MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: The Hangover, Part II; Cowboys and Aliens; Mr. Popper’s Penguins; Kuroneko; Behind the Mask


The Hangover, Part II (Also Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Combo) (Three Discs) (Two Stars)

U.S.: Todd Phillips, 2011 (Warner Bros.)

I laughed at 2009’s big comedy hit, The Hangover — that tense and raunchy tale of three longtime buddies at a wedding who wake up after a night of incredible but totally forgotten debauchery and have to try to figure out what happened and why the groom is now missing, have to try to reconstruct all the awful things they all did last night while they were too blotto to remember.

I wasn‘t alone. Inflation is inflation, but The Hangover made a ton of money by any standard. At The Hangover, Part II though, I barely cracked a smile. It’s another of those big, over-expensive sequels that tries to get by on simply repeating the first movie, maybe with a new background, but with the same ideas, the same actors, the same old stuff. That’s not necessarily bad. (I’ll explain later.) But  it’s not encouraging.

 The Hangover was the kind of movie that usually becomes ridiculous and offensive (like director Todd Phillips‘ follow-up movie Due Date), but here worked like an addled charm. It was a “wild and crazy guys” movie with an ingenious structure (the first time aroumd) — a mystery story, without a murder (just barely) and lots of funny, sometimes fairly intense male bonding between the three main characters: Phil the affable stud English teacher (Bradley Cooper), Stu the nervous, hooker-obsessed dentist (Ed Helms), and Alan, the freaky man-child (Zach Galifianakis), the wild card guy who keeps tipping the party and the morning after into madness. (He does in this movie too). There was a fourth guy too: Doug the absent groom (Justin Bartha). But he missed almost everything — and, though now a non-groom, he misses it all here too.

The first scene of the first movie was classic, hilarious — with Phil, Stu and Alan waking up in in a strange Vegas penthouse littered with the residue of their blowout the night before: a baby and a tiger, no Doug, Stu missing a tooth, and all of them, from then on, trying desperately to figure out how to figure out what happened, to find Doug and save the wedding. As I watched all this,  I chuckled. And I kept smiling all the way to the end — the end-titles candid photos of the orgy we never saw.

 Now, a lot of people say that the main problem with The Hangover, Part II — and there seems to be general agreement that there is a problem with it — is that it just repeats the first movie all over again. But, in a way, I would have been happy to watch The Hangover all over again in a different city, like New York, say, or Rome, or Rio de Janeiro, or Paris, or even back in Vegas.  The main problem here, is the city that Phillips and his new co-writers Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong chose for their rewind: Bangkok, Thailand — a locale that inevitably took them in a much darker direction.

 Bangkok, known for it degenerate night life and its smorgasbord of cheap or pricey prostitution, as well as the region’s tragic Vietnam War-era history, is more nightmarish and queasy-inducing than funny. And so is this movie. There is a lot of repetition in Hangover II, but mostly of the first show’s plot elements, with variations, and not of its comic mood. Now it’s Stu that’s getting married, to a Thai beauty named Lauren (Jamie Chung), whose rich bully of a dad (Nirut Sirichanya) thinks dentist Stu is a bland dish of rice pudding. Stu tries to avoid the inevitable bachelor party but can’t; Alan screws everything up again.

 The three wake up in a sinister-looking apartment, with Lauren’s prodigy brother Teddy (Mason Lee, son of Ang) missing, but Teddy’s apparently chopped-off finger (with his school ring) seemingly present. The high-riding gay crook Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) shows up again, along with various thugs, monks, and seeming gangsters. Once again, the guys all have their wangs in a wringer, and Phillips and the writers keep turning the crank.

And there is also the seeming constant problem of all sequels: the fact that (plot-wise) Phillips and his co-writers have to figure out ways to get these guys into pretty much the same situations they were in before, only this time in a different city. There’s a moral/human element too. The three (despite Stu’s feeble attempt to avoid the bash) seem to have learned nothing from their earlier mistakes. Instead, they get  into most of the same scrapes all over again. 

But these are problems that clever writers can finesse. As I said, the big pitfall here is not that they decided to do the whole movie over again, but that they decided to do it in Bangkok. I remember my reaction when I first saw the main poster image for The Hangover II, which shows us Phil, Stu and Alan, all in an obvious morning-after funk, looking wasted and wrung out, in a nasty-looking room somewhere in what is reputed to be one of the most sexually exploitive cities on earth, a reputation that this movie, with its jokes about transsexual strippers and fellatio-performing monkeys does little to soften.

