MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrap: Due Date, Birdemic, Memento, Fish Tank, Senso, Still Walking, Kites, Megamind …

Due Date: Blu-ray
I wonder if, at some point during the pitch meeting for Due Date, any of the assembled suits uttered the words, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” or if memories of that movie lurked in a corner of the room like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla. It would have been disingenuous not to have mentioned John Hughes’ fondly remembered 1987 anti-buddy road comedy in the same conversation as Todd Phillips’ 2010 anti-buddy road comedy, but even the presence of a single lawyer probably would have quashed any such verbal comparison. Suffice it to say, however, that “Due Date” is Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Zach Galifianakis in the role played by John Candy and Robert Downey Jr. subbing for Steve Martin. After their Peter and Ethan bump into each other, literally, at an east-coast airport, the TSA puts both men on no-fly status. This forces them to combine resources for a cross-country dash to L.A., where Downey’s wife is about to give birth and Galifianakis hopes to score an acting job on “Three and a Half Men.” In between lies mayhem and occasional brushes with hilarity.

“Due Date” arrived with high expectations, many of which would have been difficult to meet, in any case. Besides the fact that Phillips was coming off The Hangover, one the decade’s funniest and most original comedies, it would have been impossible for anyone already familiar with “PT&A” not to guess the story’s trajectory. The task of overcoming the obvious fell on the broad shoulders of Downey and Galifianakis, along with a superlative supporting cast, which included Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis, Paul Renteria and Danny McBride. In between their set pieces and cuts to Michelle Monaghan back home in L.A., though, there’s simply too much dead time. Still, not the worst way to kill a couple of hours. The Blu-ray packages adds deleted scenes, a gag reel, a pair of “mashup” sequences and the scene from “Two and a Half Men,” in which Ethan Tremblay makes his debut. — Gary Dretzka

Birdemic: Shock and Terror
Climate of Change

For a movie to qualify for “so bad, it’s good” status, its creator should demonstrate an ability to understand the difference between bad and good. Even at his most inept, Edward D. Wood Jr. exhibited a familiarity with the process of making a movie. If nothing else, he was required to work with bulky 35mm cameras, hot lights and editing equipment that couldn’t be purchased at any store carrying software. James Nguyen, writer/producer/director of the recent cult sensation Birdemic, has no such excuse.

In borrowing liberally from Alfred Hitchcock and An Inconvenient Truth, Nguyen fashioned a cautionary tale in which malevolent birds and endangered polar bears become a threat to humans whose skin isn’t dyed green. Inexplicably, the winged menaces don’t make an appearance until “Birdemic” is nearly an hour old and viewers have been lulled to sleep by an exhausting romance between a newly minted software millionaire (Alan Bagh) and a beautiful blond underwear model (Whitney Moore, in the movie’s only redeemable performance). When the pair finally do consummate their relationship — in a seedy Half Moon Bay motel room — their “morning after” is spent fending off the eagles and vultures that hover in midair like so many plastic owl decoys and avian window decals.

Overnight, the birds wreaked havoc on strip malls, gas stations and other visual pollutants lining California’s scenic Highway 1. Only tree-huggers, AWOL soldiers and civilians armed with coat hangars seem immune to their wrath. Then, as suddenly as they appeared, the birds split for points unknown. Rumors about the movie’s campy appeal have spread on the Internet like diarrhea through a seagull. Unless one is an aspiring filmmaker, soft-hearted critic or stoned environmentalist, though, I would advise taking the praise with a grain of sea salt. The bonus features only add to the silliness. (Look for a promised — threatened? — 3D sequel sometime later this year.)

Brian Hill’s new eco-doc Climate of Change makes a far better case for environmental activism and it doesn’t involve waving Uzis at crazed birds. Written by poet Simon Armitage and narrated by Tilda Swinton, Hill takes viewers to communities around the world, where residents are making a real difference in the campaign to save our planet. Among the places we visit are villages in India, New Guinea, Togo, Norway and West Virginia. Clocking in at a brisk 86 minutes, “Climate of Change” seems a ideal place for students to begin learning how they, too, can enlist in the good fight. — Gary Dretzka

Memento: 10th Anniversary Edition: Blu-ray
Few filmmakers have enjoyed a more impressive 10-year run than Christopher Nolan, who came to the attention of American arthouse audiences with the enigmatic thriller, Memento,and followed it with such high-profile projects as Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Night and Inception. For both “Memento” and “Inception,” the London native was nominated for Oscars; two as a writer and another as producer of a Best Picture finalist, for “Inception.” Moreover, when it comes to teasing audience brain, only Chicago’s Wachowski siblings are his equal.

