MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: Chico & Rita, Detachment, Cabin in Woods, End of Road … More

Chico & Rita: Blu-ray
In Tono Errando, Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal’s beautifully illustrated celebration of Afro-Cuban music and those who make it, we’re invited to recall a time when the musicians of “Buena Vista Social Club” were young and bebop was redefining American jazz. “Chico & Rita” was a finalist for an Oscar this year as Best Animated Feature, but, in what must have been a tight vote, lost to “Rango.” It opens in 1948 Havana, when music filled the streets, but only a fortunate few could make a living in the resorts and casinos that catered to Yankee tourists, gangsters and home-grown thugs. As the reputations of the musicians grow, they’re shuttled back and forth from Havana, to Manhattan, Paris and Las Vegas, where the Fates have their way with the characters. While its story reads like an epic romance between star-crossed lovers, in spirit “Chico & Rita” recalls Ralph Bakshi’s underappreciated animated features “Heavy Traffic,” “Coonskin” and “American Pop.”

Chico is a young piano player with great ambition. In Rita, he sees not only a beautiful singer, but also a muse and potential lifelong partner. She has dreams and ambitions of her own, some of which coincide with Chico’s and others that require the assistance of sugar daddies and fixers. Just when it seems as if Chico and Rita finally will be allowed to dictate their own fortunes, destiny denies them an opportunity to overcome the forces that enslaved too many cabaret, lounge and nightclub performers in the 1950s and 1960s. Upon Chico’s forced return to Havana, he discovers that his brand of Afro-Cuban music has been declared counter-revolutionary and employment is conditioned on one’s status within the Communist Party. In a nod to Ry Cooder and the “Buena Vista Social Club,” perhaps, Chico finally is rediscovered years later by a pretty young songbird who can’t get one of his ancient love songs out of her mind. She opens the doors for him to freely travel abroad and dare a long-delayed reunion with Rita, whose career was also forcibly put on hold, this time in Las Vegas. Their story is backed by an original musical score by Cuban pianist and Grammy-winning composer Bebo Valdes. It is framed within animated cameos by Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Tito Puente and Chano Pozo, whose untimely death is witnessed by Chico. The limited-edition collector’s-set Blu-ray includes the full-length soundtrack and a 16-page excerpt from the graphic novel based on the film. There’s also an excellent making-of featurette. – Gary Dretzka

In the powerful ensemble drama, “Detachment,” director Tony Kaye and writer Carl Lund imagine what it might be like not only to teach in a school that, in and of itself, could constitute a level in Dante’s “Inferno,” but also how that experience might impact the teachers in their off-hours. As somber and dirge-like as “Detachment” often is, it demands that we not give up on our public schools and children who were born behind an 8-ball. It is appropriate that the movie is being released on DVD just as the Chicago teachers’ strike is winding down. Many of the same important issues that have been emphasized in the talks between the CTU and Chicago school authorities – including the current obsession with testing and making principals the arbiters of performance standards – are dramatized in “Detachment.” So, too, is the abandonment of responsibility by the parents of students in our nation’s most troubled schools.

Given the controversies that erupted in advance of Kaye’s “American History X” and the misrepresented abortion documentary “Lake of Fire,” it isn’t surprising that Kaye pushes the envelope of artistic license in “Detachment.” In longterm substitute teacher, Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody), he’s invested all of the saint-like qualities we’d like to see in our educators, while also saddling the character with a tortured past of his own and several administrative and personal obstacles. Most of what we know about Barthes we discover through flashbacks and short monologues. Other teachers are drawn as being permanently damaged by combative students and criminally out-of-touch parents, who simply don’t give a good crap about themselves or their kids’ futures. In one tenuous subplot, Brody practically adopts a teenage prostitute (Sami Gayle, of “Blue Bloods”) whose life is on the brink of careening out of control. It might not be entirely credible, but it serves to further humanize Barthes.

The photograph that accompanies Kaye’s resume on makes him look as if he’s just escaped from a 19th Century loony bin. The juxtaposition of that image with the amazing cast he managed to assemble for “Detachment” – undoubtedly at scale or gratis – couldn’t be more jarring. In addition to Brody and Gayle’s fine work, excellent performances are turned in by Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, Tim Blake Nelson, William Petersen, Louis Zorich, Betty Kaye and some terrific teen actors. Anyone interested in the preservation of our public-schools system ought to check out “Detachment,” if only to be reminded as to what’s at stake. While it doesn’t nullify or contradict such crowd-pleasers as “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and “The Dead Poet’s Society,” Kaye’s drama spins those movies on their flipside for us to hear, as well. The DVD adds interviews with Kaye and Brody. – Gary Dretzka

The Babymakers: Blu-ray
As portrayed by Olivia Munn and Paul Schneider in “The Babymakers,” Audrey and Tommy are at a point in their marriage where they’re anxious to become parents and fully aware of the sacrifices they’ll be forced to make in their social lives. Unfortunately, after nine months of trying, they must admit to each other that something physiological is keeping them from conceiving. Such troublesome things happen frequently in life and movies. When a specialist informs Tommy that he’s shooting blanks, his reaction is one of bewilderment. He had, after all, previously sold his sperm to a clinic without any problems being noticed. He can’t believe that his swimmers have weakened over the course of three years. Naturally, he goes back to the clinic, hoping to retrieve a vial of his sperm. Sadly, only one remains frozen and it’s been sold to a married gay couple. That’s not a bad premise for a decidedly adult comedy. After laying out the story and convincing us that Audrey and Tommy are worth our sympathy, however, director Jay Chandrasekhar puts a banana under their every step, expecting us to laugh uproariously at the missteps and tumbles.

The result is a “sperm-bank heist movie” with the frat-boy sensibility of a Broken Lizard gross-out comedy. Tommy, especially, is sufficiently adult to understand the responsibilities of parenthood, but too dimwitted to figure out how to get there without making a fools of himself. By deferring to the stupid suggestion of his moronic buddies, he demonstrates how ill-prepared he is for such duty. They steer him to an Indian thug, played by Chandrasekhar, who’s required to remind the guys that he’s neither an American Indian nor an Indian in the mold of Gandhi.

