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Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

My DVD Wrapup: A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, Lady and the Tramp, Downton Abbey, more…

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas: Blu-ray
If I were younger and had been far more stoned than I’ve been in years, I probably would have enjoyed “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” quite a bit more than I did. Apparently, too, if I were rich enough to afford a Blu-ray 3D television, the experience would have been enhanced exponentially. Nothing freaks out stoners faster than images flying off a screen and landing in their laps. It begs the question as to how a Cheech & Chong comedy might have looked if the technology were as advanced as it is today. Many of the gags in the “H&K3” work fine in 2D, but almost all of the visual effects anticipate that viewers are wearing the necessary optical equipment. That said, Harold Lee (Cho) and Kumar Patel (Penn) have matured into adulthood more or less gracefully, if in widely separated households. When a package containing a gift intended for Harold is mistakenly delivered to Kumar’s home, it provides an excuse for a road trip and reunion. Naturally, the box contains the mother of all marijuana joints, which the boys agree to share. The fun begins when an errant match ignites the Christmas tree proudly mounted in Harold’s home by his menacing father-in-law (Danny Trejo). They have about eight hours to replace it, before the in-laws return from shopping.

Harold and Kumar recruit new friends Adrian (Amir Blumenthal), Todd (Tom Lennon) and Todd’s baby daughter to find a similar replacement. Lennon is a wonderfully deadpan comedian and, together, the lads devise several hysterically inappropriate ways to exploit the child’s innocence. And, yes, they involve second-hand smoke and a substance that resembles baby powder. The team searches New York City (Detroit) high and low for a tree to replace the original, finding possible matches at a mall, where Patton Oswald is working as a Santa; Rockefeller Center, where Neil Patrick Harris is performing; at a party hosted by the horny virgin daughter of a Russian gangster; and with Princeton alum Bobby Lee. Some of the best scenes involve Claymation versions of Harold and Kumar and Harris outting himself as a faux homosexual, while being groped by topless (female) hotties. (His real-life husband also appears.) They are quite funny and sparkle in Blu-ray. The bonus package includes a deleted scene that explains how Jews celebrate Christmas Eve; a making-of piece on the Claymation sequence; and a half-dozen short spots, with Lennon, that spoof junket-produced interviews. – Gary Dretzka

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1
The fact that I’ve missed the last two installments of “The Twilight Saga” pegs me as a novice when it comes to Stephenie Meyer’s brainchild series. Serious fans are welcome to ignore my opinions on the penultimate installment. Anyone interested in jumping on the bandwagon at this late date, however, is advised to begin at the beginning of the series, with Catherine Hardwicke’s table-setter, “Twilight,” which succeeded as a romantic fantasy, vampire thriller and hyperkinetic action picture. Starting at “Breaking Dawn” would be like beginning study of the New Testament at the Wedding at Cana or entering HBO’s “True Blood” as Sookie is being revealed as a descendent of fairies. The latest installment, “Breaking Dawn,” has been split into two parts, filmed back-to-back. While much of “Part 1” looks splendid and there’s an air of menace throughout, it left me wondering when something resembling a plot was going to emerge. The first third is taken up with plans for Bella and Edward’s wedding; the second, in anticipation of the couple’s furious coupling on their honeymoon; and the third, by Bella’s harrowing pregnancy and nearly calamitous delivery of something resembling a human child. The absence of stylized action and violence makes “Part 1” feel more like a Lifetime movie than any of its predecessors. The accent is on wedding fashions, honeymoon accommodations and the cruelty of childbirth. There’s a bit of a chase between the vampires and wolf pack, but it mostly involves growling and posing. Director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”) apparently has saved the battle royal for the closing chapter. The supplemental material adds commentary by Condon; a video from Bella and Edward’s wedding; character features, “Jacob’s Destiny,” “Edward Fast Forward” and “Jacob Fast Forward”; and a six-part behind-the-scenes documentary.  If studios are going to bisect the final episode of a series – as happened, as well, with “Harry Potter” – they really offer ticket-buyers a half-price coupon for “Part 2.” – Gary Dretzka