In “Memento,” Guy Pearce plays a former insurance investigator, Leonard, whose painfully short memory hampers his pursuit of the person who raped and murdered his wife. Leonard’s memory dissipates so quickly, he needs to continually remind himself of who he is, what it is that he’s pursuing and the details he’s already uncovered. Before he lapsed into this regrettable condition, immediately after discovering his wife’s death, Leonard somehow was sharp enough to begin leaving clues for himself on his mirror, in photos and through tattoos and notes to himself. Nolan keeps us guessing, too, by telling Leonard’s story backwards and inside-out. Also along for the ride as confidantes and potential suspects are Joe Pantoliano and Carrie-Anne Moss. The result is a movie that’s at once highly suspenseful and extremely entertaining. The Blu-ray package adds Nolan’s commentary and an IFC interview, a script, tattoo gallery, Jonathan Nolan’s “Memento Mori” and the featurettes, “Remembering ‘Memento,’” a 10-year anniversary look back on the making of the film, and “Anatomy of a Scene.” — Gary Dretzka

Fish Tank: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray
Senso: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray
Still Walking: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray

In one important way, at least, Andrea Arnold’s powerful coming-of-age drama, Fish Tank, reminds me of Shane Meadows’ This Is England and Lance Daly’s Kisses. All three feature stunning debut performances by actors barely in their teens and in proletarian roles that immediately recall the British New Wave of the 1950-60s. “Fish Tank” is set in an Essex housing project as decrepit as any in Chicago or Eastern Europe. Star-to-be Katie Jarvis, discovered during a loud scrap with her boyfriend at a train station, plays Mia, the cooped-up teenage daughter of a slutty alcoholic mother, too enamored with herself to care much about her daughters. As a teenager trapped in the nether-zone dividing puberty and womanhood, Mia’s as energetic and rambunctious as a kid, but clearly aware of her appeal and attraction to boys and men. Lacking the guidance of a fit parent, she seems interested only in the possibility of becoming a professional hip-hop dancer. Her mother’s boyfriend (Michael Fassbender) seems far more concerned about Mia’s well being, but he lacks the self-control necessary to avoid the temptations of co-existing with a teenage girl in a cramped apartment. Ultimately, Arnold affords Mia an escape route, but her future is left uncertain at the film’s end. The Criterion Collection package includes three of the director’s shorts, including the Oscar-winning “Wasp”; interviews with Wareing and Fassbender; audition footage; a stills gallery by on-set photographer Holly Horner; and a booklet, with an essay by Ian Christie.

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking describes a family that couldn’t possibly be any different than the one in “Fish Tank.” The film chronicles a day in the life of a well-off Yokoyama clan, whose patriarch is a retired doctor and matriarch is a world-class chef and home-maker. Family members and friends have gathered to observe the anniversary of the passing of eldest son Junpei, who died while saving a young child from drowning. The occasion is marred, at least for the surviving son, Ryota, by the doctor’s unwillingness to accept the fact that Junpei died and Ryota didn’t, and his parent’s incessant bickering. Neither does Daddy Dearest care much for his new daughter-in-law, a widow, and son from her previous marriage. Anyone who’s been to a family gathering where almost nothing happens, but all the genetic fissures are revealed, will recognize what makes “Still Walking” noteworthy. Kore-eda is sensitive to every nuance of the gathering — especially the food preparation — while Yutaka Yamazaki’s camera captures the colors, shades and texture of the immaculate home, lush background and the haze that shrouds the nearby beach. Much is made in the interviews of the director’s familiarity with the work of Yasujirô Ozu and the inescapable similarity between the families here and in Tokyo Story. Other Blu-ray extras include interviews with Kore-eda and Yamazaki, a making-of featurette, new English subtitle translations and a book with an essay by critic Dennis Lim and recipes for the food prepared in the film.