Munn is to the geeks who followed her various hosting duties on G4 and Spike TV what Marilyn Monroe was to Playboy subscribers in the 1950s … ubiquitous, but completely unattainable. She possesses a terrific sense of humor, a great body, exotic good looks and a seemingly unlimited future in the movies. What she lacks, so far, anyway, is the ability to convince viewers that she’s not just another model or TV host blessed by privilege and glamour. Munn was extremely likeable hosting “Attack of the Show!” and in appearances on “The Daily Show.” As much as I’ve wanted to buy her character on HBO’s “The Newsroom,” she serves more as an Aaron Sorkin wet dream than the Greta van Susteren of international economics and finance. As an actor, Munn can only get better. Her management, though, must find her roles that will amplify her talents, not neutralize them before audiences anxious mostly to see her boobs exposed. The Blu-ray comes with a silly behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews.

Normally, any romantic comedy that stars as many 19 actors known mostly for their work on television will bear a passing resemblance, at least, to “The Love Boat” or “Fantasy Island.” Against all odds, Josh Stolberg’s “Conception” breaks the mold by successfully telling several stories simultaneously, in support of a central theme. As the movie opens, a teacher played by David Arquette is nonplused by one of his kindergarten students, who asks, out of the blue, how babies are made. Stolberg spends the next 90 minutes introducing us to nine disparate couples in the process of conceiving a child, avoiding conception, breaking their virginity, turning away their spouse’s sexual advances or attempting to steal a few minutes of sleep between feedings, diaper changes and desperate cries for attention. The balancing act maintained by Stolberg requires him to bounce repeatedly from one storyline to another, without diminishing any one couple’s experience. On their own, the vignettes aren’t terribly complex or enlightening. When combined, however, they’re surprisingly compelling, easily identifiable and not a little bit sexy. Among the most recognizable cast members are Julie Bowen and Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”), Connie Britton (“Friday Night Lights”), Jason Mantzoukas (“The League”), Moon Bloodgood (“Falling Skies”), Pamela Adlon (“Californication”), Jonathan Silverman (“The Single Guy”), Jennifer Finnigan (“Better With You”) and Alan Tudyk (“Suburgatory”). The DVD includes interviews with Stolberg and producer Leila Charles Leigh, as well as quite a few deleted scenes and outtakes. – Gary Dretzka

The Cabin in the Woods: Blu-ray
Halloween II/Halloween III: Season of the Witch: Collector’s Edition: Blue-ray
Bait 3D: Blu-ray
The presence of Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford in the first few moments of “The Cabin in the Woods” gave me reason to believe it might be something other than the run-of-the-mill genre thriller I expected it to be. Their non-descript office-drone characters appear to be heading to work in an underground bunker, not unlike one at a nuclear power plant or government research center. In an abrupt change of direction, however, the setting changes to a college town, where a quintet of knuckleheads is preparing to leave town for a weekend at a secluded cabin. Now, at least, we were in familiar territory. On the way to their destination, the kids’ Winnebago makes a mandatory pit stop at an ancient filling station, manned by the requisite in-bred hillbilly. Finally at the cabin, they quickly discover signs of Satan worship and other demonic treachery. Less predictably, one of the girls begins reading from a book of incantations, causing a family of zombies escape from their eternal resting places. Unexpectedly, the movie flashes sideways to the bunker, where the men in white shirts and ties are congratulating themselves on picking the right threat to the teens, whose every movement they’ve been monitoring all along. What? Have we just entered the realm of reality shows gone insane? Not exactly.

Even as the zombies continue to assault the campers in predictable ways, viewers are left to fend for themselves as to what’s happening in the bunker. The guessing game continues even when the most stoned teenager in the group discovers surveillance equipment in the besieged cabin. It wouldn’t be fair to reveal anything more of the story, except to point out that “Cabin in the Woods” and “Blazing Saddles” share a surprise in the third act. Combine the Mel Brooksian conceit with the knowing satire of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s “Scream” and you have Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s wildly entertaining genre-bender. As such, it should play as well to folks who think they know everything there is to know about monster-in-the-woods flicks as those who demand to be surprised. “Cabin in the Woods” isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot more enjoyable than most of the movies it’s spoofing, especially those in which gore substitutes for wit. The Blu-ray’s bonus package adds commentary, making-of material and interviews.

The huge success of John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s “Halloween,” in 1978, assured not only a long succession of sequels, but also 34 years’ worth of lesser filmmakers – as well as some pretty good ones — would shamelessly borrow its methodology. Carpenter was replaced at the helm of “Halloween II” by freshman Rick Rosenthal, but almost everyone else from the original returned. To hold the audience’s interest, the level of blood and gore was ratcheted up and some supernatural mumbo-jumbo was added to explain how such terrible things could happen in sleepy suburbia. In “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” producer Carpenter hoped to break his own rule against killing the bogeyman, but he learned, instead, that audiences didn’t want to see a “Halloween” in which Michael Myers isn’t the antagonist. Instead, the Halloween theme extends only to a mad Celt who wants to punish American kids for despoiling the holiday and some Stonehenge lore. The triquel also borrows from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” It didn’t work. The Blu-ray packages include several commentaries, interviews with cast and crews, a making-of piece, deleted scenes, an alternate ending for “HII,” and a pair of “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds,” in which the films locations are revisited.

In a season already overflowing with shark movies, you wouldn’t think there would be any room left for a 3D thriller that promised even more great whites. Aussie-import “Bait” won’t make anyone forget “Jersey Shore Shark Attack,” let alone “Jaws,” but it definitely keeps you wondering what’s going to happen next. Kimble Rendall’s sophomore effort doesn’t open all that promisingly, if only because the first shark attack and dive-bombing seagulls appear to have been staged as a sop to 3D obsessives. They add nothing to the drama to come and look phony, to boot. In short order, though, “Bait” gets to its point. A holdup in a large supermarket is interrupted by a tsunami, which devastates the coastal city and traps an odd collection of shoppers, cops, criminals and hotties inside the flooded building. Further complicating things for the survivors are the sharks that also found their way into the store. As is their wont, the sharks prefer live bodies to the corpses floating around the submerged parking lot and partially submerged display floor. The only home-grown actor — a.k.a., bait — I recognized was Julian McMahon of “Nip/Tuck.” There’s nothing in “Bait” we haven’t seen before, including the decaying bodies, but Rendall resists the obvious temptation to focus all of the action on shark attacks. He gives the actors plenty to do, as well. – Gary Dretzka