Lady and the Tramp: Diamond Edition: Blu-ray
The love story is charming, but what distinguishes Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” — the latest classic film to undergo a “Diamond Edition” facelift — from the studio’s previous 14 animated features is the music. Written mostly by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke, they are inseparable from the characters who interpret them, including the canine torch singer, Peg, performing Lee’s unforgettable “He’s a Tramp” (“What a dog …”). Watching it this time around, however, I flashed on a distinctly different tune. Could Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson have watched “Lady and the Tramp” before penning the lyrics, “… Ladies love outlaws like babies love stray dogs/Ladies touch babies like a banker touches gold/And outlaws touch the ladies/Somewhere deep down in their soul”? The country hit may not resonate with the masses in quite the same way as “Bella Notte,” “The Siamese Cat Song” and “He’s a Tramp,” but “Ladies Love Outlaws” captures the enduring essence of the story. The Blu-ray edition of the 57-year-old animated feature – Disney’s first in CinemaScope — looks and sounds as good as it ever did on the big screen and better than in any of its video incarnations. Parents will be as appreciative of the meticulous restoration as their kids, who probably have gotten spoiled on Blu-ray by now. The generous bonus package adds an introduction by Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, as well as her memories; a trio of deleted scenes and storyboards; the unrecorded song, “I’m Free as the Breeze”; more than two hours of previously available featurettes; and the Second Screen app that links to “Inside Walt’s Story Meetings.” – Gary Dretzka

Yakuza Weapon: Blu-ray
Anyone whose idea of a good time is watching and re-watching Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” duo, “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof,” shouldn’t hesitate tracking down the totally nuts, “Yakuza Weapon,” from Japan’s gore-happy Sushi Typhoon studio. Such extreme genre epics as “Alien vs. Ninja,” “Mutant Girls Squad,” “Deadball,” “Helldriver” and “Karate-Robo Zaborgar” overflow with the kind of overheated violence, mostly, that makes fanboys salivate and Boomers yearn for the days of drive-in triple-features. “Yakuza Weapon” was adapted from a manga by Ken Ishikawa by Tak Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi. As the picture opens, the notorious hipster warrior, Shozo, is dispatching bad guys of one stripe or another in South America. At the same time, Shozo’s yakuza father is murdered by a rival mobster in direct repudiation of the gangs’ code of honor.  Upon his return to Japan, Shozo must come to grips with the realization that the Iwaki Family has been decimated by the defection of his father’s former top aide, Kurawaki. Over-confident of his abilities, Shozo engages in an assault on Kurawaki headquarters, which levels the high-rise building, but leaves the upstart warrior with missing limbs. They’re replaced with a M61 Vulcan cannon and a rocket launcher. After a brief period of rehabilitation, Shozo is required to deal with a turncoat lieutenant of his own and his sister, who’s been transformed into a “naked weapon.” Anyway, you get the picture. Sushi Typhoon movies aren’t for everyone, but those who admire wild makeup effects – constructed by Yoshihiro Nishimura – and non-stop action will find a great deal of it in “Yakuza Weapon,” which arrives with 45-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes and a spinoff short, “Takuso Weapon.” – Gary Dretzka

Love Story: Blu-ray
Looking back at the hysteria surrounding the release of “Love Story,” in 1970, it comes as a surprise to learn how well Arthur Hiller’s Ivy League tear-jerker was received by mainstream critics. Maybe I missed something the first time around. Adapted from a best-selling Erich Segal novel, which, itself, was adapted from his original screenplay, “Love Story” became the movie that launched a thousand maudlin disease-of-the-week television movies. It may even have triggered an allergic reaction to “chick flicks” in an entire generation of Boomer males. Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw play undergraduates at Harvard and Radcliffe who meet cute at the beginning and never stop meeting cute throughout the course of the drama. She calls him, “Preppie,” while he refers to her as “Cavalleri,” after her last name. Oliver comes from the proper side of the tracks, while Jennifer is a daughter of working-class parents. She curses like a sailor and he’s pigheaded to a fault. And, yet, they come together in one of those picture-perfect marriages doomed to end in tragedy. “Love Story,” the book and movie, were huge successes. Many of the people who discover it today will find it unwatchable, if not for its cheesy dialogue, then its unrelievedly maudlin conclusion. O’Neal isn’t at all bad as Oliver, the unspoiled rich kid. McGraw has her fans, but her ticks and unnaturally coarse dialogue feel awfully bizarre after all these years. The Blu-ray visuals enhance the many interesting Boston and New York locations, as well as a freak snowstorm integrated into the story at the last minute. The extras include Hiller’s commentary and the informative featurette, “A Classic Remembered.” – Gary Dretzka