The Criterion Collection edition of Luchino Visconti’s Senso not only showcases the director’s passion for operatic conceits, but also the city of Venice. The wonderful Alida Valli plays a beautiful 19th-century Italian countess, who, during the final weeks of the Austrian occupation of Venice, forsakes her family, country and pride to pursue an affair with a dashing enemy officer (Farley Granger). Shot in gloriously sensuous Technicolor, “Senso” opens in a Venetian opera house, where Italian nationalists organize a loud disruption of “Il Trovatore.” It’s here that the countess meets the cocky lieutenant, who is challenged to a duel by her patriotic cousin, Count Ussoni. The relationship intensifies as the Italian army approaches from the south. It prompts the countess to shelter her lover, who can’t bear to leave her bosom to fight the war. As is the case with so many great operas, tragedy is the price paid for passion. “Senso” benefits from a restored high-definition digital transfer, created in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna and Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, and supervised by director of photography Giuseppe Rotunno. The package adds “The Making of ‘Senso,'” with Rotunno, assistant director Francesco Rosi, costume designer Piero Tosi and Caterina D Amico, daughter of screenwriter Suso Cecchi D’Amico; “Viva Verdi,” a new documentary on Visconti, “Senso” and opera; “The Wanton Countess,” the rarely seen English-language version of the film; a visual essay by Peter Cowie; the BBC special, “Man of Three Worlds: Luchino Visconti”; and booklet featuring an essay by filmmaker and author Mark Rappaport and an excerpt from Granger’s autobiography, “Include Me Out.” — Gary Dretzka

Mesrine: Killer Instinct
Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo Trilogy

Released originally in two feature-length segments, Mesrine chronicles the life and crimes of the notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel), who, in the 1960-70s, became Public Enemy No. 1 in three different countries. Known as the “Man of a Thousand Faces” for his many disguises, Mesrine was often compared to America’s John Dillinger, who also was adept at robbing banks, escaping from prison and impressing molls. Neither did he shy away from publicity and media attention. Like Dillinger and Clyde Barrow before him, Mesrine’s exploits continue to impress young people in France. Cassel is excellent as the charismatic gangster, whose attitude to crime and the government was shaped during his service in Algeria as an interrogator of rebels. The segment part debuts next month on DVD and Blu-ray.

Fans of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the other two installments of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” will be happy they resisted the temptation to purchase the films a la carte, now that the complete package has been released. For the first time, the installments arrive with a 53-minute documentary, detailing the phenomenon of the trilogy and Larsson’s life; a 20-minute interview with star Noomi Rapace; 15-minute interview with Michael Nyqvist; a depiction of the fight scene between Niederman and Paulo Roberto in The Girl Who Played with Fire; and cast and crew interviews. — Gary Dretzka

John Wayne: Bigger Than Life
With all the attention being paid to the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of True Grit, it’s as good a time as any for fans of John Wayne to recall the “Duke” and his legacy. Even if this Columbia House compilation doesn’t advance the legend all that much, Bigger Than Life does offer Denis Sanders’ entertaining 1971 documentary, The American West of John Ford, the previously released McLintock!, a selection of trailers and clips from his guest appearances on such TV shows as Art Linkletter´s “People Are Funny” (1958), “The Colgate Comedy Hour” (1953), “Wide Wide World” (1958) and “The Lucy Show” (1966). Wayne appeared in dozens of other movies, TV shows and documentaries, so it’s worth asking how these titles came to be packaged here. — Gary Dretzka

Megamind: Blu-ray
All-Star Superman
Invader Zim: Operation Doom
Luke & Lucy & The Texas Rangers

Adults without children are excused from any discussion in which the differences between animated 3D comedies are parsed. In the last two years, alone, at least a half-dozen movies involving wacky extraterrestrials and/or mad scientists have passed through the megaplexes and ended up in a pile on my desk. Besides the newly released, Megamind, which I momentarily confused with Despicable Me, there are Planet 51, Monsters vs. Aliens, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Bolt, 9, WALL-E and Astro Boy, with several more on tap in 2011, including Mars Needs Moms on March 11. For the most part, these pictures have been imaginative, extremely well made and family-friendly, and commercially successful.

