times in books, video profiles and liner notes. What differentiates these titles not only is an attention to detail, but also a willingness to dig for intellectual context. Today, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed appear to have been iconic figures from Day One. Sacred Triangle targets a period, 1971-73, when each of these artists was desperately trying to re-ignite the flame produced by early pop successes.

Their labels fretted about everything from decreasing album sales to outrageous lifestyles, fueled by drugs, sex and way too much available cash. Bowie, especially, was responsible for finding a common denominator between himself, the Detroit bad boy and heady New York singer-songwriter. Already friends, they co-produced each other’s records, exchanged songs and critiqued themselves and other musicians. At approximately the same time, young people were demanding something radically different than the output of hippy-dippy bands from San Francisco and the Hollywood Hills. It presented itself in the form of glam-rock, a genre that embraced androgyny, outlandish designer costumes and precisely coiffed hairdos.

The scene bore absolutely no resemblance to a three-day weekend with the Grateful Dead and critics were slow to embrace its eccentricities. By the time glam-rock wore out its luster, the artists had established the street cred that would allow them to be accepted by punk rockers, club kids and Goths, as well as fans not glued to a specific trend. The music created during this two-year period continues to be heard on both classic-rock and progressive radio stations. Any tour featuring Bowie, Iggy and Lou, today, would sell out stadiums around the world.

In addition to well-chosen newsreel, concert and video footage, the film is informed by contributions from Bowie’s ex-wife, Angie; Billy Name, a confidant of Andy Warhol during the heyday of the Factory; MainMan Management vice president, Leee Black Childers; New York scenester Jayne [née Wayne] County and other contemporaries.

The two-disc Brian Wilson: Songwriter is even more comprehensive, covering the period that spanned the dawn of surf music and Brian Wilson’s psychedelic experiments. No one in the history of rock music has experienced more personal and creative change than Brian Wilson, who, at one point, had ventured to a point so far out in the ozone that he was written off as a basket case. Songs, once as simple as they could possibly be, began to evolve into intricate rock symphonies and song cycles, fusing standard instrumental backgrounds with animal noises, wind chimes and electro-theremin.

The themes reflected the many ideas and sounds buzzing through and around Wilson’s brain while he relaxed in his living-room sandbox. As long as the Beach Boys produced hit singles, the label and Wilson’s fellow band members were content to follow his lead. When, however, his music began to challenge mainstream tastes, it began to look as if Brian would be thrown out with the bathwater, and some important projects actually were deep-sixed. Songwriter makes the case for Wilson’s enduring genius, while also pointing out his many idiosyncrasies and shortcomings. The set includes historical musical performances and rare and classic recordings, re-assessed by a panel of music scholars, critics, friends, fellow musicians and producers, and management figures. If this DVD doesn’t make you want to re-visit your Beach Boy collection, nothing will.

John Scofield’s guitar playing, compositions and arrangements have been admired by aficionados for more than three decades. Filmed earlier this year, New Morning: The Paris Concert provides a compelling retrospective of Scofield’s interpretations of jazz, funk and R&B, while also tipping his hat to his primary influences, including Miles Davis, with whom he recorded and toured. Here, he’s backed by drummer Bill Stewart, bassist Ben Street and pianist Michael Eckroth.

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One Response to “The DVD Wrap: Flipped, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection, Deadwood: The Complete Collection … and more”

  1. Just started getting into Krav and it seems to be really good so far. Hopefully I can learn to eventually kick some major butt if I get in a jam.


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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