Fireflies in the Garden
Ever since the term “dysfunctional family” entered the vernacular – sometime after the release of “Ordinary People,” no doubt – it’s been used as an excuse for all sorts of cinematic meltdowns. Most boil down to perfectly normal, if disagreeable, behavior more accurately described as eccentric. Almost no families, however nutty, resemble those who populate the sorts of “quirky, offbeat” dramedies popular with the Sundance crowd. The family we meet in “Fireflies in the Garden” is so truly and thoroughly dysfunctional that it could have provided a case study for aspiring psychiatrists. The patriarch of the Taylor family, Charles (Willem Dafoe), is a thoroughly disagreeable English professor, who has made his son Michael (Ryan Reynolds) his personal punching bag for more than 20 years. They’re joined by the long-suffering, yet dutiful matriarch, Lisa (Julia Roberts); a daughter (Shannon Lucio) about to enter law school; an aunt, Jane (Emily Watson), who’s nearly Michael’s age and was a childhood confidante; Michael’s estranged wife (Carrie-Anne Moss), recovering from alcoholism; younger versions of Michael and Jane (Cayden Boyd, Hayden Panattiere); and various lovers. The trigger for everything that follows, as well as numerous flashbacks, is the accidental death of Lisa, in a car crash on the way to her much-delayed graduation from college. Reynolds is well cast as the son, whose success as a romance novelist causes Charles no small degree of professional jealousy and undisguised rage. Anticipating a graduation, not a funeral, Michael has brought with him the manuscript of his new book, which includes a bitter recounting of his own youth. No one is spared embarrassment. Apparently, much of what happens in “Fireflies” is based on events in writer/director Dennis Lee’s life. (Robert Frost is credited with the poem that inspired the title and the film’s ugliest scene.) As difficult as “Fireflies” is to watch, at times, Lee doesn’t embarrass himself in his debut. The actors probably didn’t need much coaching, but everything else appears to bear his fingerprints. The standard making-of, behind-the-scenes featurette isn’t bad, even if it sometimes seems as if the cast and crew are discussing a different, happier project. – Gary Dretzka

5 Star Day
The central conceit informing Danny Buday’s debut feature, “5 Star Day,” is so improbable that it’s a small miracle any kind of story could have been constructed on its foundation. Give the indie drama 20 minutes, though, and its inherent strangeness will weave a spell on adventurous viewers. Studly Cam Gigandet plays Jake, an unorganized college student who’s up against a strict deadline, but isn’t likely to get his project completed in time to assure an A-grade. In effect, he wants to prove that astrology is bunk and the people who faithfully read newspaper horoscopes are fools. He formulates his thesis after experiencing one of the worst 24 hours in his life on the day all of his stars and planets are aligned in the most positive way possible. It prompts him to track down the three people with whom he once shared the maternity ward in a Chicago hospital. Surely, if the experiences of any three human beings were alike in this world, it would be those who shared the same astrological code. All things being equal, which, of course, they never are, this experiment might have carried some weight. It isn’t difficult for Jake to track down the three people (Gena Malone, Brooklyn Sudano,  Max Hartman), two of whom, in fact, had a miserable birthday. What Jake couldn’t have anticipated, however, is how closely the stars actually had predicted what would happen on that day and how the lives of these maternity-ward graduates ultimately would affect the others. Instead of feeling manipulated and contrived, I was left satisfied by Buday’s solution to Jake’s problem. – Gary Dretzka

Metal Shifters: Blu-ray
It’s been a while since movies produced for airing on Lifetime could automatically be dismissed for their predictably sappy storylines, B- and C-list stars and pandering to undiscerning women. While the made-for-cable movies still target women, their overall quality and production values have improved markedly, raising the network’s demographic profile. The folks at Syfy ought to be taking notes. While its original programming is pretty good, most made-for-Syfy movies look as if they were written and directed by members of the A-V clubs at well-endowed high schools. Such Corman-inspired hybrids as “Piranhaconda” and “Dinocroc vs. Supergator” are so purposefully bad, they’re funny. More traditional sci-fi conceits are exploited to less satisfactory results. “Metal Shifters” (a.k.a., “Iron Invader”) is a prime example of the latter. Not being a premium channel, Syfy is required to hold the line on violence, language, sex and gore. There are thousands of movies available for audiences seeking gratuitous displays of one or more of these attributes, at least, so it would be logical to assume that kids in their early teens are the primary audience. No network executive would invest in something that doesn’t attract viewers without access to a credit card, however, so the “hits” keep right on coming. Writer/director Paul Ziller has become a leading supplier of genre fodder to cable networks. Besides “Metal Shifters,” his “Ice Quake,” “Snakehead Terror,” “Collision Earth,” “Yeti: Curse if the Snow Demon” and “Stonehenge Apocalypse” have debuted on Syfy, then found extra mileage in DVD and foreign distribution. “Metal Shifter” follows a familiar pattern in that the introduction of a powerful outside force – here, a meteorite collides with a satellite, causing alien bacterium to fall to Earth on the metallic debris – threatens the planet’s eco-system and mankind, itself. Here, the citizens of a tiny Idaho town are required to battle germs that cause metal objects to regenerate and infect residents. One stack of metal actually is transformed into a killer Erector Set robot. It’s unredeemedly corny, but what’s even sillier is the positioning of old flames as heroes. There’s a making-of featurette included, as well. I wonder if the change in titles, even at, isn’t an attempt to get consumers with short memories to purchase a movie they’ve already seen on TV for free. – Gary Dretzka