Folks who invested in 3DTV sets last Christmas will be more appreciative of this outpouring of product from Hollywood than those of us stuck with prehistoric Blu-ray platforms, but the movies tend to look spectacular on hi-def, too. This is especially true of “Megamind,” a movie about space invaders that reads like a primer on the Superman legend, in that the villainous Megamind (Will Ferrell) and his heroic rival, Metro Man (Brad Pitt), arrived on Earth after being jettisoned from a faraway planet, but found far different environments in which to grow up. The glitch here occurs when Metro Man is vanquished, leaving the villain without a nemesis. To keep things interesting, Megamind attempts to turn a nerd, Hal (Jonah Hill), into another rival. When the plan backfires, Megamind is forced to come to some new conclusions about valor and power. The Blu-ray set adds the comedy adventure, “Megamind: The Button of Doom”; picture-in-picture storyboards, making-of material and interviews; a trivia track; the interactive “Comic Creator”; a “lost” scene; a video comic book; and other activities.

And, speaking of the Man of Steel, Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment have collaborated on the feature-length cartoon, All-Star Superman. Not surprisingly. Lex Luthor is the evil genius behind a plot to destroy Superman once and for all. Here, after Our Hero has been poisoned by solar radiation, Luther senses he can finally convince Lois Lane’s he’s not such a bad fellow, after all. Among the voice actors are James Denton, Anthony LaPaglia, Christina Hendricks and Ed Asner. The set also features a sneak peek at “Green Lantern: Emerald Knights,” “Superman Now,” two episodes from “Superman: The Animated Series,” “Incubating the Idea,” commentary with writer Grant Morrison and producer Bruce Timm and a “virtual comic book.”

Invader Zim: Operation Doom represents something of a sop to diehard fans of the Nickelodeon series, which left the air in 2001. Zim is a wee alien warrior bent on conquering the Earth, but, of course, he encounters resistance. Backers of something called Operation: Head Pigeons are under the impression that Nickelodeon will re-launch the series if enough people buy the DVD. They’ll throw in the Brooklyn Bridge for free.

From the wilds of Belgium ride Luke and Lucy, a pair of comic-book characters who have thrilled European children with their ability to save large segments of society from desperados. Here, the evil Jim Parasite hopes to shrink Earthlings to the size of insects, so he can rule the world. To accomplish this task, he kidnaps a bunch of Texas Rangers. — Gary Dretzka

Where Were You, My Son?
The smothering mother and emotionally stifled mama’s boy are two of the cinema’s most enduring archetypes. In Robert Alfoldi’s intense Hungarian drama, Where Were You, My Son? (a.k.a., “Tranquility” and “Nyugalom”), the magnificent Dorottya Udvaros plays an aging stage diva who hasn’t left her apartment since being replaced as Cleopatra, a decade earlier. Zalan Makranczi portrays her young son, Andor, who is required to satisfy her every whim. As time goes by, this includes listening to mom bashing every potential girlfriend as a “whore,” out to steal him away from her. The one companion who stands up to the woman is rewarded for her bravery with suspicion and abuse. This is pretty heavy stuff, but the acting is superb and Budapest provides an interesting, if dark backdrop for the goulash-thick plot. (I could easily imagine Ellen Burstyn playing the overbearing mom.) — Gary Dretzka

Kites: the Remix
When it comes to such Bollywood confections as Kites, the less one frets about such down-to-earth concerns as logic and realistic depictions of time and distance, the more entertaining the experience is likely to be, especially for non-Indian audiences. It’s enough that a Bollywood movie contains generous servings of singing, dancing, melodrama. comedy, action and, above all, romance. If the men and women hired to portray the various doomed and blessed characters also happen to be uncommonly handsome and impossibly beautiful, so much the better.

“Kites” tells the story of two young and attractive immigrants — one Indian and the other Mexican — living in Las Vegas and looking for the break that will ensure their future livelihoods. By masking their true backgrounds, both Jay Ray (Hrithik Roshan) and Natasha (Barbara Mori) find that security in the arms of the the son and daughter of one of Sin City’s casino magnates (veteran Hindi actor Kabir Bedi). Instead of settling for good enough, J and Natasha defy the the family patriarch by sampling each other’s forbidden fruit. Ultimately, this betrayal forces both of the lovers into forced exile, with an army of duped in-laws, security guards, state police and bounty hunters in hot pursuit across two states and into Mexico. The scenery, alone, recalls the long-distance pursuit in Thelma And Louise.

