MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup:Captain America, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Aftershock, Father of Invention, Winnie the Pooh, Rare Exports, Shaolin …

Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Volumes 3, 4

A couple of months ago, in reviewing the 1990 adaptation of “Captain America,” I wondered how the no-frills version would measure up to the monster-budget “The First Avenger,” which I had yet to see. Not surprisingly, the special effects in the 2011 version are a million times better those in the original, which weren’t at all special or, for that matter, effective. Ironically, though, if I hadn’t seen the 1990 film – directed by exploitation specialist Albert Pyun – I would have had trouble understanding the story behind the summer blockbuster. The primary antagonist in both movies is Red Skull, a Nazi whose powers were developed at approximately the same the same time as scientist Abraham Erskine (a.k.a., Dr. Josef Reinstein ) introduced the Super-Soldier Serum into the puny human guinea pig, Steve Rogers. Although the comic-book Captain America would do battle with several Nazi villains, sympathizers and spies, only Red Skull was allowed to survive the war and reignite his rivalry with Captain America. After being awakened from a decades-long nap, Rogers and his alter ego would continue to confront international villainy under the auspices of Marvel’s Avengers. Indeed, there are several times in “Captain America: The First Avenger” when the superhero’s “origin story” feels more like a teaser for next year’s summer smash, “The Avengers” – featuring Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Iron Man, the Hulk, Loki and Pepper Potts – than a movie designed to stand on its own two feet.

Comic-book loyalists probably will favor the origin story over the spectacularly loud battles between the forces of good and evil in “The First Avenger.” Rogers’ transformation isn’t nearly as amazing as that ascribed to Bruce Banner and the Hulk, so kids nurtured CGI-enhanced action epics likely will merely tolerate the breaks for humorous exposition. While not at all credible as history, the movie stops well short of suggesting one superhero could change the tide of war single-handedly or even in the company of a special forces team of his choosing. It is fitting, then, that the most compelling moments are those in which Steve Rogers is attempting to make the grade as a soldier. Through the sheer force of his will, the runt of the Rogers’ family’s litter convinces his superiors – played by Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell and Stanley Tucci – that he’s got the right stuff. Unless viewers are familiar with Chris Evans from “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” – he played Johnny Storm/Human Torch – it will require a certain suspension of disbelief to accept him in the role of a more pumped-up superhero. It won’t take long, though. Beyond that, “Captain America” is standard issue. The Blu-ray bonus package includes commentary with director Joe Johnston, director of photography Shelly Johnson and editor Jeffrey Ford; an amusing short, “Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer”; several background and making-of featurettes; a profile of Red Skull; deleted scenes; a preview of “The Avengers”; a digital and DVD copy. A Blu-ray 3D version also is available in combination with the other formats.

For those fans of the Avengers who simply can’t wait until next summer’s big show, there’s Marvel’s “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” The second season of Disney XD’s animated series has just begun, so it’s the perfect time for latecomers to catch up. Volumes 3 and 4 wrap up Season One. In the first disc, the Avengers face off against Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil. Defeat could open the door for a full-scale alien invasion, led by the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror. As if that threat weren’t sufficiently frightening, the season closes with a seven-episode arc in which Ultron, his army of robots and Loki put all of humanity in jeopardy. Among the extras are “Avengers Unmasked: Masters of Evil”/“Hail, Hydra!” an animated in-episode comic-book experience with trivia and backgrounders on the heroes and villains. – Gary Dretzka

Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy: Blu-ray
Dinosaurs have been very good to Steven Spielberg. Besides directing and/or producing the first three entries in the “Jurassic Park” franchise – newly repackaged in an all-inclusive Blu-ray boxed set – Spielberg has announced progress on a fourth edition, and his Fox TV series, “Terra Nova,” has been picking up steam in the prime-time ratings. If “Jurassic Park” represents something of a “Back to the Future” approach to paleontology, “Terra Nova” first requires viewers to leap forward to 2149, before being put into reverse 85 million years to dinosaur days. Without the ideas formulated in “Jurassic Park,” “Terra Nova” might have looked a lot like a live-action version of “The Flintstones.”

Ironically, much of the magic on display in “Jurassic Park,” “The Lost World” and “Jurassic Park III” derived from pre-CGI special-effects techniques and the ink-on-paper genius of novelist Michael Crichton. Anyone who saw “Jurassic Park” in its debut run will never forget how truly thrilling it was to witness entirely credible depictions of life in prehistoric times. There had been nothing else quite like it then and very few movies since then have been able to top it for sheer audacity and as pure entertainment. Watching the predator sequence in Terence Malick’s “Tree of Life,” it’s impossible not to recall when Spielbergian reptiles roamed Hollywood production studios.

All three of the “JP” movies have been digitally re-mastered for enhanced picture and sound. The supplemental material also includes a digital copy of all three films; “Return to ‘Jurassic Park’”: a six-part documentary, featuring new interviews with Spielberg, “JPIII” director Joe Johnston cast and crew members; feature commentary; deleted scenes; animatics; visual effects, before and after; Foley artists; storyboards; visits to Stan Winston Studio and ILM; production stills, sketches, models, posters and toys; “‘Jurassic Park’: Making the Game”; and more new and archived featurettes than you can shake a stegosaurs’ tail at. Among them are “Hurricane in Kauai,” “A Discussion With Author Michael Crichton,” “The Compie Dance Number: Thank You Steven Spielberg From ILM,” “Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs,” “Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane,” “Raptors Attack Udesky” and “The Lake.” – Gary Dretzka

For most of the last seven or eight years, natural disasters have dominated the world’s headlines. Millions of people’s lives have been destroyed or seriously altered by events way beyond anyone’s control. Special-effects wizards have attempted to approximate the look and force of tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes, but images captured by civilians on hand-held digital cameras and cell-phones have trumped everything Hollywood’s thrown our way. What can’t be duplicated on film, however, is the raw human drama that unfolds when the cameras go away and survivors are left to their own devices. Because Hurricane Katrina happened in our own back yard and ignorant politicians compounded the tragedy with their indifference and racism, Spike Lee and other fine filmmakers were inspired to record our government’s shame for posterity. (It also helped that Sean Penn and Brad Pitt committed their resources to relief efforts.) Xiaogang Feng’s powerful drama, “Aftershock,” adapted from a novel by Ling Zhang, depicts events surrounding the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. With a magnitude estimated at between 7.8 and 8.2, the 23-second-long quake leveled a city of 1million inhabitants in northeastern China, leaving at least 240,000 of them dead. If you weren’t aware of the disaster until now, it’s only because the Communist government refused to accept international aid through the UN, preferring instead to rely on the combined forces of medical relief teams from Shanghai and the People’s Liberation Army. Immediately after the rescue missions were completed, the government committed itself to rebuilding the industrial city, which it did. Large sections of New Orleans still resemble a war zone.