 It’s a striking poster and it suggests that something foul had happened to these guys, something worse than could ever have happened to them in Vegas, that they‘d turned the corner somewhere past the dark side of midnight. Their glum expressions and the seedy ambiance hinted at a real jam, something that might actually lead them over the edge.That poster image was a view of the Damned — and the whole joke of The Hangover, was that Phil, Stu and Alan were only semi-damned.

These guys may have gotten into an awful scrape, but, since Hangover was a comedy — or at least a movie that kept us laughing — we were fairly sure they’d come out okay. Somehow. Without that assurance, the story is a nightmare, and the three guys are close to  psychopaths. In The Hangover, they were only pretend psychopaths or occasional bingers, except of course for bearded, bearish, crazily suspicious Alan, who kept fouling everything up. (Even so, Galifianakis got most of the laughs, and he does here too.)

Despite Galifianakis, who gets a dubious near-skin-head hair-shav,e the comedy seems muffled, even strangled, all the way through. Paul Giamatti shows up as a glowering heavy. (Maybe he’s there to spur memories of Sideways.) Even the monks are hostile and violent. Nick Cassavetes pops up as a macho tattoo artist, a  role that was allegedly intended for Mel Gibson, and actually filmed in part by Liam Neeson, two very macho actors. Everything’s darker and more menacing.

Obviously the Hangover II gang wanted the jokes to have a real edge, to go farther out than anyone would have thought safe. But in comedy, even dark comedy, like the original The Ladykillers or Dr. Strangelove, for the audience to feel good about laughing. I didn’t find the missing finger funny, ever — though Howard Hawks made me laugh at one in The Big Sky — or the transsexual stripper, or the fellatio-happy monkey, or the kick-ass monk. And what about that ugly end-titles parody of a famous Vietnam war photo, a lapse of taste that’s hard to pass by.

The actors have to go along with the mood, and it hurts everybody but Galifianakis, who starts out crazy. I got more and more annoyed at Cooper’s Phil for his “what the hell” attitude toward everything bad that happened. And Helms’ Stu does way too much just to prove he’s not rice pudding. It’s not just that the jokes of The Hangover II have an edge, or even too much edge. They’re almost all edge, and very little joke.

The Hangover II keeps staggering toward total nightmare, and never quite plunging in. It has a very different feel than the first movie: meaner, darker, more reckless. It rarely felt right to me, even though we’re supposedly watching the same thing that made us laugh before. (We‘re not.)

In fact, the movie’s best scene has nothing to do with Bangkok. It’s a sequence near the beginning where Phil, Stu and Doug go to Alan’s house, and find him in an overgrown spoiled brat fanboy’s room, surrounded by pop culture artifacts, bossing around his mom, who’s feeding him (obviously too well), and whom he treats like a waitress. That’s dark stuff too, yet it’s also funny and it comes out of character. But then they shave Alan’s head in Bangkok and he starts to look like Vincent D‘Onofrio in Full Metal Jacket. Too much edge. And way too much Bangkok.

Extras: Featurettes; Instant streaming with digital copy; Action mash-up; gag reel 

“Cowboys & Aliens”  (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Combo; Extended version) (Three Discs) (Two and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Jon Favreau, 2011 (Universal)

Movie Westerns usually take place in a primitive land of the American past (somewhere in the 19th century) full of horses and trains and showdowns and an occasional cattle drive, where the men spend an inordinate amount of time in saloons, and sudden death lurks behind every mesa and second story hotel window. Science Fiction, on the other hand usually transpires in a dazzling or bleak futuristic world of super technology and space travel, or (more pertinent here) of alien invasions of Earth, by impregnable looking monsters or robots who are so huge and dangerous that they laugh (or seem to) at our puny guns and bombs, and would giggle at the sight of a six-shooter at High Noon.