“Kites” is atypical in that well-choreographed action sequences substitute for the elaborate dance numbers that distinguish most Bollywood pictures. The fantasy interludes look terrific against the neon background of Glitter Glutch, even if the songs aren’t particularly memorable. (In this way, it resembles Francis Ford Coppola’s One From the Heart.) What’s most interesting about Anurag Basu’s first American-set project, though, is that “Kites” was designed to appeal to English- and Spanish-speaking audiences, as well as those those throughout Asia. American filmmaker Brett Ratner was so taken by the project that he agreed to supervise the editing of a 90-minute edition of “Kites,” for distribution here. The “Remix” eliminated the songs and put a more Hollywood-style soundtrack behind the action sequences.

The Blu-ray edition offers both versions of “Kites,” as well as deleted scenes and making-of featurettes. It probably goes without saying that the 40-minute-longer Hindi-language cut is, by far, the better option. — Gary Dretzka

As welcome as it is to find Kristin Scott Thomas’ name on the cover of any new DVD, her presence is the only really good reason to spend time with Leaving. The other would be the breathtaking scenery, which, I suspect, was shot in the mountains of southern France or Spain’s Catalan region. Thomas plays Suzanne, a middle-age bourgeois housewife, who is anxious for her children to leave the nest, so she can re-join the workforce as a physical therapist. Without apparent provocation by her typically needy husband, Suzanne falls hard for the Spanish handy man hired to turn the garage in their house into her office. Their love affair is torrid enough not only to curl Suzanne’s hair, but also convince her to abandon her cushy lifestyle and run away with the help.

Although Suzanne would prefer to keep things civil at home, her jilted husband has plans of his own. They include cutting the cheating spouse off from their bank account and credit line, and bad-mouthing the laborer (Sergi Lopez) and his boss around town. Finally, it becomes a test to see if love can survive on passion, alone. Hint: it can’t. It’s nice to find a romance that isn’t restricted to the whims of 20-year-olds, even if Catherine Corsini’s story of uncontained lust is a tad overly familar. It’s even better news that the 50-year-old Thomas, who speaks fluid French, can still bring the heat. — Gary Dretzka

The Sea Purple
Taxi Zum Klo: 30th Anniversay Edition: Director’s Cut

The visibility and critical approval accorded The Kids Are All Right notwithstanding, distributors of gay- and lesbian-themed movies still find it difficult to find traction in mainstream American theaters. Indeed, if it weren’t for the estimable presence of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as the lesbian moms, Lisa Cholodenko’s family dramedy might not have found a home outside the arthouse and festival circuit. It’s been 30 years since the widespread release of the sexually explicit Taxi Zum Klo — the first sexually explicit gay movie to draw the attention of mainstream critics here — and, clearly, not much has changed. If it weren’t for Strand and other niche DVD sites, the only place to see Donatella Maiorca’s splendid lesbian romance, Viola di Mare, would have been at a festival or in Italy.

Set in a tiny village on a rock-strewn Italian island, “The Sea Purple” chronicles the nearly lifelong struggle of two 19th Century women, who simply want to be left alone to enjoy each’s other’s company. Inseparable as children, Sara and Angela (Isabella Ragonese, Valeria Solarino) pick up their relationship where they left off, after they’re re-united as young adults. Now, however, they can’t deny — or resist — the sexual overtones of their friendship. The discovery of their liaison provides Angela’s monstrous father with yet another opportunity to impose his will on the women in his family. By refusing to accept the terms of an arranged marriage, the dark-haired beauty makes herself a target for physical, as well as mental abuse. After being imprisoned for months in a cave by her father, Angela agrees to work at his quarry in the guise of his “son.” In time, Sara and Angela conspire with a male friend to start a family. Sadly, their story ends in tragedy.

“The Sea Purple” is elegantly shot and well acted. The island’s rocky cliffs and stony shore provide an appropriately stark backdrop for the shattering drama of Sara and Angela’s ordeal. (Actually, the townspeople seem far more tolerant than Angela’s contemptible father.) The period feel is similarly impeccable. There’s nothing in Maiorca’s story, besides the fact of the women’s love, that should have precluded a run outside the festival circuit.