The human story told in “Aftershock” is even more fascinating. It focuses on truck driver Da Qiang, his wife Yuan Ni and their twins, Fang Da and Fang Deng, an otherwise ordinary proletarian family. When the earthquake hits, mom and dad are downstairs from their modest apartment, sharing some private time inside his truck. The twins are upstairs, sleeping. So devastating is the initial shock that the street separating the parking lot from the apartment literally is shredded. The building collapses before anyone can mount a rescue effort. Da Qiang is killed in an aftershock. Fortuitously, the children survive the collapse, but are stuck in the rubble, badly wounded. After several hours pass, Yuan Ni is given the impossible choice of picking which child will survive the lifting of a child chunk of concrete. Within earshot of the girl, Yuan Ni reluctantly picks the son, Fang Da, whose hand has already been shattered. Fang Deng’s body is loaded onto a truck along with that of her father. In an amazing twist of fate, the girl awakens from her terrible sleep and departs the truck when she realizes that everyone is dead. Too traumatized to speak, she’s comforted by a married couple who serve together in the army. Childless, they are granted permission to adopt Fang Deng and raise her at their military compound, where she will be loved and educated. (There’s no indication any members of her family survived.) Meanwhile, Fang Da has adapted to life with his prosthetic hand. Yuan Ni remains overprotective of her son, who, she fears, will be scorned by society for his condition. Fang Da worships his mother, but is determined to prove her wrong.

There’s no need to spoil any surprises, except to acknowledge what most of you already suspect. The twins eventually will be reunited, but only after growing into adulthood with some of their wounds yet to be fully healed. If “Aftershock” tends to wallow in melodrama occasionally, it neatly fits the mold of most epic family dramas and depicts a sleeping giant about to emerge from its isolationist shell. The characters feel completely genuine and free of any propagandistic baggage. It’s simply a terrifically engaging story, well told. Upon its release, “Aftershock” became the most successful Chinese-produced movie in nation’s history, topping “The Founding of a Republic.” Oh, yeah, American viewers may not grasp the significance of the swarm of dragonflies that appears over the city as the movie opens. Traditionally, such events have served as an early-warning system by earthquake watchers in China and the dragonflies appeared, on cue, along with other natural phenomenon, prior to the disaster. – Gary Dretzka

Father of Invention
Kevin Spacey is the best and probably only good reason to stick with the badly undernourished dramedy, “Father of Invention.” In it, the two-time Academy Award-winner plays a highly successful infomercial huckster, Robert Axle, sent to prison for eight years after one of his “fabrications” (a.k.a., inventions) malfunctions, leaving gullible customers with missing fingers. Worse than having to spend time in prison, however, is coming to grips with the damage done to his family, especially his estranged daughter, Claire (Camilla Belle). Penniless, Robert is turned away from the Lake Ponchartrain mansion he once shared with Clair and his ditzoid mother (Virginia Madsen). Desperate, he begs his daughter to allow him to crash on the couch of the apartment she shares with two roommates, one of whom is a lesbian (Heather Graham) and the other an emotional basket case (Anna Anissamova). All of the women treat him as if he just dragged dog shit onto an heirloom rug. As a term of his probation, Robert takes a job at a discount store, where he’s constantly reminded of the products he once pitched. In almost record time, he’s fired by a sympathetic, if no-nonsense boss (Johnny Knoxville).

“Father of Invention” really goes off the deep end when Robert cooks up an invention that could get him back on track again. First, though, he must secure $5,000 to hire his former techie buddy. His status as a felon and ex-con precludes him from receiving even that insignificant amount through normal sources, so he does the most short-sighted and unethical thing he could possibly do to come up with the money, by stealing it from someone who has come to trust him. (He would have tried to borrow or steal it from his ex-wife, if she hadn’t squandered every cent of her $300-million-plus divorce settlement.) By tacking on an overly sentimental and completely improbable ending, writer/director Trent Cooper (“Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector”) only digs a deeper grave for his sophomore feature. Spacey fans, however, won’t be any more disappointed in killing time with “Father of Invention,” than they were watching him in the marginally better “Horrible Bosses.” Too bad no one beat Cooper to the punch by adapting Ron Popeil’s autobiography for the screen and casting Spacey as the master pitchman and legendary inventor of gizmos consumers didn’t know they needed, until they saw them on TV. – Gary Dretzka

Winnie the Pooh: Blu-ray
Anyone who thinks that America’s dwindling corps of movie critics is comprised entirely of jaded eggheads with an ax to grind against G-rated Hollywood entertainment would do well to consider the case of “Winnie the Pooh.” The crusty curmudgeons were overwhelming in their approval of this, the fifth feature-length adaptation of A.A. Milne’s beloved books from Disney. At 69 gently flowing minutes, “Winnie the Pooh” must have felt like the cinematic equivalent of a palate-cleansing sherbet, compared with most of loud and brainless junk to which they’re subjected on a daily basis. Moreover, “Winnie the Pooh” was simply drawn and not remotely beholding to CGI wizards or 3D for enjoyment. The critics didn’t even seem to mind that Disney might be able to parley the movie’s good vibes into another zillion dollars worth of toys and honey jars sold.