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures: Blu-ray
Judge Dredd: Blu-ray
It isn’t only the studios that have become dependent on sequels as a source of inspiration, product and profits. Fans, likewise, have become so addicted to quick fixes that they forget how disappointed they were in their last hit of Hollywood heroin. No sooner had the clamor over the relative weakness of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” died down in 2008 than reporters and loyalists began bugging producer Frank Marshall about the likelihood of an “Indiana Jones 5.” No matter how often Marshall denied a fourth sequel was in the works, the media refused to take “no” for answer. As if to shut everyone up, he let on that Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and the producers might have come up with the “germ of an idea,” but nothing remotely concrete. Even so, the release of “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures” on Blu-ray gives bloggers another opportunity to raise the question, as if they were the first to consider such a possibility. Given the extremely high quality of the hi-def package, I’m perfectly content to wait until the powers-that-be finally are able to write a screenplay that not only is exponentially better than “Crystal Skull,” but also written with posterity in mind, not merely another huge payday.

No matter how many times you may have watched “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Temple of Doom,” “Last Crusade” and “Crystal Skull” in their many video iterations, it’s certain you’ll treasure the latest collection of Blu-ray upgrades. Not only do they look and sound terrific, but their overall quality will make home-theater nuts even happier they invested in the biggest screen and most powerful sound system they could afford. These are films, after all, that were created from the DNA of everything that’s special about the Hollywood studio experience. In addition to the four movies, the Paramount boxed set adds the 1080p on-set featurettes “From Jungle to Desert” and “From Adventure to Legend,” in which various key aspects of the productions are dissected, discussed and expanded upon, complete with deleted scenes, bloopers and outtakes. Resurrected from previous releases are five lengthy making-of featurettes and a dozen behind-the-scenes pieces, focusing mostly on techie issues. Still absent are commentaries.

Released in 1995, at the dawn of the CGI era in action fantasies, “Judge Dredd,” was one of three movies adapted directly from existing comic-book franchises. “Batman Forever” and “Tank Girl” were the other two titles. (“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie,” “Black Scorpian” and “Darkman II: The Return of Durant” were originals.) “Batman,” of course, made a bushel-basket full of money, while “Tank Girl” tanked and “Judge Dredd” only recouped its nut from worldwide grosses. Even in hindsight, Sylvester Stallone seemed the perfect choice to play a one-man judge, jury and executioner in a futuristic world in which anarchy reigns supreme. Instead, he became a lightning rod for controversy, first, from hypercritical fans of the 2000 AD comic-book franchise; second, in his ham-handed dealings with director Danny Cannon; and third, with the MPAA ratings board, which wouldn’t budge on its “R” rating. Finally, though, it was the negative critical consensus – in the U.S. market, anyway — that killed any hope for a rally, a la “Rocky.” And, yet, a less-expensive reboot, “Dredd 3D,” opened last week in the UK, eliciting mostly positive reviews, and will arrive here this weekend. It reportedly hews closer to comic-book vision than the original, which, in Blu-ray, isn’t without its campy charms. It adds the featurette, “Stallone’s Law: The Making of ‘Judge Dredd.’” – Gary Dretzka

Children of Paradise: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray
Les visiteurs du soir: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray
Marcel Carne, one of the greatest of all French directors, made both of these splendid entertainments under the ever-censorial eyes of the Nazis occupying France. “Children of Paradise” is universally regarded as his masterpiece, arguably the greatest French movie of all times. Even those who favor other titles rank it among the top two or three best movies the country has produced. That it was made at all is an achievement worthy of admiration and retelling. At a time when human and material resources were in short supply, Carne was able to stage the most expensive movie to date and hire people who certainly would have been arrested and probably put to death if their true allegiances were revealed. Vichy government officials forbade the making of films longer than 90 minutes, so, to override their concerns, Carne convinced them that he intended the two parts of the film to be released separately. The Allied invasion allowed him to postpone the planned release date and show the 190-minute period fantasy as intended. Although disguised, Carne and writer Jacques Prevert’s sly references to Vichy and Nazi policies made it through the editing process.

A prime example of romantic-realism, “Children of Paradise” is set in the Parisian theater scene of the 1820s and ’30s. The protagonist is a flirtatious actress/courtesan, Garance (Arletty), who’s being courted by four very different lovers: a mime, actor, criminal and aristocrat. Not willing to compromise the terms of her affections, Garance eventually shuns them all. While the four primary characters are based on actual Parisians, the title refers to the fans who worship the performers from afar, in the cheap sides of the upper balcony. They, it’s suggested, are closer than anyone else to heaven. Until the 2002 release of “Children of Paradise” on DVD, much of the enjoyment of watching the movie was marred by degradation of the video presentation. Pathe’s restoration and hi-def digital transfer have failed to impress some tech-minded critics, but less-trained eyes won’t notice and everything else about it passes muster.  It adds new commentaries by film scholars Brian Stonehill and Charles Affron; a 2010 making-of documentary; a visual essay on the design of “Children of Paradise” by film writer Paul Ryan; “Once Upon a Time,” a 1967 German documentary that visits Nice, where the film was partially shot, and features interviews with cast members Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault and Pierre Brasseur, and production designer Alexandre Trauner; a restoration demonstration; and a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dudley Andrew and excerpts from a 1990 interview with Carné. It retains a Terry Gilliam intro.