So what do these two movie genres have in common, enough to get them smooshed together by producers Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and (exec) Steven Spielberg and director Jon Favreau, with stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford and others in the peculiar, sometimes exciting, sometimes silly but sort of watchable Cowboys & Aliens?
Quite a lot, as a matter of fact. In fact, in the early pre-1920s-’30s days of magazine science fiction, when the magazines had titles like Astounding and Amazing, many sci-fi stories were ridiculed as “space operas” — a play on “horse operas,“ slang for cheap pulp Westerns. They were damned for what was considered recycled clichéd westerns plots simply transplanted to a clichéd sci-fi backdrop.
That isn’t exactly what Cowboys & Aliens is. In fact, it’s a fragmentary science fiction plot — in the alien invasion mode — translated onto a Western backdrop, with a lot of typical Western characters. The thing of it is: In this movie, the Western parts mostly work and the science fiction parts mostly don’t. If you cut out all the science fiction scenes from Cowboys & Aliens and switched the ending around to keep some more conventional villains in play, you’d have a better movie. What you have here instead, is a ridiculous notion that becomes a ridiculous movie, one which wastes a good cast and some fine Matthew Libatique cinematography, by trying to shove War of the Worlds into The Searchers and then down our throats — ending up with a show that’s good where it should be amusingly bad, and bad whenever it tries to “save” the good (Western) scenes with flashy sci-fi stuff.

The filmmakers should have trusted their instincts as obvious Leone and Ford admirers (and maybe admirers of Peckinpah and Anthony Mann and Hawks and Boetticher too.) The people involved in C&A definitely know what they’re doing. They know both the classic Westerns and classic science fiction, and they obviously like both genres at their best. They should have realized that the whole idea is ridiculous, and a lot of the movie is as well.

The source for Cowboys & Aliens is a graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, about extraterrestrials invading the West. In the movie, it’s 1873, and they’re looking for gold, and occasionally killing some people who get on their way. It’s a comic I haven’t read and that was apparently largely jettisoned anyway. Favreau and the producers and writers (seven of them, always a bad sign) turn what’s left of Rosenberg’s novel into a major movie with mega-stars (Craig and Ford) and mega-effects (space ships attack an Old West town).
The movie starts out well, in a pseudo-Sergio Leone, pseudo-John Ford vein. Just as in Eastwood’s specialty for Leone, we get some tense, stylized scenes of Craig as the lone gunslinger, Jake Lonergan, who’s suffering from amnesia, sporting a weird wrist shackle and who dispatched three baddies with little effort and then wanders into the town of Absolution, and getting mixed up in a standoff between the local cattle baron Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford) and the upright sheriff John Taggart (Keith Carradine) over the ranch king’s worthless son Percy (Paul Dano) — before the aliens in their space-whatevers swoop in like Hitchcock’s Birds, wreak their havoc and then fly off with Percy and others.
Some critics have praised that scene, but I thought it was ridiculous. For me, almost every scene without the space aliens worked well, at least passably — and almost every scene with the space invaders was out to lunch. As in Iron Man 2, Favreau seems to be trying to make another movie that hits the bell and uses all the elements like Iron Man, and if he wasn’t saddled with those aliens, he might have made it.
 But imagine Stagecoach, with flying saucers swooping down during the chase on the Salt Flats and pulling up all the passengers, including Tommy Mitchell and Duke Wayne, into the sky. Imagine Once Upon a Time in the West with the railroad workers constructing a space missile instead of train tracks, and, at the end, Charley Bronson taking off for Mars. Imagine The Wild Bunch with Holden, Borgnine, Johnson and Oates heading toward a showdown against twenty robots (with Mexican accents), a Godzilla and a huge ray gun. Imagine The Searchers ending in a huge battle not between the Comanches and the Cavalry, but between cowboys, Indians, a cattle baron and his gang, and the man with no name (or Lonergan) all riding against huge smelly aliens from outer space on flying machines.
Oh, I forgot. You’ll see that last one, if you go to Cowboys & Aliens.
If you ditched all the sci-fi, and it should be ditched, there’s enough left in Cowboys and Aliens to make an okay ’70s-style Western. Harrison Ford’s Dolarhyde is a good, grizzled old villain, and he should have stayed a villain. Craig is good at the Clint stuff, and the rest of the movie’s bunch includes, commendably, Olivia Wilde as a sort-of-semi-Swedish love interest named Ella Swenson, Sam Rockwell as the likeably vulnerable bartender Doc, Clancy Brown doing a Sam Elliott as shaggy Reverend Meacham, Adam Beach as Percy‘s Native American pal Nat Colorado, Raoul Trujillo as prickly warrior Black Knife, and, seemingly borrowing a page from Walter Hill‘s The Long Riders, the talented Taylors (Buck, Matthew and Cooper) playing the nefarious Claibornes (Wes, Luke and Mose). There’s also a wonderful, eerie scene with an overturned riverboat, in the middle of the desert — an oddity that’s never explained and that’s much scarier than any scene with the aliens.
Offhand, I can only think of two previous attempts to make science fiction Westerns (though Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans sometimes looks like science fiction). And that’s the 1935 Gene Autry serial The Phantom Empire, and the 1966 Z-movie, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein‘s Daughter, starring John Lupton. Both those pictures rank high among the most foolish movies ever made — even though Phantom Empire is at least entertainingly foolish. “J.J. Meets F.D.” is just trashily foolish, and Cowboys & Aliens, by comparison is high-budget, super-slick foolishness.
Anyway: Cowboys & Aliens. Give me a break. Demographics be damned. A good Western will eventually draw big, and it doesn’t damn well need monsters. All it needs is the right audience.
Extras: Commentary and conversations with Jon Favreau; “Making of” Documentary; My scenes. 

 Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Also Blu-ray) (Two Stars)

U.S.: Mark Waters, 2011 (20th Century Fox)

Well anyway, it’s not the penguins’ fault.

Six of them — six handsome, lively and seemingly fearless emperor penguins — have been cast in the title roles of the new Jim Carrey movie, Mr. Popper’s Penguins. There, they share a refrigerated sound stage with the rubbery-faced, rubbery-limbed, comic dynamo Carrey (as Mr. Popper), and with the attractive and unflappable Carla Gugino (as Popper’s ex-wife Amanda) and, albeit on different stages, with that Grande Dame of Wit and Whimsy, Angela Lansbury, as Mrs. Van Gundy, about whom more later.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins seems at first like a good bet for a good movie family comedy. It’s based on a famous children‘s book, created toward the end of the last Depression, by a husband-and-wife writing team, Richard and Florence Atwater. (About whom more later.) A tale of a lovable family and 12 lovable penguins, it’s a book that’s never been out of print since its first publication in 1938.

As for the sextet of penguins hired to help make a show of this kid’s classic, they do everything you could reasonably ask a penguin to do for a Hollywood movie, and still keep shreds of their penguin dignity — including sliding on their bellies down the circular ramp of the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, during a crowded party-gala, with Mrs. Van Gundy looking perturbed, and with a frantic Popper racing to stop them.

It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Despite Carrey, despite Lansbury, despite that blue-ribbon Newberry Award winning material, despite shiny, despite that whole cast (which also includes Clark Gregg, Philip Baker Hall, Jeffrey Tambor, and Dominic Chianese), and despite those great, game little penguins, Mr. Popper is still pretty much a glossy botch.

The culprits may be the usual suspects these days: the writers, namely, Sean Enders & John Morris (of Sex Drive) and Jared Stern (The Princess and the Frog). One might also single out for blame director Mark Waters (of Mean Girls, Ghosts of Girlfriends and Freaky Friday), because he keeps the movie so cold and slick, when it’s obvious that this movie needs an unabashed, all-out, shameless lovability, a quality that eludes everybody here, except at times the penguins.

The book is reportedly about a lovable but poor small town housepainter named Tommy Potter who is fascinated with world explorations, and whose correspondence with a Byrd-like admiral in Antarctica results in the gift to Tommy and his family of a penguin. Soon that penguin is joined by a female from a nearby zoo, then eventually ten baby penguins. All kinds of amusing penguin antics and domestic difficulties ensue.

Sounds cute. You can imagine Charlie Chaplin, in one of his great two-reelers, palling around with a lot of penguins and getting lots of laughs. (I mention Charlie because one of the movie’s running gags is that Popper’s penguins love to catch Chaplin comedies on TV.)

But, as mentioned, warmth, a prime ingredient of the book, is almost totally absent in the picture, though people keep trying to flag it down. In the movie that Waters and his writers have come up with, Tommy Potter (Carrey) is reconceived and played as an obnoxious, selfish, fairly rich but initially unlovable, wildly mugging corporate trouble-shooter, living in a pricey high-rise Manhattan apartment building, and (deservedly) separated from his wife Amanda (Gugino) and his kids Janie and Billy (Madeline Carroll of Flipped, and Maxwell Perry Cotton).

Instead of getting the penguins from an admiral, Popper is willed the six by his late explorer father (who was mostly absent during Tommy’s boyhood). And Tommy decides to keep and care for his dad’s gift — mostly without paid help, except one housekeeper who skedaddles, in a building that has a “no-pets“ rule — after Billy mistakes the penguins for his birthday present.

Tommy, who has been portrayed as growing up into something of a jerk, refrigerates his apartment, bribes the doorman and, I guess, tries to fool everybody. An alternative — say, getting another place, like a loft with a refrigerated locker — never seems to occur to him. Or anybody else.

Not content with those odd decisions, the writers have added job problems: The prize huckster of his corporation, Popper is given the assignment of talking imperious but sweet old Mrs. Van Gundy (Lansbury, trapped in drivel) into selling to his exploitive company the storied Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park, which they intend to tear down.

 Of course, there’s romance too. And not just among the penguins. Mr. P. is also bent on winning back his gorgeous wife Amanda (Gugino), and his adorable kids. So, as the writers loot and paw every gimmick they can glom out of the modern rom-com kit. All kinds of would-be amusing penguin scenes supposedly ensue, including penguin-poop gags and sneak-the-penguins-in-and-out gags, all loonily improbable and none very amusing. Whenever all else fails, the penguins, led by a leader called Captain, slide on their bellies somewhere.

 Carrey was cheated. I’d much rather see him as a lovable small town dad, trying to cope with double the number of penguins, than see him ensnared in these ridiculous Manhattan high-life high jinks. This movie would obviously work better if it were done more as the Atwaters wrote it.

 A digression: the story about the Atwaters I hinted at. Richard Atwater, an ex-Chicago academic, wrote the book, couldn’t sell it and suffered a coronary which left him speechless and unable to write. His wife and ex-student Florence then rewrote parts of the book, sold it, and saw it reap fantastic success.

 That’s a touching yarn. I’m sure the book that came from it had heart, which the movie definitely doesn’t, not even in the last scene between Carrey and Lansbury, programmed for sniffles. Was it a good idea to hire Anders and Morris, the writing team behind the horny-guys comedies Sex Drive, Hot Tub Time Machine and She’s Out of My League to try to script a heart-warming kids-and-animals family movie comedy like Popper? Even with Stern to help them warm hearts?

If you’re a fan of the original book, I have some advice. Go read the book again. If you don’t know the book and don’t read much, I have more advice. Find a better movie. (It won’t be hard.) The penguins though may deserve another shot, maybe in a sequel, in another movie where Popper retires, leaves the city and settles down with his family in a small town to be a poor but lovable house-painter, with six, and then twelve, emperor penguins on his hands.

Extras: Commentary with Mark Waters and others; Featurettes; Gag Reel; Story Sampler; Penguin Pandemonium; Trailer.

Kuroneko (Three and a Half Stars)

Japan: Kaneto Shindo, 1968 (Criterion Collection)

The first scene of Kaneto Shindo’s classic horror movie Kuroneko (Black Cat) is tremendous, devastating. Two women, Yone (played by Nobuko Otowa, Shindo’s wife and frequent star) and her young daughter-in-law Shige  (Kiwako Taichi) have been left alone and vulnerable on their farm, after son and husband Hachi (Kichiemon Nakamura) is recruited/abducted to be a soldier in the wars of the Sengoku (15th-17th century) period. Suddenly, out of the nearby woods, a sweaty sullen group of wandering samurai appear, descending on the women’s farm like the marauding bandits in Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, robbing the farm, stealing its food, raping and killing the women and burning down their house. The two gentle ladies, ravaged and murdered, lie piteosuly in the smoking ruins of their former home, as if staring up at the sky, while the samurai move on to other adventures. Next to them is their pet, a black cat.

Years later, the wars are still raging, with the local samurai bands under the heel of the evil and tyrranical Lord Raiko Minamoto (Kei Sato). But Minamoto’s men are being plagued by a local outbreak of serial killings, all seemingly commitetd by two lovely women who lure the samurai at night to their mysterious home, give them geisha-like hospitality and leave them dead in the morning. These women may be vengeful ghosts and Minamoto orders a fierce samurai named Gintoki to find them and destroy them. But Gintoki, after he allows Shige to take him back to her strage home one night, notices that the ladies’ elegant mansion, appearing as if by magic, is on the site of the ruins of his old farm, that the two women who “live” there are his mother Yone and his beloved wife Shige, and that the creature who prowls the rooms is their black cat. Whom will he honor: his Lord or the women he loves?

The great Akira Kurosawa (the sensei) admired samurai, some of whom were among his own ancestors. But writer-director Kaneto Shindo, one of the most prolific of all the major post-war Japanese cineastes, was, by contrast, the son of poor people in the provinces. He identified with the farmers, the victims.  A one time scriptwriter for Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa, he was anti-militarist, and , as we can see here, anti-samurai (at least bad samurai).

 This movie, shot in beautiful blacks and whites and haunting images by cinematographer Kiyomi Kuroda, is one of the great Japanese horror films, on a par with the spectral wonders of Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House and  Shindo’s own Onibaba. Truly distuirbing and unsettling, it also points the way to the wildly popular Japanese horror movies of the 2000s, like the Ringu and Ju-on series.

There is a dark poerty in Shindo’s imagery(which was certainly influenced by Shindo’s mentor, Mizoguchi and Mizoguchi’s ghostly 1953 masterpiece Ugetsu. But there’s a bloody savagery and an impudent spookiness as well. And thanks to the  political opinions of Shindo, a committed left-winger who was always on the side of the oppressed, Kuroneko is one of the most ferocious and memorable of all Japanese feminist films. (In Japanese, with English subtitles.)

Extras:   An excellent video interview with Kaneto Shindo, in his 80s; Interview with critic Tadao Sato; Trailer; Booklet with essay by Maitland McDonagh and a Joan Mellen interview with Shindo.

Behind the Mask (One Star)

U.S.: Phil Karlson, 1946 (MGM Limited Edition Collection)

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

“The Shadow” was the show and the character that Orson Welles played on radio, to pay the bills: impersonating the maniacally cackling avenger of justice a.k.a. Lamont Cranston to the delight of audiences  who weren’t all that interested in the high-toned literary adaptations of Dickens and Shakespeare and Victor Hugo that Welles, Houseman and the Mercury Theater company mounted so gloriously elsewhere.

I haven’t heard much of the Shadow, even on radio tape sets, so I was looking forward to this movie version of his crime-busting shadowy exploits, especially since it was directed by film noir ace Phil Karlson. But beware! The chortling lawman is here played not be Welles but by an engaging if not too gifted actor  named Kane Richmond. Richmond is a name; he starred in serials like Spy Smasher and Brick Bradford and in Bs like Mars Attacks the World. But here he acts as if the whole movie were a put-on. (Maybe it was.)  He grins his way through a ludicrous script full of blackmail, murder, night clubs, society parties, and newspaper offices where miscreants and crime-fighters are incessantly sneaking in and out of windows.

There’s also a scene where the obnoxious heroine (Barbara Reed) crawls around under  a table and table cloth, looking like a “ghost” in a haunted house comedy, to the befuddlement of a poor fool of  a cop. This is actually the movie’s most memorable moment. 

Yes, I know Karlson directed it — another reason I was looking forward to this show. But any artistic links between this movie and The Phenix City Story, The Brothers Rico, Walking Tall or even  to Karlson’s lackluster Charlie Chan movies (The Shanghai Cobra and Dark Alibi, both starring Sidney Toler and Mantan Moreland) is strictly hallucinatory. This is a genuinely awful movie (though the first five “Decoyish” minutes fool you a little) and I’m being kind by giving it one star.

How did this movie come to be? I wouldn’t disbelieve a theory proposing that Karlson directed most of it dead drunk or passed out on the floor, or that he emerged from a stupor (brought on by his first reading of the script) and immediately passed over all artistic control to Kane Richmond. Also, it may be an evil joke by Orson Welles. Who knows…? You think I’m only kidding and you think it’ll be fun, I know, but you’re wrong. (Made on demand.  Browse www@mgm,com. or order from major web venues.)   

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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