The film is comprised of three Milne stories: “In Which Eeyore Loses a Tail and Pooh Finds One,” “In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump” and “In Which Rabbit Has a Busy Day and We Learn What Christopher Robin Does in the Mornings.” In addition to the most popular inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Woods in attendance here, there’s the possibly mythical monster, Backson. It is rumored to have abducted Christopher Robin, adding one more problem to the ones associated with Eeyor’s missing tail, Owl’s poor spelling skills and Pooh’s endless appetite for honey. What’s especially clever here is imaginative use of animated words, letters and typography to advance the narrative, without diminishing or disturbing E. H. Shepard’s water-color backgrounds.
Among the voice actors are narrator John Cleese, Craig Ferguson (Owl), Jim Cummings (Pooh, Tigger) and SoCal media curiosity Huell Howser (Backson). Zooey Dechanel and M. Ward (a.k.a., She & Him) supply songs. The Blu-ray presentation is excellent, not that your kids will know the difference. The bonus material includes the backgrounder, “Winnie the Pooh and His Story, Too,” which explains the origins and history of Milne’s books; 15 minutes worth of deleted and alternative scenes, some in sketch form; the bonus shorts, “The Ballad of Nessie” and “Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Pooh’s Balloon”; sing-along versions of the movie’s songs; and, for parents-to-be “Creating the Perfect Winnie the Pooh Nursery.” – Gary Dretzka

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: Blu-Ray
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Mardi Gras Spring Break

Tired of sitting around, waiting for the millionth showings of “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” every time December rolls around? Start your own holiday tradition by putting “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” on the old Blu-ray player and enjoying a truly twisted interpretation of the Father Christmas legend. According to European lore, Saint Nicholas once traveled in the company of a freakish little devil known as Black Peter. Together, they would judge the boys and girls to determine if they were deserving of gifts of sweets and nuts or lumps of coal … or worse. It wasn’t until commercialism subverted the true meaning of Christmas that Black Peter’s role was reduced and St. Nicholas took on the characteristics of the Santa Claus found in Coca-Cola commercials. “Rare Exports” subverts the legend even more by adding a palpable aura of horror.

“Rare Exports” is set in contemporary Lapland, where reindeer herdsmen are suffering from a mysterious shortage of migrating animals to hunt. At the same time, miners working for a foreign company have discovered within Korvatunturi Mountain the grotesque body of a long-buried creature, which bears a resemblance to paintings of Black Peter. And, where Black Peter lies, Father Christmas can’t be far away. Here, though, there are several as-yet-unformed Father Christmases in the nearby forests and they all look as if they spend their summers living in a cardboard box in an alley off Times Square. They’re scrawny, bearded, extremely dirty and not at all jolly. In the absence of reindeer, though, these nasty little men could prove to be a valuable commodity if trained to be bearers of good tidings in countries without Santas of they’re own. Already, they’ve been offered a considerable sum for the one specimen they’ve managed to trap. The trick will be rounding up other geezers and herding them into the pens once reserved for reindeer.

The idea for such an unlikely movie sprang from a pair of short films writer/director Jalmari Helander distributed as Christmas cards to friends and clients of his production company. They became an Internet sensation and are included in the Blu-ray package, along with interviews and making-of featurettes. For some bizarre reason, the good folks at Oscilloscope thought it would be a grand idea if they added an extra special treat, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” a movie that benefits not at all from being shown in hi-def. The 1964 kiddies’ thriller is notorious for two things: 1) displaying no discernible production values, and 2) introducing unsuspecting audiences to 10-year-old Pia Zadora. Yes, it’s a terrible movie. Fact is, though, I’ve seen plenty worse, including this week’s entry “Mardi Gras Spring Break.” “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” remains a movie that is intended for the enjoyment of post-toddlers, not fans of “MST3K” … if such a show was even conceivable in 1964. For the one or two people out there unfamiliar with Nicholas Webster’s cinematic atrocity, the plot is simplicity itself.

An expeditionary force of green Martian commandoes endeavors to kidnap Santa Claus, who they blame for corrupting their children. That’s right, American television is available on Mars. Instead of landing at the North Pole, however, they head straight to the house belonging to Zadora and her movie brother. Sensing that the spacemen are up to no good, the kids stow away on their rocket ship. They hope to warn Santa of the dastardly plan, but first are required to evade the phoniest polar bear in the history of the movies. Even if the title ruins the suspense, there’s no need to spoil any more of the “fun.”

Any list of the worst movies of all time that includes “SCCTM” and not “Mardi Gras: Spring Break” has no credibility whatsoever. It’s so bad, it makes the raunch-fests “presented” by National Lampoon look like Neil Simon night on TMC. In it, three college seniors head for New Orleans for Mardi Gras, which this year corresponds somehow with spring break. The lure, of course, is the likelihood they’ll see the breasts of hundreds of women trolling for beads. If not on Bourbon Street, then the countless wet T-shirt contests that pass for entertainment during any spring break. When the boys aren’t soliciting tit-shots, they’re vomiting, passing out, playing with their feces, trying to sneak into nightclubs, jumping off balconies, trying not to act gay and vomiting some more. Carmen Electra makes an extended cameo, but, sadly, remains uncharacteristically chaste. That’s it. – Gary Dretzka

Shaolin: Collector’s Edition: Blu-ray
Roger Corman’s Cult Classic’s Lethal Ladies Collection

I’m no expert on martial-arts movies, but, as they say, I know what I like, and I liked “Shaolin” a lot. Or, maybe it’s because I don’t know a great deal about martial-arts movies that I enjoyed “Shaolin” as much as I did. No matter, it only opened in a handful of theaters here and didn’t do enough business to warrant a wider release. So, what do I know? Set at a time when warlords fought for control of territory coveted as much by foreign business interests as the fledgling Republic of China, “Shaolin” describes an epic confrontation between the forces of good and evil. In one corner stand the fighting monks of the ancient Shaolin temple, while, in the other, reside the dueling warlords and British imperialists intent on razing the property for railroad right-of-way. The monks are pretty much limited to long sticks and fists of fury, which normally would provide sufficient defense. The militarists have at their disposal an arsenal full of guns, cannon, axes, swords and battle-ready horses. It’s nearly a draw.