The new Criterion Collection edition of Carne and Prevert’s far less frequently seen “Les visiteurs du soir” (“The Devil’s Envoys”) marks its first transfer to DVD and Blu-ray. To my amateur eyes, it doesn’t look as if it has aged at all since its release in 1942. This romantic fantasy takes viewers to the 15th Century and the castle of a wealthy aristocrat. In the midst of festivities leading to a royal wedding, two strangers dressed as minstrels (Arletty, Alain Cuny) arrive at court, ostensibly to spoil everyone’s fun. That’s the devil’s intent, anyway. Instead, Gilles and Dominique enchant the baron’s daughter and her fiancé. When the devil (Jules Berry) gets wind of their deception, he makes his own appearance at court, dispensing bon mots and pointed barbs. It’s a wonderfully wicked performance. The question here, as it must be in such romances, is, “Can love conquer all obstacles, even those created by the devil?” The Blu-ray adds “L’aventure des ‘Visiteurs du soir,’” a documentary on the difficulties of making films in occupied France – the Germans wanted to compete with Hollywood, but not with Jews and leftist filmmakers and actors — and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Atkinson. – Gary Dretzka

The Woman in the Fifth
Anyone with a taste for spare, borderline-creepy psychological thrillers – especially those told with a French accent – should consider tracking down Pawel Pawlikowski’s “The Woman in the Fifth.” Adapted from a novel by Douglas Kennedy, it chronicles the return to Paris of troubled American novelist Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) to be near his divorced wife and estranged daughter. We learn early-on that Ricks has either been hospitalized or jailed for a violent encounter with his French. He fits the profile of a dangerous stalker, but seems to have reconciled himself to being merely damaged property. Circumstances force him to seek shelter in a decrepit room above a bistro frequented by temperamental immigrants from northern Africa. Because his suitcase and wallet have been stolen, he has no other choice but to accept an assignment from the bistro owner that requires him merely to sit in front of a video monitor in an empty room and check out who comes to a locked door. It makes no sense, but is of importance to his landlord. Meanwhile, while browsing through a bookstore, Ricks is recognized by the owner, who invites him to a literary salon, where he encounters an even more mysterious woman, Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas). They hit it off, but in a way that ensures intrigue and, perhaps, insanity, down the road. When it does occur, we’re left wondering if what we’ve witnessed is real or something hallucinated by the novelist.

Pawlikowski leaves several doors open in that regard. If you’ve already guessed that the director’s methodology owes something to the early films of fellow Pole Roman Polanski, go to the head of the class. The moody cinematography and eerie soundtrack fit perfectly with the increasingly ambiguous behavior of the characters, including the romantic advances of the landlord’s Polish girlfriend, who doesn’t quite fit within the puzzle, either. Pawlikowski isn’t the most prolific of filmmakers. His last picture, “My Summer of Love,” was released in 2004. It contained some of Emily Blunt and Paddy Considine’s best work to date and is easy to recommend to those who enjoy “The Woman in the Fifth.” The DVD adds a very decent making-of featurette. – Gary Dretzka

The Salt of Life
On the subject of growing old somewhat less than gracefully, writer-director-actor Gianni Di Gregorio’s bittersweet comedy “The Salt of Life” hits the nail directly on its head.  His character, Giovanni, is retired, approaching the far edge of middle age and living frugally on a pension with his demanding mother. Although he’s still reasonably handsome, Giovanni has reached that point in a man’s life when he’s become invisible to the women he once courted and conquered. To paraphrase Leonard Cohen, Giovanni aches in the places he used to play. This isn’t to imply, he isn’t surrounded by women who treat him cordially and accept his kindnesses and generosity. In the love department, though, the old Roman lion has lost too many teeth to be dangerous. Still, he refuses to give up the ghost. He puts himself in places where he might inadvertently attract a woman’s attention and is coached by an even older buddy how to court mistresses and use Viagra. It’s only when he finally accepts what he’s become that serendipity comes into play and something magical happens to him. “The Salt of Life” is set in and around the narrow, cobblestone streets of Rome’s historic Trastevere district, which is itself worth the price of a rental. The acting is terrific, as is the cinematography and writing. It’s easy to imagine “The Salt of Life” being made in the Hollywood, if any of its 60-plus actors would deign admit to being old and desperate enough to play such a role. Instead, they’re still being allowed to play opposite 20- and 30-year-old ingénues, whose interest in their characters is dubious, at best. The DVD contains an excellent behind-the-scenes featurette and interview with Di Gregorio. – Gary Dretzka

End of the Road
From the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, there was no more influential a novelist than John Barthes. An academic who often set his stories in and around colleges, Barthes experimented with literary form and often took on controversial subjects through his characters. Although his works weren’t as associated with the 1960s counterculture as, say, those of Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan, Jack Kerouac and Joseph Heller, they had a wide effect on intellectuals and other novelists. Published in 1958, “The End of the Road” spoke directly to the decade’s love affair with conformity and social acceptance. It also tackles two of the era’s most sensitive issues: race and abortion. The novel would translate easily to the late 1960s, when it was adapted by director Aram Avakian and writer Terry Southern. Immediately after accepting a post-graduate degree from a major college, Jacob Horner (Stacy Keach) is found standing on the platform of a railroad station unable to move. In the book, Horner suffers from “cosmopsis”: an inability to choose from among all possible choices he can imagine. In the movie, Horner appears more to be traumatized by the many violent events of the period, including the assassinations, Vietnam War and civil-rights protests. He is taken to an asylum, the “Remobilization Farm,” run by a specialist in mythotherapy, Doctor D (James Earl Jones). After treatment, Horner is ordered to teach English at a rural college, where the students have begun to embrace anti-establishment behavior and the first stirrings of the sexual revolution. He is encouraged by the doctor to experience things as they came, without passing judgment on his reactions.

Off-campus, Horner begins an affair with the wife of a seriously twisted colleague (Dorothy Tristan, Harris Yulin). They secretly watch him practice drawing his pistol in front of a mirror, while wearing a scoutmaster’s uniform. The love triangle is more complex in the book, of course, but these were intelligent people who did what they wanted to do and championed dangerous philosophies without considering the possible consequences. (Vietnam, anyone?) The end result of the affair is the harrowing abortion scene that gave “End of the Road” an X-rating and practically guaranteed an abbreviated release. (That, and a mental patient who gets his kicks screwing chickens.) This was, of course, several years before abortion was deemed legal by the Supreme Court.

“End of the Road” was quite unlike any movie that was being made in the United States at the time, even on the emerging indie circuit. It more closely resembled the foreign movies favored by buffs and students. It spoke to the angst being experienced by teachers and intellectuals trapped between generations in the 1960s, as well as the widely accepted belief among young people that Eisenhower-era conformity had contributed to a society increasingly dominated by conventional wisdom and political paranoia. It’s easy to see how young people today might believe that America is stuck in reverse. The DVD includes interviews with surviving members of the cast and crew, including Jones, Keach, Yulin, the son and daughter of Southern and Avakian and cinematographer Gordon Willis, for whom “End of the Road” was his first picture. – Gary Dretzka

Oslo, August 31st
It’s been 40 years since Neil Young recorded “The Needle and the Damage Done,” a song that laments the descent into drug addiction by friends of his in the music business. While watching Joachim Trier’s “Oslo, August 31st,” I was reminded of the final lines, “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done/A little part of it in everyone/But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun.” We don’t learn much more about the movie’s protagonist, Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), than we did about the people whose deaths inspired Young, but their stories, by now, are all too familiar. As much as we’d love to save Anders from himself, we know early on that complete rehabilitation is unlikely. In the most austere and sympathetic way possible, Trier describes a 24-hour period in Anders’ life. After living several years in a drug-rehabilitation facility in the scenic countryside outside Oslo, Anders considers himself ready to return to the capital for a job interview. While there, he intends to re-connect with friends and lovers from both his youth and the tortured period when he was addicted to every drug or drink within his reach. The women he knew aren’t pleased to learn Anders is out and about, but most of his male friends are cordial, at least. He claims to have been clean and sober for a year, but a feeble attempt at suicide earlier that day suggests he may be less ready for the outside world than his supervisors think he is.

It only takes a few hours for Anders to realize that the world didn’t stop spinning when he was incarcerated five years earlier. His former running mates have started families and girlfriends have decided to pass on his invitation to hear his apology. What really trips him up, however, is a request by the editor of the magazine that posted the job offer to fill in the five-year blank in his resume. Although the man seems genuinely impressed by Anders’ opinions, he abruptly decides that such an explanation would be only lead inevitably to rejection. He storms out of the building after grabbing his resume from the hands of the stunned journalist. From this point onward, Anders’ day becomes an emotional roller-coaster ride. Ultimately, though, the lows are more powerful than the highs and he comes to the conclusion that his is a lost case. If this sounds too depressing for words, know that Trier gives Anders every opportunity to break out of his personal prison and he does experience moments, at least, of happiness. So many movies have been made about our own friends and neighbors struggling to break the chains of addiction, it probably would take more than excellent performances and fine directing by Norwegians to attract audiences to “Oslo, August 31st.” It’s their loss. It’s worth knowing, though, that critics have been almost unanimous in their praise for Trier’s movie.  – Gary Dretzka

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap
The history of rap, hip-hop and street dancing hasn’t exactly been underrepresented by documentary makers over the last 30 years. On strictly a per-lyric basis, it’s possible that more has been written and documented on film about the urban art forms than any other musical genre. Of course, the proof is in the pudding and that’s what elevates “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap” from other films about rap and hip-hop. Musician/actor/filmmaker Ice-T employs the oral-history technique in explaining the music’s roots, influences, creative forces and legacy. During interviews with 40 of the most influential rappers and MCs, Ice-T is able to draw a timeline and expand on the creative process employed by the artists. Almost of them offer a sample of their own poetry, along with anecdotes from the streets and studio. Blessedly absent are the scholarly observations and critical dissections that too frequently add unnecessary context to obvious truths. I found it interesting, though, that the emergence of rap can be traced directly to the elimination of music programs in the public schools of New York. Emerging from this cultural deprivation chamber were kids who grasped the most simple and economical ways to express themselves musically: rhymes, unused turntables found inside almost everyone’s home and plywood boards upon which to dance and spin. Hip-hop would add electronic beats to the rapped poetry. Once noticed by the media, the message spread from New York to Chicago and L.A., and on to every city in the world with a sizable population of disaffected youth. If hip-hop has been mainstreamed to the point where it’s heard between innings at baseball games, it still provides an entry point for individuals of all colors and ethnic backgrounds to voice their unhappiness with the status quo, willingness to “fight the power” and brag about their sexual prowess. Among those appearing here are Afrika Bambaataa, Eminem, Nas, Mos Def, Kanye West, Chuck D, KRS-One, Snoop Dogg, Run-DMC and Ice Cube. The DVD extras include extended interviews, commentaries, a making-of piece and, yes, an essay by a scholar. – Gary Dretzka

The Victim: Blu-ray
Veteran hard-guy actor Michael Biehn clearly paid attention while participating in such high- and low-budget action flicks and TV series as “The Terminator,” “Aliens,” “Grindhouse: Planet Terror” and “The Magnificent Seven.” He took the lessons he learned from more celebrated filmmakers into account while directing his second feature, “The Victim,” a grindhouse-inspired “thriller” that looks very much as if it were shot, as advertised, in 11 days and on a budget of $800,000. It isn’t at all convincing, but Biehn is a likeable presence and there’s enough violence and boobage to qualify for a late-night shot on Cinemax. The breasts are supplied by Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, a healthy 38-year-old blond who may be coming into her own as a late-blooming scream queen. Here, she plays Annie, one of two strippers enticed to join a pair of cops in a secluded picnic in the woods. The other woman is beaten to death after she ridicules her demonic lover for not being able to ejaculate in due course. Annie escapes into the forest, finally finding refuge in a cabin owned by a mysterious stranger played by Biehn. He believes the stripper’s story against that of the cops, who also appear at his door. He answers their threats with violence of his own, while also partaking in Annie’s ample charms. Even though there’s a surprise ending grindhouse fans will spot a mile away, “The Victim” is strangely watchable. The making-of featurette explains why it looks like such a homemade project. – Gary Dretzka

October Baby
There is a widely held perception among people who populate the Red and “battleground” states that filmmakers in Hollywood play fast and loose with issues pertaining to morality and religion because they’re more interested in profits than salvation. Intentionally or not, these heathens are playing into the hands of the devil by promoting liberal values and ignoring God’s word. The box-office success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” is widely credited with sparking the studios’ interest in faith-based filmmaking and marketing these products to a select audience demographic. Until recently, though, limited budgets and amateurish production values have kept the movies from finding widespread acceptance and critical respect. “October Baby” is a well-made and professionally acted drama about the lasting effects of abortion on everyone from the rare survivors of the procedure to adoptive parents, birth parents and peers. While it isn’t bombastic or overtly hateful, though, Andrew and Jon Erwin’s drama plays just as fast and loose with key characterizations as the movies accused of being anti-Christian.

Attractive newcomer Rachel Hendrix plays Hannah, a college student who experiences an emotional breakdown she believes is related to asthma, epilepsy and thoughts of suicide. At about the same time, her parents uncover a diary in which she obsesses over guilt feelings related to an incident buried deep within her subconscious. It’s as if Original Sin has metastasized inside Hannah and revealed itself at the most inappropriate time in her life. In an effort to help her doctor diagnose an exact cause for the problem, Hannah’s parents (John Schneider, Jennifer Price) hit her with a double-barreled shotgun of bad news. Not only is she informed of the fact that she was adopted, but that it came after a failed abortion allowed her to be born. She later would learn that a twin brother wasn’t so fortunate, having died shortly after the procedure. That’s a lot of psychological weight to lay on a kid who otherwise was enjoying a normal teenage existence. It’s at this point that Hannah turns against her loving parents, who really should have informed her she was adopted, if not the circumstances that caused it. That she guilt-trips her father over being the child to survive the abortion doesn’t seem fair, either.

Hannah uses the guise of a spring-break trip to New Orleans and Birmingham to search for her birth parents, who, we’re told, are themselves ridden with subconscious guilt and want nothing to do with her. In a rare show of ecumenical reach-out, the Erwins allow a Roman Catholic priest to explain the concept of Christian forgiveness to the troubled young Baptist. (It’s a good thing she wandered into a cathedral, instead of consulting such merciless monsters as Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Ryan.) By accepting that simple message – the essence of Christ’s teaching on Earth – Hannah is free to move forward with her parents, boyfriend, theater career and birth mother, who is given her own cross to bear. The Erwins’ all-life-is-beautiful message doesn’t seem to allow for shades of gray, even if the question of rape and incest isn’t addressed. How much of the movie was financed by anti-abortion groups isn’t made clear, either, although web addresses and appreciations do appear in the credits. As loaded as Hannah’s dilemma is, “October Baby” may be the most balanced statement on the subject we’re likely to see from the religious right. The DVD adds commentary, deleted scenes and character studies. – Gary Dretzka

Gone Hollywood
Telenovela heartthrob Fernando Carrillo and Texas-born sitcom actor Valente Rodriguez are the primary attractions for this agreeable piece of fluff targeted directly at regular viewers of Spanish-language television. Personally, I found myself drawn more to bombshells Erlinda Orozco and Amrapali Ambegaokar, but to each his/her own. Caracas-born Carrillo plays a Latino actor, Al, struggling to avoid obscurity after his hit Hollywood show left the air. Just when it appears that Al will be reduced to working for a living outside show business, he receives word that his late father has left him a property in their Texas hometown that has been inexplicably valuable. The bar is something of a local phenomenon, especially with the old-timers who resist pressure on Al to sell the bar to outside interests. The locals sense he’s “gone Hollywood,” and couldn’t give a flaming frijole for the future of the town and bar. Naturally, though, hometown cooking and a pair of Chicana beauties have given him reason for pause. Meanwhile, his Hollywood agent (Ambegaokar) is trying desperately to get him to agree to participate in a reality show. “Gone Hollywood” didn’t receive a theatrical release, as far as I can tell, but fans of the actors might want to give it a shot. Heaven knows, no one in Hollywood is breaking their neck in an attempt to fill the void in movies aimed at the mainstream Hispanic market. – Gary Dretzka

Katy Perry: Part of Me: Blu-ray
What happens when the God-praising Christian daughter of hard-core Evangelical ministers OD’s on tepid gospel-rock and adds Alanis Morrissete to her personal playlist? Well, after severing the parental umbilical cord by moving to the Sodom & Gomorrah that is Los Angeles, Katy Perry introduced herself to Morrissette’s producer, hired gay shape-shifters to perform an image makeover, dropped the Alanis-wannabe façade and recorded “I Kissed a Girl.” Her parents weren’t amused, but the little girls who download iTunes by the truckload certainly understood her infectious message. As if to demonstrate His sense of humor, God then cleared a path for the ’tween queen to marry British bad boy Russell Brand. Fourteen months later, their marriage would evaporate in a cloud of tabloid headlines. All of these milestones are addressed in “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” which is equal parts biopic, concert film and girls-just-wanna-have-fun rave-up. Not being 12-years-old, I can’t explain why the 3D extravaganza didn’t blow off the hinges of every multiplex from here to Timbuktu, as did “Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert.” But, it did well enough in theaters to believe it will perform even better in its Blu-ray 3D & 2D, DVD and digital iterations.  Directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz’ documentary does a nice job capturing Perry’s charm and appeal to her legions of fans. It doesn’t address the debt she owes to forbears Josephine Baker, Carmine Miranda, Minnie Pearl, Karen Carpenter, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and, although they’re contemporaries, Lady Gaga, preferring to showcase Perry’s gospel roots. Her decision to perform, despite the nasty breakup with Brand – really, what could have possessed her? – becomes part of the storyline, as well. If the heroic portrayal makes her look overly vulnerable and a victim to love, well, so be it. It worked for Paul McCartney. The Blu-ray editions take full advantage of Perry’s playfully colorful stage presentation, while also adding extended concert footage and some insider stuff. – Gary Dretzka

Suburgatory: The Complete First Season
Modern Family: The Complete Third Season: Blu-ray
The Mentalist: The Complete Fourth Season
Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season: Blu-ray
If television sitcoms weren’t built on faulty foundations, they probably wouldn’t exist at all. “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” two of the best network series, asked us to believe minorities didn’t exist in the characters’ urban environment and they lived in buildings so safe they didn’t have to lock the doors to their apartments. Such anachronisms must be taken for granted by viewers if the show is to be successful. The weaker the writing, the less likely it is for the anachronisms to pass muster. The ABC comedy “Suburgatory” is premised on the possibility that a big-city single dad (Jeremy Sisto) could be so naïve as to think his 16-year-old daughter (22-year-old Jane Levy) would be less likely to be corrupted if they moved to the suburbs. If that were the case, no character in a suburbia-set sitcom would be older than 12 and the greatest threat to a child’s future would be an out-of-control ice-cream truck. In “Suburgatory,” Levy’s Tessa Altman is required to adapt all the usual cliches of suburban life, from synchronized sprinkler systems, competitive gardening and casual wear, to country-club bimbos and shopping-mall crawls. This is less difficult a chore for Tessa than one would expect. It’s dad who ultimately must come to grips with the huge disconnect between urban and suburban life. Fortunately, Sisto is surrounded by several veteran comedic actors — Carly Chaikin, Rex Lee, Allie Grant, Alan Tudyk, Cheryl Hines, Ana Gasteyer, Jay Mohr – who take much of the weight of carrying the show off of his and Levy’s shoulders. Writer/producer Emily Kapnek (“Hung,” “Parks and Recreation”) also was allowed to bounce between the adult world and that of their kids. Even better, “Suburgatory” was fortunate to be assigned the timeslot between “Middle” and “Modern Life,” which almost assured a second-season run. The DVD includes unaired scenes, a gag reel and “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell: Life in Suburgatory.”

Meanwhile, the “Modern Family” juggernaut continues apace, with 14 Emmy nominations up for grabs this weekend. Can it pull off the hat trick in the Outstanding Comedy Series category? I wouldn’t bet against it. At a time when Republican bottom-feeders and religious fanatics of all stripe are exposing their intolerance and bigotry by so vocally condemning same-sex marriages, it’s interesting that a TV series in which two of the key male characters are married to each other is so popular in a wide-cross-section of American homes. It begs the question as to why the champions of Holy Matrimony aren’t nearly as exorcised over the number of people in life and on television who are living together and pro-creating, but can’t be bothered with nuptials. With any luck the haters will crawl back into their holes after Election Day. The Season Three package adds a gag reel, deleted scenes, deleted “couch confessions,” the “A ‘Modern Family’ Christmas” featurette and behind-the-scenes pieces, “Destination: Wyoming,” “A Day on the Set with Ty,” “Adventures of the ‘Modern Family’ Kids,” “Driving Lessons,” “Ed O’Neill Gets a Star” and “‘Modern Family’ Goes to Disneyland.”

CBS’ hit procedural, “The Mentalist,” is based on such a flakey premise that it’s difficult for me to imagine it lasting five weeks, let alone five years. But, that’s show biz in the 21st Century. The off-the-charts personable Tasmanian actor Simon Baker plays a onetime psychic, who gave up the ruse after the murder of his wife. His talent for observation and instant analysis draw the attention of the California Bureau of Investigation, which apparently needs all the help it can get in solving the state’s toughest homicides. Among the criminals he’s most determined to arrest is the serial killer, Red John, he holds responsible for his wife’s death. Unlike “The Fugitive,” the investigators in “The Mentalist” have other cases to worry about besides the one that drive’s Baker’s character. Indeed, one of the series’ recurring storylines involves the CBI’s frustration with his unorthodox methodology and frequently borderline-illegal interrogations. At the end of each season, Baker seems closer to nailing the bastard than ever before, only to realize Red John has once again slipped from his grasp. There’s a featurette in which the LAPD Homicide Task Force profiles its counterparts on the CBI.

As the title suggests, the hit CW series “Supernatural” combines elements of the police procedural with an on-the-road bromance and encounters with supernatural forces. Besides the personal demons Sam and Dean encounter each week, the brothers also are required to combat villains of biblical proportions, including the Leviathans that break out of Purgatory. (It makes one wonder what God, his archangels and Jesus are watching when “Supernatural” airs on the CW.) In Season 7, the laddies are tortured with visions of Hell by Lucifer, while family friend and ally, Bobby, is killed by alien forces that capture his spirit and condemn it to a whiskey flask. The Blu-ray offers an interactive “Supernatural Creature Fest Drive-In,” as well as commentaries on select episodes, unaired scenes, a gag reel, an outtake with Jensen singing Air Supply’s “I’m All Out of Love” and featurettes on directing and scoring the show. – Gary Dretzka

American Experience: Death and the Civil War
Frontline: Endgame: AIDS in Black America
History: Secret Access: The Presidency
H2: America’s Book of Secrets
History: James Bond’s Gadgets
History: Best of Ancient Aliens: Blu-ray
History: Cajon Pawn Stars: Season One
It is commonplace today for American soldiers killed in combat to be accorded a government-financed funeral, a flag-draped coffin and, perhaps, a salute by a squad of riflemen, although budgetary concerns now threaten even that tradition. All efforts are made to identify the dead, a chore made easier through the use of DNA coding. We honor the dead on Memorial Day and salute the survivors on Veterans Day. As the North and South prepared to engage in a calamitous civil war, the last thing on the minds of politicians, military and clergy was the question of how to deal with death and other casualties. It’s as if those in command expected it to be a bloodless war, from which entire armies would march home intact. This wasn’t to be the case, of course, and it took nearly four years for officials to come to grips with such mechanics and trivialities of war as burials, identification and notifications. Ric Burns’ latest film on the Civil War tackles this grisly, if enormously important issue. It was released as part of PBS’ “American Experience” series. Again, his technique involves the reading of letters home, interviews with historians, somber narration and quiet music, and archival photographs. It feels familiar, but delivers the same powerful punch as the original “Civil War” series. Being exposed to Mathew Brady’s photographs of the dead soldiers lying bloated and abandoned on a now-quiet battleground is an education in itself. As Burns also points out, the government was ill-prepared to handle the mass of refugees and wounded civilians. For freed, fugitive and escaped slaves, the situation may have been even worse and that realization led in part to the Emancipation Proclamation. So, as the series asks, what is our responsibility to the dead? For one, continuing to create films, such as “Death and the Civil War,” that question all aspects of war and hold our leaders responsible for the affronts to humanity. The film is based on Drew Gilpin Faust’s book, “This Republic of Suffering.” Anyone looking for heroes here will find them in poet/humanitarian Walt Whitman and nurse Clara Barton.

In “Frontline: Endgame: AIDS in Black America,” the question becomes, “In times of epidemic, what is owed the living?” For too many years, American politicians treated the AIDS epidemic – a.k.a., the gay cancer – as if it simply didn’t exist. That was made easier by the fact that the disease first impacted immigrant African and Haitian communities. Even when it began to devastate homosexual communities in France and the United States, officials acted as if other people were immune from the disease and there was no urgency to treat AIDS as if it were a plague threatening all Americans. Even when budget-makers and the medical establishment began to take action, poor blacks, infected children and drug addicts continued to get the least attention. “Endgame” chronicles the epidemics with a tight focus on its continued impact on Black America. HIV may now be treatable, but, for some patients, the cost of keeping it in check is prohibitively expensive. The documentary is a reminder of the distance we still need to go for a cure.

Cable television thrives on the promulgation of conspiracy theories, government secrets, military intelligence and lore, mysterious fraternal organizations, lost and hidden documents and outright bullshit. Indeed, the money spent today on forwarding, examining and debunking such theories could pay for the development of personal lie detectors and embedding of them in the arms of every American man, woman and child, not just the politicians and business executives who think we can’t handle the truth about everything from UFOs and captured extraterrestrials, to the role played by Freemasons in determining government policy and such international bogey-men as the Trilateral Commission, the Illuminati and G8. Newly released DVDs on such subjects from History and its ancillary network include “Secret Access: The Presidency” and “America’s Book of Secrets.” In the former, we’re allowed to ponder bits and pieces of previously classified information once reserved only for our presidents. The chapters: “Secret Access: Air Force One,” in which we follow the President on a 20,000-mile international mission aboard the First Plane and are allowed to ride in the cockpit, witness security protocols and learn what constitutes “zero-fail” itinerary; “The White House Behind Closed Doors” takes us along on a private tour conducted by former residents George W. and Laura Bush; and “The President’s Book of Secrets,” which explains what sorts of information are passed from one president to another, be they secrets codes, intelligence or information on ongoing projects. H2’s 10-episode “America’s Book of Secrets” attempts to bring down some of the walls surrounding the White House, Pentagon, Area 51, Freemasons, Fort Knox, presidential transports, the Playboy Mansion, Black Ops, the FBI and West Point. Not all of the secrets are all that well-kept and the ones that are highly classified remain so. Still, it’s difficult to take your eyes off the shows.

For more than a half-century, the lore and legend surrounding British Secret Agent 007 has continued to grow unabated. I don’t know how well Ian Fleming’s novels sell, or those written in his voice, but every new movie is greeted with media fanfare and solid performance at the box office. Always are essential element of the books and movies are the gadgets, gizmos and weapons created for James Bond by Q – for Quartermaster — and his team. Once considered to be mostly fanciful, many of the items on display in History’s “James Bond’s Gadgets” now are available at your friendly neighborhood shop catering to private detectives, professional locksmiths, amateur sleuths, crooks, peeping toms and jealous spouses. Neither is it beyond the realm of possibility to imagine cars within built-in RPGs and oil slicks being sold alongside SUVs and vehicles that run on garbage. For those keeping score at home, the new Bond film, “Skyfall,” is slated for release on November 9, with Ben Whishaw taking over for John Cleese as Q. The DVD adds a biography of Ian Fleming.

The first thing loyal fans of History’s “Ancient Aliens” series should know about the latest addition to the library is that “Best of Ancient Aliens” is only new to Blu-ray, not DVD, and it is comprised of four episodes that have previously been released in season-long compilations. Two, at least, already are available in hi-def. Moreover, these episodes – “The Evidence,” “Mysterious Places,” “Aliens and the Old West,” “The Mayan Conspiracy” – all are the first from their respective seasons. It’s true, though, that they look fine in Blu-ray.

By my count, there are now three “reality” shows set in pawn shops, two of them on History. The newest is “Cajun Pawn Stars,” which puts a rural spin on “Pawn Stars” and “Hard Core Porn,” set in Las Vegas and Detroit, respectively. “Cajun Pawn Stars” takes place in and around the family-owned Silver Dollar Pawn & Jewelry,” of Alexandria, Louisiana. Like any sitcom, the family members often are joined on screen by colorful sidekicks and resident authorities. The shop is known for its Civil War and Mardi Gras artifacts. – Gary Dretzka

Katt Williams: Kattpacalypse
Even if comedian Katt Williams is America’s pimp laureate, the frequency with which he uses the n-word makes it difficult to listen to his rants, no matter how funny they may be. He doesn’t use the word for emphasis or shock value, merely as another way of saying “he,” “she,” “you” and “us.” It isn’t likely that his longtime fans mind the vernacular, but newcomers shouldn’t go into his DVDs unprepared. This time around, he begins by taking on President Obama’s record, then tears into atheists and Michael Jackson’s doctor. He then wonders out loud why NASA has begun to launch and return the Space Shuttle in the wee hours of the morning. He concludes that white people at NASA have come up with a way to escape the Mayan-prophesized apocalypse, but don’t want black people to know about it. Sounds like another good reason to get out the vote for Obama in November. The New Year’s Eve performance included a half-dozen lesser-known comics. It would have been nice if someone though to include more than a snippet from their sets. There is a Katt animated short, though. – Gary Dretzka

Team of the ‘80s: San Francisco 49ers
Behind the Steel Curtain: The Pittsburgh Steelers
The new line of titles from NFL Films and Vivendi Entertainment puts so-called dynasties of professional football under a microscope, not only by recapping games that led to championships, but also exploring the things separating those teams from the one-year wonders and formidable also-rans. With the San Francisco 49ers under John Walsh, the dominating feature was the “West Coast offense.” Widely copied, but never completely duplicated, the scheme emphasized the widespread passing game and the development of athletes collected specifically to make it work. Moreover, it became as identified with the city as the Golden Gate Bridge and sour-dough bread. The set adds the 1981 NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XVI.

The same could be said of Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers, which personified the industrial region’s most famous export and the workers who poured the molten steel no matter the heat of the summer or frigid temperatures of winter. Unlike the 49ers, these were blue-collar teams constituted for the enjoyment of blue-collar fans. There may never have been a more dominant defense as the famous Steel Curtain, which literally was impenetrable. The offense, led by Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris and Lynn Swann wasn’t too shabby, either. The DVD includes the 1972 “Immaculate Reception” game and 1974 AFC championship. – Gary Dretzka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ David Simon