The release of “Taxi Zum Klo” preceded the discovery of AIDS and campaign to slow its march through the gay community by adapting safe-sex practices. It describes the efforts of a sexually promiscuous teacher to maintain a balance between his professional and private lives, and square both with the addition of a lover not obsessed with cruising and partying. In addition to offering a DVD product that’s technically better than previous releases, the “30th Anniversary Edition” adds interviews with director/star Frank Ripploh and making-of material. — Gary Dretzka

The Killing Jar
The mere presence of straight-to-DVD giants Michael Madsen and Danny Trejo normally would be enough to recommend a thriller intended primarily for release in foreign markets and action-genre nuts. The Killing Jar is so devoid of anything resembling action, tension or logic, however, that their names could only be used as sucker bait. Moreover, Trejo is only on screen for about three minutes and does nothing to remind us of his work in previous movies. Madsen plays the same psycho-killer he’s played in every third project since the release of “Reservoir Dogs.” Here, he portrays the mysterious stranger who arrives in a remote cafe with a bad attitude and a shotgun. A radio playing the background informs diners and viewers that a mass murderer is in the neighborhood and Madsen makes a perfect suspect.

Even though it’s unclear as to whether the stranger is the real murderer, or merely a nasty motorist, it isn’t long before he begins slaughtering people whose face he doesn’t like. It’s ugly, bloody and ultimately entirely pointless. Among the other participants are Amber Benson and Harold Perrineau. — Gary Dretzka

Whatever Happened to Pink Floyd?
Depeche Mode: 30 Years on the Edge
Heaven 17: Live At Scala, London

Apart from the Beatles and Rolling Stones, no single rock band has enjoyed the same enduring popularity and iconic status as Pink Floyd. The group has accomplished this even as it has changed its roster, thematic approach to the music and commercial direction. Any hint of a reunion is sufficient cause for hysteria in the blogosphere. One such occasion was last year’s Hoping Foundation benefit, where David Gilmour and Roger Waters collaborated. Whatever Happened traces the band’s activities back from that gig to the period after the release of “Animals,” when the largest personality fissure occurred. Among those interviewed for the DVD are Waters, Gilmour, the late Richard Wright and Nick Mason. Vintage performances and material from friends, colleagues and journalists also are included.

Depeche Mode has only been around since 1980, but it, too, has proven to be a highly influential ensemble. The two-disc retrospective documentary, 30 Years on the Edge, combines performance and studio footage, archival interviews with its various members and such kindred artists as Gary Numan, Thomas Dolby and OMD’s Andy McCluskey.

Live at Scala commemorates the 2005 performance of British synth-pop band Heaven 17 at the London theater. Among the selections are ’80s hits, “Crushed by the Wheels of Industry,” “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang,” “Let Me Go”” and “Temptation.” — Gary Dretzka

Tree Safari: The Koa Connection
After the Wall: A World United
Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Four: Blu-ray
The Guild: Season 4

Not having invested much thought on the subject of wood sculpting, I have assumed incorrectly that artists working in the medium picked up their supplies at Home Depot or Tree Trunks ‘R’ Us, like everyone else. The intriguing PBS documentary Tree Safari: The Koa Connection follows sculptor Brad Sells in his pursuit of rare and endangered wood stocks at the source. Sells’ mission includes researching the history, science and culture of the places he visits, including the slopes of Hawaii’s 33,000-acre Humuula Forest reserve on the Mauna Kea volcano, where koa wood can be found. Filmmaker Todd Jarrell also spends time at the artist’s Cookville, Tennessee, where he turns wood into art.

PBS’ After the Wall: A World United continues the story begun in The Wall: A World Divided, which focused on the history of the Cold War and the events that led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany. The sequel reminds us of the period after the demise when all things seemed possible in the pursuit of world peace. We now know how fragile that dream was.

In other TV-to-DVD news, Season 4 of Ice Road Truckers finds the high-risk drivers in Alaska, where they’re hauled critically needed cargo north to the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay. Reigning champ Jack Jesse is back in gear, while Lisa Kelly attempts to prove that hard-core trucking isn’t solely a man’s world. The hi-def set includes all 16 episodes of this series’s fourth stanza. Also new to Blu-ray is How the Earth Was Made: Complete Season 2.

I Am Alive: Surviving the Andes Plane Crash, from History/A&E returns to the ever-fascinating story of the 1972 crash of a turboprop carrying a team of Uruguayan rugby players to Chile. The personal accounts of survivors and rescue teams still make for compelling viewing.

The Internet-based episodic comedy, The Guild, claims a worldwide reach of 50 million “views.” Felicia Day (“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”) hosts, which chronicles the affairs of online gamers. — Gary 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