The drama at the heart of the story involves a three-way feud between ambitious sibling warlords and their greedy mentor. In a classic triple-cross, the subordinate brother, Cao Man, avenges perceived insults by perverting a scheme hatched by his older sibling, Hou Jie (Andy Lau), to assassinate the boss and take control of the capital. Days earlier, Cao Man had chased a wounded enemy warlord into the temple, where he sought and was granted temporary sanctuary. Hou Jie pretended to honor the abbot’s wishes, but shot the man, anyway. His brutality and lack of honor are duly noted by the monks, who value mercy over revenge. His daughter couldn’t be saved, but Hou Jie correctly blames himself for the tragedy and seeks redemption in the monastic life. When, much later, the increasingly evil Cao Man (Nicholas Tse) learns that Hou Jie is alive and living in the temple, he lays siege to the monastery. Not only are the lives of the monks threatened, but also those of hundreds of refugees fleeing enforced servitude to the railroad builders and certain death when they’re too exhausted to work. This time through, the monks don’t stand idly by as the outsider attacks the temple, and the ensuing battle is fierce. A surprise ending and satisfying epilogue demonstrate how karma cuts both ways.

Needed comic relief is provided by the ubiquitous Jackie Chan, who uses kung-fu techniques to prepare meals for the monks. The youngest monks in training observe his methodology and employ it in their own martial-arts training. The sharp Blu-ray presentation accentuates the beautiful settings and costumes. A Blu-ray featurette blends deleted scenes with making-of footage, including that of the wire work.

And, now, let’s move from the sublime to the ridiculous, in the form of a trilogy of kung-fu exploitation flicks from Roger Corman. “Firecracker,” “TNT Jackson” and “Too Hot To Handle” are distinguished solely by the appearance of supremely hot female protagonists, played by Jullian Kesner, Jeannie Bell and Cheri Caffaro, respectively. “TNT Jackson” is a two-fer, in that it also qualifies as a blaxploitation classic. All of the movies were shot largely in the in the Philippines and Hong Kong and feature a supporting cast of smarmy locals. The plots resemble each other in that all three of the women arrive from the U.S. to avenge the death of a sibling, friend or fellow drug smuggler. Equally sexy women play deep-cover narcotics agents, pretending to be gangsters’ molls. The fighting scenes are pretty good, too, especially when clothes are ripped off. Besides some scratchy trailers, the only bonus feature is commentary with Caffaro, who plays an international hit woman involved in James Bond-ish escapades in Manila and sees herself as a pioneer in female-entitlement roles. She’s probably right. As goofy as they may be, all three of the movies are great fun to watch. – Gary Dretzka

A Little Help: Blu-ray
Sometimes, it’s really easy to figure out what went wrong with a feature film, even one with highly recognizable stars and a serviceable script. More often than not, material that’s fragile in the first place is allowed to stay in the hands of a writer who believes he’s the best person to direct his brainchild. The blame can also be laid at the feet of young directors who don’t know or refuse to acknowledge when they’re in over their heads. In the specific case of “A Little Help,” writer/director Michael J. Weithorn – a veteran of the television-sitcom wars — seemingly failed to take into account the differences between small-screen-comedy conventions and those governing big-screen dramas. There’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with a script that finds similarities in the emotional aftereffects of 9/11 and the PTSS experienced by a suburban mother and son who’ve suddenly and unexpectedly lost the rock in their life to a heart attack. The movie is set on Long Island, circa 2002, after all, and everybody felt a bit unhinged. Jenna Fischer (“The Office”) portrays the mother of a 12-year-old boy and a dental hygienist, who’s recently returned to work and admittedly has stopped caring much about how she looks. On the same day Laura decides to confront her husband (Chris O’Donnell) about her fears about his cheating on her, he suffers two heart attacks, one of which was misdiagnosed and the other fatal.

Shell-shocked, Laura allows herself to be manipulated by her overbearing mother (Lesley Anne Warren) and sister (Brooke Smith), who convince her to enroll her son in a private school and sue her husband’s doctor, neither of which she wants to do. As the prototypical new kid in school, Dennis overcomes his inferiority complex by telling everyone his dad died in 9/11, thus engendering waves of sympathy. Seeing how desperate Dennis was for positive attention, Laura decides against admitting the truth to his classmates and teachers. The ruse has an obvious downside, but they get away with it for a while. In the meantime, though, Laura bandages her own pain with risky short-term solutions, including beer and a humiliating one-night stand. “A Little Help” is billed as a comedy/drama, but I found the laughs to be hidden behind a thick wall of darkness, allowing only occasional opportunities for Laura to brighten her dour expression. Indeed, most of the comedy derives from Ron Leibman’s crusty take on Laura’s father, who’s rapidly approaching senility.

The Blu-ray edition arrives with a slew of interview snippets, collected from promotional send-outs and a Jakob Dylan music video. Dylan’s songs, while perfectly fine, appear to have been included as substitutes for meaningful dialogue. – Gary Dretzka

Uncle Bob
The Cost of Love

Formed in 2009, Breaking Glass Pictures is one of the most interesting new distribution labels in the DVD marketplace. The selections in the company’s 70-title catalogue run the genre gamut, from horror, thriller and sci-fi, to BDSM, erotic drama and romance, and almost everything else in between. Almost none of them have enjoyed wide release, anywhere, but there are some very obvious reasons for such neglect. Just as its Vicious Circle sidebar covers extreme horror, QC Cinema specializes in gay & lesbian theatrical and documentary releases. A recent sampling is indicative of the selections available. “Uncle Bob” is a documentary that answers the musical question, “Whatever happened to the guy who streaked the 1974 Oscar ceremony?” Firstly, his name was Robert Opel and he was a performance artist who believed that societal hang-ups over nudity couldn’t be addressed, let alone cured, if mainstream Americans were afraid to look at naked people. Coming out of the ’60s, such an idea was hardly revolutionary. Neither, by this time in American history, was streaking considered to be particularly radical. He would routinely appear on TV talk shows as the date for new Academy Awards presentations approached. In 1979, he was murdered in his San Francisco in circumstances his nephew, filmmaker Robert Oppel – yes, two p’s — still considers to be mysterious. In “Uncle Bob,” Oppel paints a fascinating portrait of extremely personable gay activist, performance artist, photographer and gallery owner. It also extends the story told in Gus Van Sant’s “Milk” of a pre-AIDS San Francisco bursting at the seams with counter-cultural energy and a mad desire to be unshackled from society’s chains. Among the eyewitnesses and friends interviewed are filmmaker and producer Abel Ferrara; singer and companion Camille O’Grady; HRH Lee Mentley, the Princess of Castro Street; photographer and Milk associate Daniel Nicoletta; former Cockette Ruby Missabu; and educator Jack Fritscher. Also shown in archival interviews are John Waters, Divine and Mike Douglas. Oppel introduces his theories about his uncle in loosely staged dramatizations. The bonus features includes Robert Opel’s complete interview with Divine, at Fay Wey Studios; Robert Oppel’s short film “Trip Back Forward,” with the Cockettes; the “Red, White & Blue Me” music video; and a photo gallery.