Downton Abbey: Season 2: Original U.K. Edition: Blu-ray
Song of Lunch
Steve Coogan Live
Geek Charming

Admirers of so-called “quality television” who haven’t already watched one season, at least, of “Downton Abbey,” are missing one of the great viewing experiences of the decade. The first installment of Julian Fellowes’ brilliant “Masterpiece Theater” mini-series either won or was nominated for every major television award the American and British industries bestow. Even if one hasn’t seen a single episode, however, a working knowledge of “Upstairs, Downstairs” would suffice as an introduction. “Downton Abbey” is “Upstairs, Downstairs,” but among the landed gentry. Set during approximately the same period in English history, the series chronicles the roller-coaster affairs of the Earl and “Countess” of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern) and the rest of the aristocratic Crawley family, as well as their servants, during the reign of King George V. The first season began with the sinking of the Titanic and ended in anticipation of World War I. The second covers the war years 1916 to 1919, both in pastoral Yorkshire and the Somme killing fields; the 1918 flu pandemic; and the first stirrings of the war for independence in Ireland. The 2011 “Christmas Special” wraps the decade up in a bright bow, leaving us in early 1920 and salivating for the start of Season 3, when Shirley MacLaine joins the cast as the Countess’ American mother. While everyone is very good in the cast, Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess steals every scene with her precise use of the English language, toxic sarcasm and ability to surprise viewers and characters with unexpected acts of kindness. Jim Carter, as butler Charles Carson, is similarly memorable. Both are front and center when it comes to dealing with the various intrigues, which include love, loss, blackmail and betrayal … just like in “Dallas.” In Blu-ray, the magnificent Highclere Castle and beautiful Hampshire countryside are wonderful to watch and savor. The set adds the featurettes, “Fashion and Uniforms,” “Romance in a Time of War” and “House to Hospital.”

Also from “Masterpiece Theatre” comes Niall MacCormick’s short but withering play, “The Song of Lunch,” in which ex-lovers reunite after 15 years to see if they still have anything in common. Alan Richman plays “He,” while Emma Thompson is “She.” Facebook junkies of a certain age will recognize the urge to re-connect with old flames after a long passage of time. MacCormick points out what some of the Facebook daters have already learned: most graves are best left undisturbed. In the ensuing 15 years, She has married a writer who He doesn’t respect. She lives in Paris with their two children. By all accounts, He is a poet of no standing and publisher of works he despises. If he isn’t an alcoholic, He turns in a masterful impression of one over lunch. He’s aggressively passive-aggressive, petty and distant to the woman he loved and happily made the jump over the channel to see him. Moreover, even before the main course is set before him in the restaurant they once frequented, He has consumed nearly two bottles of wine. How one man could be so boorish in the presence of such grace is a mystery that doesn’t require much of an investigation, really. Times change, places change and our perceptions of people we once loved can change, as well. Thompson is especially well suited for the role of She. I’d like to think Richman had to work overtime to come up with a character as pathetic as He, however.

For American audiences only aware of British comedian Steve Coogan from his appearances in such movies as “The Trip,” “Our Idiot Brother” and “24 Hour Party People,” the in-performance DVD “Steve Coogan Live” might come as a revelation. Like Sacha Baron Cohen, he has a tremendous gift for mimicry and creating characters that seem to have lives of their own. His most recognizable creation is the unctuous, self-absorbed British talk-show host, Alan Partridge. “Steve Coogan Live” contains the stage presentations, “The Man Who Thinks He’s It” and “Live & Lewd,” during which he becomes such bizarre characters as “lager lout” Paul Calf and his slutty sister, Pauline; Portuguese Eurovision-winner Tony Ferrino; the incompetent stand-up comedian, Duncan Thicket; and Partridge, who has no regard for his guests, audience or the limits of his own talent. They’re joined on stage and in backstage interludes by the “politically correct” comic Bernard Righton (John Thomson), Simon Pegg and Julia Davis. The rest of the two-disc set is comprised of highlights from Coogan’s Australian tour; the featurette, “Steve Coogan: An Inside Story”; and “Animations of Paul and Pauline Calf.” The often bawdy comedy is distinctly British and may go under the heads of American audiences, just as the coarse language may offend some tender American ears.

Sarah Hyland (“American Family”) is the main reason for anyone over 17 to watch the Disney Channel’s “Geek Charming.” In it, she assumes the role once mastered by Alicia Silverstone, in “Clueless.” Her Dylan Schoenfield is the spokewoman for all that’s cool, trendy and expensive at Woodlands Academy, in L.A. Since she already owns everything she covets, Dylan isn’t particularly interested in anything that doesn’t involve her A-list boyfriend or the school’s Fall Formal Blossom Queen competition. When offered an opportunity to be the star of a nerd’s entry into the school’s film festival, she senses that it could make her the idol of teenagers far beyond Woodland Academy and accepts his invitation. If you think the good guy will lose in a Disney Channel movie, you’d always be wrong. The set also arrives with 10 episodes of the “Glee”-ish “Shake It Up” series and a “Best Friend Charm Set.” – Gary Dretzka

What Happens Next

German filmmaker Tom Tykwer made such a splash with “Run Lola Run” that expectations for his success in America likely were raised to a point no director of arthouse fare could meet. His big-budget action thriller, “The International,” is memorable solely for its exquisitely staged shootout inside New York’s Guggenheim Museum. Constructed on a far more modest foundation, “3” may be his finest film since “Lola.” Set in Berlin, “3” observes a trio of aging yuppies, anxious to achieve sexual fulfillment before becoming middle-age crazy. There’s no question that Simon and Hanna are happy together, even after 20 years together. Hanna develops a crush on a teacher of one of her post-graduate classes, even fantasying about him as she daydreams her way through his dry lectures. After several coincidental meetings and a fun night on the town with his friends, Hanna decides to give the younger man a shot in the sack. Her timing is awful, in that it coincides with Simon’s unplanned operation to remove a cancerous testicle. Genuinely unhappy that she missed his surgery, but not exactly wracked with guilt, she repeats her declaration of love for Simon and we have no reason not to believe her. Weeks later, in another chance meeting, Simon hooks up with Adam at a cool Berlin swimming facility, which appears to double as a pickup spots for gay men. More time passes and Hannah discovers she’s pregnant with twins. This situation could have been handled, poorly, in several different ways. Tykwer settled on one that leaves several questions unanswered, but is satisfying in other significant ways. Because of the occupations of the three characters, it was possible for Tykwer to make “3” look as sleek and hip as possible, without losing any old-world flavor. All of the actors (Sophie Rois, Sebastian Schipper, Devid Striesow) are very good in untypical roles. And, while erotic, the sex in “3” is likely to offend only people willing to vote for the current slate of Republicans seeking the White House.

Americans still have a long way to go before they’ll accept gay dramas and rom-coms in mainstream movies, even ones as innocuous and unchallenging as “What Happens Next.” In writer/director Jay Arnold’s debut feature, it takes being fired from his job for a rich businessman, Paul (Jon Lindstrom), to accept his sexual reality. Meanwhile, his sister (Wendie Malick) is desperately attempting to come to grips with her son’s homosexuality. Paul finally is able to act on his deeply sublimated feelings after meeting a much-younger gay man, Andy (Chris Murrah), in the local dog park, where he walks the puppy he received as a going-away gift. Meanwhile, Paul’s sister continues to arrange hetero dates for him. “What Happens Next” feels quaint by comparison to more sophisticated gay-and-lesbian fare, including “3.” As the clichés mount – the mandatory fag hag and sissy boy, among them — it’s possible to wonder who the movie was intended to impress, gay daters or closet cases. – Gary Dretzka