The title character of “Gigola” comes exactly as advertised: a cross-dressing Parisian lesbian, who’s as much a companion to her older female clientele as she is a prostitute. When we meet her, sometime in the early 1960s, Georgia (Lou Doillon) has the long dark hair associated with most college students her age. Upon passing her exams, she demands of her older lover that she cut her hair in a style that approximates that of a Pigalle “dandy.” It’s not an unusual look for women who frequent the exclusive clubs and bars of the nightclub district, but, for someone her age, it’s pretty severe. She also favors a top hat, precisely cut tuxedo and cobra-tipped cane, which she carries both for protection and as an affectation. Her social circle is comprised of women of all ages and income brackets, all of whom dress alike. After her lover commits suicide, Georgia re-names herself Gigola. With the name comes a sharp new edge that causes her to be more comfortable as a pimp than a whore and an antagonistic presence in her mother’s (Marissa Berenson) life. Somewhere along the line, Gigola runs afoul of the local mob and voluntarily becomes pregnant, although not necessarily in that order. She may think she’ll know how to remain self-sufficient when the mob closes in and her baby pushes out, but she doesn’t. First-time filmmaker Laure Charpentier does better at capturing the period atmosphere than developing a story that ebbs and flows naturally. The sex, while plentiful, isn’t remotely pornographic.

Also from QC, “The Cost of Love” is about a male escort and confirmed cruiser based in Greenwich, England, who has everything working in his favor, except love. Unfortunately, the man Dale cares most about is a doctor, straight and about to be married. Naturally, Dale turns for advice to his friend, Sean, a drag artist with strong feelings for him. And, of course, at 28, an escort with Dale’s appetite isn’t getting any younger. Writer/director Carl Medland isn’t afraid to put his diverse cast of characters through the ringer. – Gary Dretzka

A Serbian Film: Blu-ray
Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings
Pre-Halloween cult horror

Consider the images we’ve just witnessed of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi being pummeled, shot and dragged lifeless down a highway by his captors, before being left in a meat locker to be gawked at and rot. Then, recall the photographs of naked Iraqi prisoners being humiliated and tortured by bored National Guard troops. Try to imagine, as well, what kind of sickness would prompt Sudanese soldiers to stand by and watch as millions of people are being allowed to starve to death in an endless war. Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the world’s richest and most powerful nations can’t even agree on the number of unarmed Syrian protesters have to die before a bounty is put on Bashar al-Assad’s head. That’s the kind of stuff a master of horror could use to his advantage. It’s real and it’s supremely frightening. If the characters didn’t drop more than one or two f-bombs, expose their nipples or rip each other’s heads off, such a movie theoretically could be rated PG-13.

And, yet, censorial bodies and distributors around the world routinely decide that obviously fictitious depictions of extreme sexual behavior and violence require censorship and, in the case of “A Serbian Movie,” outright banishment. Even Netflix, a seemingly open-minded operation, has decided that adults aren’t prepared to watch such a provocative movie in the comfort of their own homes. Such hypocrisy isn’t ignored in the bombardment of points that director Srdjan Spasojevic makes “A Serbian Film.” On its pock-marked surface, this much-reviled movie is an allegory in which a retired porn star is unable to resist the lure of easy money, even when he’s left completely in the dark as to what he’ll have to do to earn it. The porn star, Milos, accepts the offer believing that he’s already performed every conceivable sexual stunt – short of pedophilia, necrophilia or actual incest – throughout his long and profitable career and there’s precious little left to surprise him. That logic might apply in a lot of places, but not in the once vibrant, ethnically diverse region formerly known as Yugoslavia. Once the Iron Curtain was lifted, tinhorn potentates encouraged their loyalists to ignore every moral principle drilled into them at the feet of their teachers, clergy and parents, all in the name of nationalistic pride. Like the many soldiers forced to obey the unconscionable orders of madmen and sadists, Milos really should have questioned where the producer of such a movie would draw the line. This man, Milos, who believed he had seen and done everything a porn icon could be asked to do, quickly would discover veins of depravity even a coke whore would refuse to mine. When Milos decides it’s to pull the plug on his participation in the psycho-sexual horror show, he’s no longer in control of his own fate. Dead or alive, the movie within the movie in “A Serbian Film” will be finished. Instead of being an actor, Milos could just as well have been asked to portray an investment banker ordered to foreclose on homes owned by laid-off nurses, teachers and factory workers, or a political operative assigned to destroy the reputation of a kind and honorable opponent. These are the horrors of our time.

Even though “A Serbian Film” is Spasojevic’s first movie – screenwriter Aleksandar Radivojevic already had penned “Tears for Sale” – it is an extremely accomplished work. The lighting, music and set design all contribute to the movie’s we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore atmosphere, when Milos realizes he’s passed the been-there/done-it barrier. By then, however, he’s barely capable of distinguishing between his nightmares, drug-induced hallucinations and real life. So are we. At this juncture, Milos’ hysteria resembles that of the characters in “Requiem for a Dream,” the movie “A Serbian Film” most resembles. To be sure, “A Serbian Film” is strictly for adult eyes and discerning ones, at that. Like Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Salo” – also newly released in Blu-ray — it will test even the most open-minded of viewers.

A horror movie that’s already being promoted at Netflix and the even more censorial Blockbuster is “Wrong Turn 4: Unrated.” Like the aforementioned “Mardi Gras: Spring Break,” Declan O’Brien’s bloodbath is gratuitous in every conceivable way: violence, nudity, stupidity. It doesn’t have a single new idea going for it and reveals nothing – new or old – about the human condition. Creatively, it exists simply as an excuse to showcase the makeup-effects chops of a bunch of Hollywood kids who majored in gore at film school. Commercially, it exists … well, as yet another hit-and-run sequel in a brand-name franchise. Normally, I wouldn’t waste a lot of time decrying gratuitous violence and sex in a genre film, especially one capable of inspiring three sequels. If I had to choose between pulling the proverbial plug on “A Serbian Film” or “Wrong Turn 4,” I’d come down on the side of the latter. Even horror has its limits, or should have. Anyone committed to exhibiting 94 minutes of non-stop dismemberment, cannibalism, deformed mental patients, voyeuristic sex, the constant misuse of cutlery and dimwitted college students deserves to be hung by his thumbs during a screening of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.”

The fourth chapter opens with the origin story of the inbred hillbilly brothers we met in the original 2003 “Wrong Turn.” This time around, it’s the dead of winter and a group of stranded college kids takes refuge in the now dark and presumably empty West Virginia sanitarium. It’s not uninhabited, of course.
The hillbilly-cannibal brothers and a few of their demented friends make their presence known only a few minutes after the second of two sex scenes. After that, it’s non-stop carnage … none of which is terribly scary.

Beware” is slightly less gory than “Wrong Turn,” but benefits from infinitely better character development and a semblance of a plot. It’s the story of a boy named “Shane,” who was tortured and chained to a tree after his dad went nuts and killed his mother and her boyfriend (possibly Shane’s real father). After escaping, he grew up in the woods and slaughtered anyone who came too close to his secretly demented sister. The latest victims are a group of Hispanic teens heading to a rock concert. When their car breaks down in a most inopportune place, who ya gonna call? Will anyone survive to star in a squeal? Stay tuned.

For those whose appetite for depravity and bloodlust knows no bounds, the gentle folks at MVD Visuals have released a slew of micro-budget, do-it-yourself thrillers: “Hellweek: Grindhouse Bootleg Edition,” “Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation,” “The Resurrection Game: 10th Anniversary Edition,” “Lust for Vengeance: 10th Anniversary Explicit Version” and “House of the Damned.”Among the many “highlights”: in addition to the fresh original cut of “Hellweek,” there’s a grind-house version “with all the dirt, filth and scratches from 42nd Street”; in “Demon Divas,” scream queens help a pair of nerdy college girls get even with their tormenters … at a bowling alley; “The Resurrection Game” imagines a society in which zombies are merely a nuisance and cogs in a much large conspiracy; “Lust for Vengeance” … sex, drugs and a serial killer; and in the “House of the Damned,” Mommie Dearest harvests the youth of her daughter. – Gary Dretzka

When Harry Tries to Marry

I can’t imagine why anyone would name a romantic comedy, “When Harry Tries to Marry.” Maybe it rolls off the tongue in Bengali,Punjabi, Hindi or Tamil, but, in English, it sounds unfinished. The title does, however, sum up what happens in writer/director Nayan Padrai’s sweet, if uneven debut. Harry is an Indian college student living in New York. After comparing the results of his grandparents’ arranged marriage with the results of the shotgun nuptials of his parents, Harry decides he’ll go the traditional route by asking an uncle to find a suitable wife for him. And, this he does. The two connect long-range, via Skype, forging a bond that normally would lead to marriage, as it almost does. Freed from the encumbrance of having to obsess over finding suitable marriage material, Harry is free to make female friends and enjoy his undergraduate years. The problem, of course, comes when this newly found freedom allows him to become too close to a classmate who is perfect in every possible way, except that she’s a tall, sexy redhead of the American persuasion. While Harry enjoys everything about having a platonic relationship with a really nice woman, Theresa has become enchanted with his openness, concern and kindness. Harry remains blind to her attentions until two nights before their gala Indian wedding, when she alerts him to her true feelings for him, and he reciprocates. No surprise there, either.

“When Harry Tries to Marry” is a well-meaning confection that gets stuck in too many ruts wheels during its 93-minute length. I could have done with a bit more Bollywood and a lot less New York, but the movie appears to be targeted at American audiences, especially14-year-old Bridezillas-in-waiting. The movie picks up some steam when everyone arrives in India for the wedding. Even without Blu-ray, the DVD sparkles with the brilliant colors associated with Indian social gatherings. It comes with making-of material and music videos. – Gary Dretzka

Maxwell Street Blues
Prince of Broadway
Fire in Babylon
Boys of Summer
Turkey Bowl
In the early 1900s, Chicago’s Maxell Street was a bustling commercial district largely populated by Jewish immigrants. It had already served as a gateway neighborhood for Irish, Bohemian, German, Russians, Italian and Greek newcomers, and would later provide temporary housing for southern blacks and Mexicans. If residents felt as if they were sitting at the crossroads of world commerce, they weren’t far from the truth. Although stores lined Maxwell Street, it was the open-air market that became known far and wide as a place to find treasures, junk sold as antiques, trinkets and novelties, food from the Old Country, work clothes, First Communion outfits and the shiny new tires stolen off your car. It was as synonymous with Chicago as gangsters and meat packing. (The Daleys would come later.) Eventually, the market would be forced to make way for freeways, colleges, urban renewal and other economic realities. The only constant over the final few decades of Maxwell Street’s life were the blues buskers who played for tips and occasionally were hired by bar owners looking for inexpensive talent. Made in 1981, “Maxwell Street Blues” documents the shuttering of that era. Linda Williams and Raul Zaritsky strolled among the ruins, filming the blues musicians who, by and large, no longer were ready for prime time (and the burgeoning North Side blues scene.) These man and women may have been ancient, but they could still hold a tune and spin a yarn. Maxwell Street doesn’t even exist as a graveyard anymore. A college-owned residential complex and other facilities have been built on its ruins and the market has been moved further south. This wonderful documentary provides a snapshot of a nearly forgotten moment in time. It’s been lovingly restored and comes with an update featurette.

While not a documentary, “Prince of Broadway” looks very much like one. It had me fooled for 15 minutes, anyway. Having just watched “Maxwell Street Blues,” Sean Baker’s micro-budget indie could be describing a contemporary Maxwell Street, New York-style. Manhattan’s wholesale-fashion district is an entirely reasonable facsimile of Maxwell Street in the early 1900s. It’s a magnet for immigrants, some of whom arrived on these shores legally, and the provenance of the merchandise is frequently questionable. Lucky (Prince Adu) is an illegal Ghanaian immigrant who makes a meager living roping pedestrians into a store where knock-off shoes and purses are sold inside of a hidden room. His boss, Levon (Karren Karagulian), is an Armenian-Lebanese immigrant, who sets the prices and keeps an eye out for the “5-O.” Like too many men in Lucky and Levon’s situation, the most direct route to the American Dream is patrolled by cops from a half-dozen different law-enforcement agencies. Lucky’s life suddenly gets even more complicated when an old hookup drops a toddler on him, claiming that he’s the father, and splits for a couple of weeks of serenity. For his part, Levon is having problems keeping his green-card wife happy. Then, just when Lucky is getting used to having the kid around, someone breaks into his van and steals a load of expensive sneakers. Baker shot “Prince of Broadway” with a palm-sized camera, which was affixed to his shoulder, so he could capture street scenes and crowds without drawing attention to himself or the fact he’s working without a permit. Alternately funny, sad and strangely sentimental, “Prince of Broadway” is as good a movie as any that’s been limited to a single-screen release. That, right there, qualifies as a crime greater than selling counterfeit accessories to rubes. The DVD arrives with a behind-the-scenes featurette and audio commentaries.

If anything could spark interest in cricket in America – and I’m pretty sure nothing can – it would be “Fire in Babylon,” a movie about a team of West Indian athletes that stunned the British and Commonwealth sporting establishment and forever changed the way the game would be played. Upon entering international competition in the early 1970s, the team was as hapless as its foes anticipated. Gradually, though, the upstarts would learn from their mistakes and field a team that wouldn’t embarrass anyone, at least. What elevated the team were memories of enslavement and repression – hence, Babylon – and racial epithets hurled by opposing cricketeers and racists in the cheap seats, alike. If this makes “Fire in Babylon” sound like a candidate for a double feature with “Invictus,” you’ve already gotten the picture. The story is told in the words of the men who made it happen, against a background of reggae and other Caribbean sounds.

If “Fire in Babylon” is a close match to “Invictus,” “Boys of Summer” is nearly a dead-ringer for “The Perfect Game.” Both describe an upset in the Little League World Series of epic proportions. The primary difference between the two teams came in the fact that one had to convince itself it was good enough to compete, while the other was routinely beating up teams around the Caribbean and South America. Even so, it would be like a team from a small town in Montana dominating all American comers. In the summer chronicled by director Keith Aumont, the boys from Curaçao faced more challenges than usual. Extras include “Frank Curiel: The Coach Above the Field,” “Vernon Car Crash,” “Strategy” and “Curaçao Tourney.”

Turkey Bowl” is another low-budget indie that looks as if it were an assignment in a film-school class on cinema-verite, and I mean that in a good way. Each year, a mixed group of eight friends – as well as the occasional ringer — gathers to play a game of touch football. The only thing at stake is a Butterball turkey and, maybe, some bruised egos and scrapped elbows, but over the course of 64 minutes, many recognizable truths and feelings are revealed. If “Turkey Bowl” had been five minutes longer, however, it probably would have begun unraveling … just like some relationships. – Gary Dretzka

The Music Lovers
The White Bus (Red, White and Zero)
Consuming Passions
The Quatermass Xperiment (The Creeping Unknown)

The current crop of DVDs released as part of MGM/Fox’s manufactured-on-demand program is heavy on British dramas and comedies from the 1960s and ’70s. Back then, no filmmaker was more outrageous, brave and controversial than Ken Russell. At the time, the British film industry was dominated by gritty, downbeat “kitchen sink” dramas about life among the country’s working poor. Russell brought bright colors, glorious classical music, lavish sets, ornate costumes and explicit sexuality to an industry whose basic color scheme was gray and shades of gray. Russell’s work often was compared to Fellini’s, but it took far more commercial risks. Not all of them were rewarded with positive reviews and box-office success, however. Depictions of perverse sexuality, full-frontal male and female nudity, and homosexuality stretched the limits on what censors and ratings boards would accept. Neither did academics and historians always buy into portrayals of well-known figures, who, more often than not, were composers, artists and writers. (With “Tommy,” he may have invented the modern music video.) What couldn’t be disputed, though, was Russell’s ability to wring awards-quality performances from such high-profile actors as Glenda Jackson, Alan Bates, Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, Twiggy, William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Amanda Donohoe and Gabriel Byrne. Having to compete against Russell’s many narrative conceits is a challenge only the best actors can handle, and, in Jackson, Reed and Bates, you’re seeing greatness at work.

The Music Lovers” is Russell’s 1970 sexual hagiography of Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky, starring Richard Chamberlain as the composer and Jackson as his wife, Antonina. Russell’s interpretation of their ruinous marriage corresponds with the generally accepted belief that he married her, in large part, to conceal his homosexuality. He also was delighted by the worshipful letters she wrote to him. In “Music Lovers,” Tchaikovsky is extremely close to three women – including patron Madame Nadedja von Meck – and one man, Count Anton Chiluvsky. Their relationships play out almost silently, as dreams, nightmares and elaborately staged music videos, with Tchaikovsky’s greatest compositions being played over them. Some of the movements are quite enchanting, while others are purposefully disturbing. Again, while it wouldn’t be wise to base a term paper on Russell’s interpretation of the composer’s life, it’s a movie that dares you to take your eyes off of it. And, at a time in cinematic history when a biopic based on a composer is as rare as a $3 box of popcorn, it makes an enticing novelty. If it encourages any young viewers to sample other movies by Russell, well, so much the better.

Lindsay Anderson’s 1967 curiosity, “The White Bus,” was originally commissioned by producer Oscar Lewenstein to be part of a feature called “Red, White and Zero,” comprised of three short films based on stories by Shelagh Delaney (“A Taste of Honey”). They were to be directed by “Free Cinema” advocates Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Anderson. Peter Brook would fill in for Reisz when he committed to making “Morgan, A Suitable Case for Treatment,” but the segments were destined to be released separately. “The White Bus” refers to the vehicle that carries a bored office worker from London to her home in the north, alongside a motley crew of English archetypes. As befits the surrealistic tone, Miroslav Ondricek’s camera captures some scenes in black-and-white and others in color. Along the route, the bus passes an iron lung on a railway platform and the passengers witness a kidnapping in progress. They visit a steel mill, a science museum and a civil-defense display, and partake in several unusual activities while there. No one is struck by the craziness of it all, however. Film students and buffs will find “The White Bus” more interesting than most other viewers.

Consuming Passions” is a very broad and exceedingly silly British comedy about crisis management at a chocolate factory. Adapted from a play by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, it follows a clumsy intern who accidentally causes three workers to fall into a vat of chocolate, drown in the mixture, be packaged and distributed in that day’s deliveries. The intern is then assigned the task of informing next-of-kin and getting them to sign awcay their rights to sue. The final twist comes when a survey reports that consumers favor the new flavor and the comedy turns very dark, indeed. A wild turn by Vanessa Redgrave, as an Amazonian nymphomaniac, is worth the price of a rental.

Released in 1955, “The Quatermass Xperiment” was the “Contagion” of its day. At the dawn of the space race, a British mission returns with two of its three crewmen missing. The survivor has brought back with him an infection that is mutating into an alien organism. If it progresses any further, humanity will be “devoured.” There’s only one sure way to nip that problem in the bud and it isn’t pretty. Highly popular in England, “Quartermass” became the first Hammer title to make the jump over the pond, as “The Creeping Unknown.” – Gary Dretzka

Barney Miller: The Complete Series
Thundercats: Season 1 Book 1
Nazi Hunters
ABC’s character-driven workplace sitcom “Barney Miller,” which ran from 1974-82, was noteworthy for many reasons. Because it was set in a Manhattan cop shop and the ensemble cast was ethnically and philosophically diverse, the show’s writers were able to address sensitive issues in a timely and humorous manner. It was overtly politically incorrect before overt political correctness was cool. Quirky incidental characters — introduced each week after being arrested or barging into the squad room with oddball demands – were a mix of familiar Big Apple archetypes and the new generation of dope fiends, political activists and lost souls. In a very real sense, “Barney Miller” was the missing link between “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “Hill Street Blues.”

Using 20/20 hindsight, Danny Arnold and Theodore J. Flicker’s brainchild may seem to have been a no-brainer. In fact, it was anything but a sure bet. As the two failed pilot episodes indicate, “Barney Miller” opened conventionally with Barney making small talk with his wife and son before heading off to work, where something crazy invariably was unfolding. Ten or 12 hours later, he’d return home and be required to deal with completely different situations. No half-hour episode could contain so much mishigas and address anyone else’s problems. Ultimately, only 13 of 171 episodes were set outside the station. Neither was the cast nailed down in the first go-rounds. Abe Vigoda’s “Fish” was a natural, of course, but rest of the flavors in the cocktail had yet to gel. Besides Hal Linden and Vigoda, the core cast of detectives included Max Gail, Ron Glass, Steve Landesberg, Jack Soo and Ron Carey. Or to put it another way, you had the seasoned, compassionate and patient leader, Barney; seen-it-all, ready-to-retire veteran, Fish; by-the-book, decreasingly narrow-minded Vietnam vet, Wojo (Polish, natch); dapper, career-conscious African-American, Harris; the calm, knows-everything New York Jew, Dietrich; curmudgeonly, horse-playing Asian-American, Yemana; and occasionally annoying office functionary, Levitt. Barbara Barrie played Barney’s mostly invisible wife; James Gregory, played his old-school, often clueless supervisor; and Gregory Sierra played a dedicated, if weary Puerto Rican detective for the first two years, after which Spanish-speaking prisoners would be asked to translate. That’s a lot of voices to accommodate each week.

The new boxed set is complete in every possible way. Besides containing all of the episodes and pilots, there’s a 32-page commemorative booklet; new interviews with Linden, Gail and Vigoda; the first season of the spin-off show, “Fish”; the original unaired pilot, with Abby Dalton as Barney’s wife; and writers commentary on select episodes.

It’s amazing to see how many cartoon series that debuted in the 1980s – a period known more for schlocky animation than classic entertainment – have found new life in today’s crowded television marketplace. I’m not sure why that’s happening, exactly. These days, brand identification trumps memories of mediocrity. Of course, that observation comes from someone who grew up on hand-drawn cartoons originally shown between feature films and repackage for television. I’m not sure there’s a qualitative difference between “Huckleberry Hound” and “Thundercats” or “Transformers.” Neither can hold a candle to Looney-Tunes and “Merrie Melodies.” That rant vented, though, it’s also clear that a lot more care is being accorded cartoons made for general consumption today, than there was 25 years ago.

Cartoon Network re-booted the series this summer with an hourlong refresher episode. It is represented here in “Thundercats: Season 1 Book 1,” which is comprised of the new season’s first eight episodes. I’d like to say that I understand what’s happening, apart from the near-destruction of the cat civilization at the hands of the evil Mumm-Ra and his lizard army. To survive, the Thunderians must locate and study the missing Book of Omens.

Even though World War II ended more than 55 years ago, several perplexing mysteries remain unsolved. Most involve the flight, disappearance and capture of Nazi war criminals, some of whom have died as free men or are still at large. “Nazi Hunters,” a Cineflix mini-series that aired on the National Geographic Channel, examines the results of eight such missions through actual film footage, interviews photographs, records and dramatizations. The fugitives include Herbert Cukurs, “the hangman of Riga”; “Butcher of Lyons” and former CIA employee, Klaus Barbie; Adolf Eichmann; Erich Priebke; “Angel of Death,” Joseph Mengele, French Gestapo chief Kurt Lischka, who was protected under German law; Paul Touvier, who escaped justice several times; “Beast of Sobibor,” Gustav Wagner; and Franz Strangl. The presentation is crisp, to the point and largely unadorned with sentiment. – Gary Dretzka

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One Response to “The DVD Wrapup:Captain America, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Aftershock, Father of Invention, Winnie the Pooh, Rare Exports, Shaolin …”

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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