The Dead: Blu-ray
As zombie movies go, “The Dead” isn’t particularly scary. It does, however, contain many scenes of undead dismemberment, gore and shooting. What separates “The Dead” from a zillion other such flicks are the bleak Burkina Faso and Ghana locations, which recall news footage of starvation in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, many of the zombies look healthier – from a distance, at least – than the victims of neglect, starvations and internecine war. In Howard and Jonathan Ford’s arid thriller, U.S. Air Force engineer Lt. Brian Murphy is the sole survivor of a plane crash off the coast of war-torn Africa. No sooner does he wash up on shore than he’s confronted with zombies drawn to him like a lighthouse. Because Murphy is a dead shot, he avoids being eaten fairly easily. On his trek to the interior, Murphy is joined by an African soldier (Daniel Dembele) also desperate to leave the area. When their vehicle expires, they proceed by foot through the badlands. The quest for survival is more interesting as a reverse-travelogue than as a creature feature, but that’s OK. There’s a deleted scene and making-of piece, showcasing the special makeup effects work. – Gary Dretzka

David E. Talbert’s What My Husband Doesn’t Know
If it weren’t for Tyler Perry, David E. Talbert might be the country’s best-known creator of plays and musicals, movies and TV shows, novels and DVDs targeted primarily at the African-American audience. Rather than restage the plays for the movies, Talbert shoots the stage production and sends it out on DVD. It captures the intimacy of the production, while saving lots of money. “What My Husband Doesn’t Know” is the first one I’ve seen that justifies taking the shortcuts. Here, Michelle Williams plays Lena, the beautiful wife of an older, wealthy developer (Clifton Davis) who neglects his wife’s sexual needs. In a moment of weakness, she succumbs to the physical attributes of a younger man (Brian White) hired to fix the house’s plumbing. When her husband smells a rat and pledges to pay closer attention to Lena, she decides to end the affair. Easier said than done, of course. The plumber becomes her stalker. It makes for a dramatic climax, but, what I didn’t expect was that “What My Husband Doesn’t Know” would be so legitimately risqué and funny. Even the pastor is a man with a sexual past. I especially enjoyed the innuendo and double entendre delivered by Lena’s horny BFF, played hilariously by sexy Tiffany Haddish. As is typical with these sorts of productions, there are plenty of belt-it-out singing and larger-than-life characters. “WMHDK” is well acted and stylishly directed by Talbert. It may not be Neil Simon, but it doesn’t need to be. The DVD adds interviews and a backstage tour. – Gary Dretzka

All Things Fall Apart
In this overburdened sports melodrama, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson not only is responsible for carrying the ball, but also recovering the occasional fumble in the narrative. Besides starring in “All Things Fall Apart,” as an NFL-bound football player cruelly stricken with cancer, Jackson is credited as writer (with Brian A. Miller) and producer. His character, Deon, is a natural born athlete. By the time he blossoms as a running back, Deon’s also amassed an impressive display of dreadlocks, which flow from under his helmet and partially hide his handsome face. He’s built like the proverbial brick shithouse and probably could run through a concrete wall, as well. Until a potentially deadly tumor is discovered near his heart, Deon’s biggest problems are caused by an overbearing brother (Mario Van Peebles, who also directs) and avoiding the temptations associated with being a soon-to-be millionaire. Chemotherapy causes Deon – and 50 Cent — to lose more than 40 pounds of bulk, braids and most of his energy. His older brother is devastated by the reality of never being able to share Deon’s fame and fortune; his mother (Lynn Whitfield) is working triple-time to make ends meet; and a younger brother has finally begun to assert himself as something other than a sidekick, forced to sacrifice his dreams for Deon’s career. After losing his scholarship, insurance and likelihood of supporting himself doing the only thing he’s qualified to do, Deon goes from bad to worse. It isn’t until the young man hits rock bottom is he able to beg his younger brother for a job at a used-car dealership. Turns out, he’s a natural salesman, as well. The surprises don’t stop there, either. “All Things Fall Apart” has so many things going on in it that it’s impossible to keep track of all of them. 50 Cent still has a way to go before he can carry a film on his acting skills, instead of his looks and personality. Van Peebles’ capable direction keeps the movie from drifting too far into territory previously mined by “Brian’s Song” and other sports tragedies, and it looks good. There’s also a pounding hip-hop soundtrack and Ray Liotta playing a surgeon. That’s a lot of heavyweight stuff for a direct-to-DVD picture to address, even in 110 minutes. – Gary Dretzka

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Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon