MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup

Enough Said: Blu-ray
When considering the possibilities of a rom/dram/com starring James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus – based solely on the warm-and-fuzzy cover of “Enough Said”– I wouldn’t blame anyone for wondering, “What could Tony Soprano possible have in common with Elaine Benes?” Almost nothing, it turns out. Still, the characters they play in Nicole Holofcener’s only slightly offbeat indie physically resemble like the ones we fell in love with on “The Sopranos” and “Seinfeld.” Both fitfully divorced, Albert and Eva hit it off at a party full of grownup yuppies they both feel are eminently worth mocking, avoiding and hoping they don’t resemble. In fact, give or take a few unwanted pounds and negative personality traits, they’re not all different from most of the partygoers. They’re relatively well off and share many of the same middle-age issues: children leaving the nest, job insecurity, hair loss, wrinkle gain and jealously over ex-spouses with new partners. In their brief conversation, Albert and Eva see just enough in each other to warrant an actual date. Despite their physical differences and divergent senses of humor, they’re sufficiently simpatico to be able to discuss something other than their failed marriages and the perils of parenthood. Instead of their dinner becoming unbearably awkward – for them and us – it goes off without a hitch. What we know and the characters don’t discover until much later in the story, however, is that Eva has simultaneously become close friends with Albert’s ex-wife, Marianne (Catherine Keener), a self-absorbed poet, who has nothing good to say about their marriage. As Marianne’s masseuse and confidant, Eva is appraised of Albert’s strange habits and trigger points.

It isn’t until Eva is introduced to Albert and Marianne’s teenage daughter – separately – that it suddenly occurs to her that she’s been happily dating the same man who’s been the subject of her client’s verbal aggression. Instead of immediately informing Albert and Marianne of the bizarre coincidence and letting the chips fall where they may, Eva chooses to coax more information from her client and goad her boyfriend with questions raised during the therapy sessions. Needless to say, no possible good comes from such an inquisition. Holofcener wisely avoids injecting farce into the already complicated situation. Instead, her characters wallow in the separation anxiety and tension that generally precede a child’s departure from home. In this regard, at least, Holofcencer allows both of the former husbands to serve as sympathetic mediators between their embattled ex-wives and daughters who can’t wait to become adults, however miserable. (Toby Huss, who plays Eva’s ex, once was cast as Elaine Benes’ date on “Seinfeld.”) All of the actors, including Toni Collette as Eva’s close friend, are good. As difficult as it is to imagine Marianne ever being happily married to Albert – or anyone else, for that matter — Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini are convincing as a couple with a future together. Anyone who believes that Gandolfini, who died unexpectedly last June, could never shake his identification with Tony Soprano ought to check out his terrific performances in such smallish films as “In the Loop.” “Welcome to the Rileys,” “Down the Shore,” “Violet and Daisy,” “Killing Them Softly” and “Not Fade Away.” They’re well worth the price of a rental. The Blu-ray adds the bloopery “Second Takes” and promotional featurettes. – Gary Dretzka

The Spectacular Now: Blu-ray
Adults who can’t bear the thought of watching another movie about teen romance, despite rave reviews from critics equally tired of post-pubescent angst, should consider giving “The Spectacular Now” a go. The movie may not have been written with grown-ups specifically in mind, but it speaks to parents, as well, to parents whose children are experiencing similar joys and problems. Director James Ponsoldt and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, probably didn’t set out to re-invent the genre or tweak all of its tropes in under 100 minutes. Working from Tim Tharp’s National Book Award finalist, their movie simply came out that way. Miles Teller plays high school senior, Sutter, the life of any party and someone whose idea of the future is tonight. His other claim to fame is being an alcoholic, just like his father. Sutter drinks because everyone loves him when he’s breaking boundaries they’re afraid even to push. His greatest fear is not being loved. One morning, after a typical night of hard drinking, Sutter is awakened from his stupor by fellow senior Aimee (Shailene Woodley), on whose lawn he had passed out. Aimee invites him to join her on her break-of-dawn paper route, which he turns into a comedy routine. He’s disturbed to hear that Aimee’s required to give all of her earnings to her widowed mother (Whitney Goin), who’s too preoccupied with her own problems to care about those of her daughter. Sutter’s mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) remains bitter over the departure of her husband, so the teens immediately have that much in common. He’s further mortified by Aimee’s admission that her mother has rejected her desire to leave home for college, let alone pay for it. Although he’s already involved with his class’ hottest blond, Cassidy (Brie Larson), Sutter sees in Aimee a challenge worth accepting. Through his boozy haze, he determines that Aimee is in dire need of a personality makeover and the first thing he does in this regard is hand her a flask full of whisky. The problem is that he still has eyes for the blond bombshell and it causes Aimee to thing she might turn out to be a passing fancy. The trouble really begins when Sutter talks Aimee into standing up to her mother and she challenges him to ask his mother about his father’s whereabouts. When he does learn the truth, it impacts everyone in his orbit.

We’ve all met people like the ones who populate “The Spectacular Now,” in life and in the movies. If Aimee, Sutter and Cassidy are familiar, however, it’s not because they’re stereotypical or clichéd. We like them because there’s always something new to learn about what makes them tick. The filmmakers give Aimee and Sutter as many opportunities to fail as succeed. That we care so much about them, finally, is mostly to the credit of Woodley and Teller. And, that’s because the actors are able to overcome the good-girl/bad-boy conceit, allowing us to accept their characters’ unlikely love and interdependency. At first glance, the casting of Leigh seems no more unusual than the casting of any other actor. In one of the featurettes, Ponsoldt admits that the decision was inspired by her performance in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” which was as atypical to teen movies made in the 1980s as “The Spectacular Now” is to teen movies made today. The Blu-ray adds several deleted scenes that could easily have made the cut, as well as the director’s commentary and a four-part making-of featurette. – Gary Dretzka

Short Term 12
On paper, there’s nothing about “Short Term 12” that would lead one to anticipate an experience that’s anything but painful. Set largely in a short-term foster-care facility that’s populated with kids whose chances of finding a new home range from slim to none, it’s the cinematic embodiment of the great Bill Withers’ song, “Lean on Me.” Most of the residents have been rescued from dysfunctional households and some bear wounds that may never heal. Once they reach 18, they’re kindly invited to fend for themselves in a world that’s done nothing but ignore previous pleas for help and comfort. Because group homes frequently are the last places to which government funding trickles, these kids are as shortchanged by society as the staff members whose own happiness and fulfillment depend on their well-being. In “Short Term 12,” Destin Cretton tells two harrowing tales simultaneously. The first involves the diverse community of children whose needs are served 24 hours a day, while the other focuses on a handful young idealists who serve as supervisors, teachers, therapists, traffic cops and punching bags. The staffers we meet here are at the mercy of the kids’ moods and whims, as well as thinly stretched budgets, by-the-book administrators and haphazard psychiatric supervision. At the center of both stories is Grace, who’s played by a very different Brie Larson than the one we met in “The Spectacular Now.” She’s a supervisor whose personal backstory affects her interaction with the deeply troubled new girl in the group, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever). The day’s challenges at school tend to follow her to the home she shares with a similarly devoted co-worker, Mason (John Gallagher Jr., of “Girls”), who, we learn, grew up in a foster home. The deeper Grace descends into her own emotional quagmire, the more difficult it becomes for him to maintain an even keel, especially when she tells him she’s pregnant. As depressing as this scenario might sound, Cretton rarely allows viewers the luxury of sitting back and catching their collective breathes. Like Jaydon and Mason, we never know what will trigger an outburst by a resident or if it is the one that causes the child permanent damage. What’s comforting is knowing that the kids have dedicated professionals around them who validate their lives with a hug or life-changing action. If we didn’t know that the supervisors are played by actors, it would be easy to assume “Short Term 12” might be an exercise in cinema verite. The DVD includes deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes and maklng-of featurettes; the original short film, “Short Term 12”; outreach partners; and material from a cast and crew screening. – Gary Dretzka

20 Feet from Stardom: Blu-ray
This delightfully tuneful documentary asks several questions, among: Where would pop music be if it weren’t for the largely unsung contributions of such background singers as Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, the Water Family, Stevvi Alexander, Patti Austen, Charlotte Crossley. Morgan Neville and Cissy Houston? Would the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” be placed among the greatest of all rock-’n’-roll songs if it wasn’t for Merry Clayton’s brilliant cameo? Is there still room in the Rock Hall of Fame — alongside Love and James Brown’s Famous Flames — for the various Raelettes, Ikettes, Harlettes, Blossums, Sweet Inspirations, Andantes and Crystals who’ve brightened so many of our lives? “20 Feet From Stardom” not only answers these questions, but it also puts backup singers directly in the spotlight, some of them for the very first time. If there’s a common denominator among the dozen or so singers featured in the documentary, it’s a lifetime love affair with music, usually beginning in church choirs or under the direction of a parent in the business. Here, they swap stories about their musical roots, session work, their personal lives and the exponentially more famous artists who take the bows for their work. On the downside, the singers bemoan the job’s inherent anonymity, rip-offs, road trips and fluctuations in pay. More than anything else, though, these great performers wish they could be taken seriously as lead singers by the same fans who rave about their contributions to other singers’ songs. Love’s story is particularly troubling. As one of the bricks in Phil Spector’s “wall of sound,” Love’s voice was as familiar as any in the country for most of the 1960s. Instead of honoring her stature as a lead singer, Spector would credit others for her work and con her out of royalties on major hits. At a time when she should have been basking in the glow of a midcareer resurgence, Love had to support herself as a maid. She would be rediscovered, of course, but by an entirely new generation of rockers and other people (including David Letterman) who grew up on the music she made with Spector. “20 Feet From Stardom” is as entertaining as it is enlightening, and the experience can be shared by anyone in the family who’s ever tapped their toes to a Top 40 hit. The bonus material includes extended interviews and more music. – Gary Dretzka

Lee Daniels’ The Butler: Blu-ray
The Contradictions of Fair Hope
In the Heat of the Night: Blu-ray
I doubt very much that the distributors of these movies intended to get an early start on Black History Month, but the effect is virtually the same. Although its release was marred somewhat by silly squabbling about its title, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (henceforth known as “The Butler”), it opened last fall to much critical approval and a solid month’s worth of boffo revenues. Forest Whitaker does a fine job playing the fictional Cecil Gaines, the son of a sharecropper murdered by the same plantation owner who raped his wife. In an act of mercy, the boss’ grandmother makes Cecil part of the house staff, where he learns skills that eventually would open the door to a job at the White House. The character is modeled on Eugene Allen, a Virginia native who worked in whites-only resorts and a prestigious Washington club before he was hired as a lowly “pantry” man in the Truman White House. When he retired, in 1986, he was butler to President Reagan. Then and now, jobs in the upstairs/downstairs world of the White House were divided by African-Americans in service positions and whites in supervisory and executive positions. Despite large discrepancies in pay and opportunities, working in the White House was considered to be a vast improvement over most of the other jobs available to blacks throughout the 20th Century. “The Butler” tells us that the house staff was treated with dignity and occasional displays of great kindness. The work was demanding, but regular and rarely demeaning. For many of the years Allen/Gaines worked in the White House, he wasn’t allowed to use the same facilities as whites living or traveling in the states that bordered the capital, which, itself, was widely considered to be more Southern than Northern. In “Butler,” servants occasionally are asked their opinions on current issues – including the Civil Rights Movement – but they were instructed to not initiate or elongate conversations with a president or his guests. When asked, they were advised to consider their responses carefully. The fictional Gaines is no firebrand, but it’s clear he’s especially concerned about the disparities in pay and stature between black and white employees in the White House. It’s only through Gaines’ rebellious son and archival news footage, however, that we get better understanding of the juxtaposition between what’s happening in the streets of America and the maintenance of the status quo in official Washington.

Even at 132 minutes, “The Butler” feels a bit rushed. As far as I can recall, Jimmy and Rosalynn aren’t mentioned, even if their Southern backgrounds must have led to some interesting discussions whenever Miz Lillian and Billy were in town. The convenience of having Gaines’ son be a Freedom Rider, Black Panther, anti-war activist and mainstream politician – the other brother volunteers to go to Vietnam – somehow rings false, as well. Gaines’ wife, played well by Oprah Winfrey, appears practically out of thin air. It’s difficult to tell what we’re supposed to think about her, except that she fluctuates between being proud of her husband’s ability to provide for their family and frustrated to the point of adultery by the amount of time he devotes to the job. That changes when she and her husband are finally invited to attend a state dinner by Nancy Reagan. Given the need to squeeze so much history into the time allotted him, Daniels (“Precious,” “The Paperboy”) uses caricature to describe the butler’s relationship with LBJ and Nixon. If one didn’t harbor a modicum of sympathy for those two men going into the movie, they will after watching Liev Schreiber and John Cusack’s cruel impersonations of them. Presidents Eisenhower (Robin Williams), Kennedy (James Marsden) and Reagan (Alan Rickman) fare much better. If the current network-television landscape was as enlightened as it appeared to be in the mid-1970s, “The Butler” might have made for a more casually paced and historically accurate mini-series, like, dare I say it, “Roots.” If nothing else, the producers could have expended a bit more effort on the bonus material, which includes deleted scenes; the featurette, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler: An American Story,” with information about the film’s origins as a Washington Post article; a pitifully short, “The Original Freedom Riders ,” with veterans of that phase of the civil-rights struggle; a music video, “You and I Ain’t No More,” by Gladys Knight and Lenny Kravitz; and a gag reel.

Co-directed and co-produced by S. Epatha Merkerson (“Law & Order”) and narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, “The Contradictions of Fair Hope” expends a good deal of positive energy on a subject that barely constitutes a footnote in African-American history. The documentary opens with an explanation of how poor and minority communities survived the lean years that followed the Civil War by forming benevolent societies and contributing a portion of their meager earnings to a common pot. In this way, members could afford burials, medical help and security against emergencies. Founded in 1888, the Fair Hope community in rural Alabama was centered on its church and meeting hall. Members elected their own president and queen, who were in charge of seeing that each resident’s well-being was monitored. The “contradictions” noted in the film’s title derive from an annual rite, “Foot Wash,” during which prayer and debauchery exist side-by-side. A festival of faith celebrates both the “heaven side” and “hell side” of the Fair Hope Benevolent Society, by opening its gates to sinners and leading them back to God. Today, descendants of the society’s founders return to Fair Hope each year to partake in the ritual. Any comparisons to the Burning Man pageant are strictly coincidental.

1967 was a transformative year for Sidney Poitier and the Hollywood film and television community, which never had been particularly comfortable dealing with civil-rights issues. The color line had already been crossed on Broadway, where playwrights were free to produce plays and musicals with racial themes. Being in the most diverse and accommodating city in U.S., they weren’t required to acquiesce or pander to the racism of Southern and Southwestern audiences. It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that producers of television and movies even bothered to accurately depict interracial relationships, knowing they’d have to eliminate those scenes for conservative audiences. Twelve years after Poitier had played a punk in “Blackboard Jungle,” he would make a splash as a black teacher attempting to get through to a classroom full of white kids from the slums of London’s East End, in “To Sir, With Love.” Columbia didn’t quite know what to do with its British import, until it became a surprise hit in the boonies, at least, and the song, “To Sir, With Love,” became a huge hit. In “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” Stanley Kramer combined pathos, comedy and unabashed liberalism as a weapon against social policies that made it illegal in 14 states for African Americans and whites to intermarry. By contrast, “In the Heat of the Night” would deliver a slap to the face of the racists who refused to acknowledge that the times they were a’changing. Poitier plays a Philadelphia police detective, who, after visiting his mother in Brownsville, finds himself stuck after dark in a backwater Mississippi town waiting for a train that can’t arrive fast enough to suit him. The murder of an influential Yankee developer had occurred only a few hours earlier, so Mr. Tibbs – as he’ll soon famously be known – is immediately anointed prime suspect and hauled into the local jail. Rod Steiger plays the redneck sheriff who butts heads with him throughout the rest of the movie. A much-respected investigator, Tibbs quickly manages to clear his name in the crime, as well as those of the other scapegoats the sheriff hauls into the jail. His punishment for such good police work is being instructed by his boss to stay in Dogpatch, er, Sparta, and help catch the true murderer. This fails to please either Tibbs or the sheriff. For those who haven’t seen the movie or can’t recall the ending, I recommend another viewing of “In the Heat of the Night.” Strip the racial bark off of the tree and what’s left is an extremely suspenseful and satisfying police procedural, in which the crime-solving no longer is subservient to the racial intrigue. Poitier and Steiger couldn’t have been any more suited to their roles and you still can feel the heat, humidity and hatred that informed the conditions under which they were forced to work. It looks great in Blu-ray and the making-of featurettes are a must-see for fans of the movie. – Gary Dretzka

Our Nixon
Say what you will about Richard Nixon, he was never boring … or stupid. He’s certainly far better regarded in 2014 than he was when he was forced out of office. Today, Watergate must seem like an overfamiliar cartoon to young people constantly reminded of its evil implications by their parents and teachers. In fact, compared to recent revelations about government malfeasance, the Nixon years were a walk in the park. “Our Nixon” is comprised of original Super 8 home movies taken by Nixon’s closest associates, H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin, during the first five years of his presidency. We’ve all heard Nixon on tapes recorded secretly in the Oval Office. They’ve revealed a man growing more paranoid by the day, turning on his closest advisers and blaming Jews and hippies for his problems. These home movies are quite different. They were shot at occasions in which Nixon was at his most comfortable and charming. Not only did he know that he was being filmed, but he also trusted these men not to betray him. And, they didn’t. He was betrayed by the listening devices he ordered to be secretly installed in his office by a different close associate, who was one of only three people who knew of their existence. Even though none of the movies are particularly incriminating, they were confiscated by the FBI during the Watergate investigation and subsequently filed and forgotten. Now that all of our presidents, since Nixon, have learned to conduct business as if someone were eavesdropping, nothing that comes out of the White House can be trusted or considered to be spontaneous. Press conferences and daily briefings have become a waste of time for everyone, as well. Wouldn’t it be interesting, though, to hear the conversations that have taken place during the course of the last 20 years in the Oval Office or watch movies made only to be shown in the privacy of the homes of presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama? Most would be terribly boring, but occasionally something worthwhile would pop out. These remain as fresh and surprising as they were made, in the dinosaur days of personal technology. Included in the DVD package are nearly an hour’s worth of movies without an audio track. The highlight, for me, was watching a much-young Tricia Nixon and Princess Charles being introduced to each on the White House lawn. While there’s no sound, it’s clear that all of the people in the crowd are dreaming of a royal wedding in their future. If it weren’t for Watergate, Princess Di wouldn’t have had a chance. There’s also much material here from Nixon’s landmark trip to China. – Gary Dretzka

Where I Am
Capital Games
In 1999, a promising American writer was beaten nearly to death in the small town of Sligo, Ireland. Handsome, outgoing and openly gay, Robert Drake made the mistake of inviting a pair of local boyo’s to his room to smoke cigars with him. That’s what was revealed at the trial of the two men, who were convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. Drake doesn’t remember much of anything about that night. After coming out of a coma, in Philadelphia, Drake could barely recall being in Ireland. Although his memory and sense of balance are shot, and his motor skills don’t allow him to write, anymore, Blake has recovered to the point where the thing he wants to do most in life is return to Sligo, so that he can pick up the pieces of his puzzle in the place they were broken. Pamela Drynan’s inspirational documentary, “Where I Am,” follows Blake and his occasionally overwhelmed assistant on his cathartic pilgrimage, first to Dublin and then to the seaside community. The trial is long over, of course, but Drake is driven to learn more about what happened those dozen years ago and, more importantly, why. Instead of answers, “Where I Am” mostly suggests how his life might have played out if he’d survived the attack intact. It isn’t the most uplifting film of 2013, but the overall message is positive and forward-looking.

Capital Games” is an old-fashioned romance in which two attractive men, who should have admitted to themselves long ago that they are gay, make each other miserable on the way to, very possibly, the altar. The first one we meet is Steve Miller (Eric Presnall), an ex-LAPD cop who has decided to pursue a career in marketing, instead. He’s a take-charge guy, well-liked at work and completely ignorant to the fact that he’s gay. One morning, he nearly runs into a guy who’s making a bee-line for his parking space at the office. Mark Richfield (Gregor Cosgrove) looks as if he just stepped out of a Jane Austen novel, instead of a sports car. Naturally, they will be pitted against each other for a key position at the agency. It causes them to momentarily ignore the hormones taking hold of their buff bodies and plot a course toward professional disaster. After Mark makes the first move by inadvertently (perhaps) grabbing Steve’s leg in a fit of professional excitement, we’re led to believe that romance will conquer rivalry. As Steve machos his way through a team-building workshop in Santa Fe, Mark almost runs out of saliva drooling over his abs. After doing the deed under the desert sky, it looks as if nothing can derail the love train. But, of course, that would leave director Ilo Orleans with another 70 minutes to fill. Instead of acknowledging what’s already happened, their supervisor opens the next business meeting by announcing the engagement of Mark to, horrors, a woman. Not only is Steve shocked by the news, but he also becomes more obsessed with un-straightening Mark than competing against him for the promotion. As for the rest of the story, I will only mention the title to one movie: “The Graduate.” You can take it from there. “Capital Games” is available on a made-to-order basis through the usual sources. – Gary Dretzka

Rewind This!
The story behind the dramatic rise and gradual decline of the VHS video-cassette format has been told time and again, mostly, though, as it pertains to its bloody victory over Beta. The verdict, then and now, tells us that superior technology doth not a successful product make. It also caused consumers to hold off on committing to a single brand of satellite radio, Tivo, computer, telephone, HDTV, HD3D, DVD or Blu-ray before competing manufacturers settled on a single format. Like vinyl records, though, it’s tough to eliminate something that once was a key part of everyone’s lives. Josh Johnson’s extremely entertaining debut documentary, “Rewind This!,” goes to great lengths to demonstrate why and how VHS still matters, if not very much to most consumers. While acknowledging the flaws and quirks that come with the product, Johnson was able to find all sorts of people who still respond to what it represents. Aside from promoting the growth of porn, inexpensive children’s titles, straight-to-video movies and down-and-dirty genre fare, its many imperfections made it seem almost human … compared, at least, to the over-demanding corporate automatons at Sony. Before DVDs and DVRs, it served the public in ways that made entertainment affordable, portable, rentable and, finally, essential. You could exercise to it and learn how to golf from Leslie Nielsen and Dorf (Tim Conway). By 2000, it was the eight-track of records. Among the witnesses testifying in favor of the VHS are Troma legend Lloyd Kaufman; indie director Atom Egoyan; Jason Eisener, director of “Hobo with a Shotgun”; gore specialist, Herschell Gordon Lewis. It’s also worth remembering that the number titles released in DVD far exceeds those available in Blu-ray. The many special features include commentary, original animations, a special music video and bonus interview footage on laserdiscs, remix culture and “video panic.” – Gary Dretzka

How to Make Money Selling Drugs
GasLand: Part II
Greedy Lying Bastards
PBS: Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars
By now, one would think that Americans have learned everything they need to know about the illicit drug trade, including how large pharmaceutical firms profit from the recreational use of their products. Matthew Cooke’s incisive documentary, “How to Make Money Selling Drugs,” is neither a primer – as the title might suggest – nor an indictment of those who have profited financially from growing, transporting, selling or ingesting illicit substances. It doesn’t gloss over the dangers of taking drugs or try to convince anyone that smoking pot or snorting cocaine in moderation can’t be fun. What the film does best is describe how every U.S. president from Richard Nixon to Barak Obama has profited politically from a “war against drugs” that continues to grow costlier and less effective with each new year. Even as individual states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana consumption, Obama’s attorney general has felt it necessary to harass pot growers and legitimate retailers. Meanwhile, local police forces have become addicted to the money they make from confiscating the property of accused dealers and the prison lobby has done everything in its power to keep jails full and guards steadily employed. None of this should come as news to people who read newspapers on a regular basis. What has changed, but only recently, are previously unflinching attitudes toward the mandatory-minimum sentences handed out to people whose crimes might be treated as misdemeanors in other jurisdictions. Indeed, when Nixon began the War on Drugs, his emphasis was on rehabilitation, not punishment. Last year. Andrew Jarecki’s alarming documentary, “The House I Live In,” shown on a light on that issue and it was sufficiently powerful to be seen in Washington. Cooke isn’t reluctant to make use of celebrities to sell his story, which also is told from the point-of-view of former drug dealers and addicts. Among the voices are Russell Simmons, Susan Sarandon, Woody Harrelson, Eminem, 50 Cent, former drug “kingpin” Freeway Rick Ross and reporter/producer David Simon (creator of “The Wire”). It also adds Cooke’s commentary, extended interviews and more from Simmons.

In 2010, Josh Fox’s “GasLand” was one of the first voices raised against fracking, then a relatively unknown method of extracting natural gas trapped under the earth. Unfortunately, along with the gas came alarming new problems. By simply filming homeowners in gas-rich states ignite the water that flowed out of their spigots – or water flowing in creeks outside their homes – he triggered a controversy that’s far from settled. The same people who stood to benefit financially from leasing a patch of land to an energy company now faced losing their homes in the name of progress. Neighbors whose faucets didn’t leak flames began to pressure those who demanded restitutions so they could continue pocketing the money. They didn’t care if the machinery in their back yards ruined the views and values of their neighbors’ homes, as long as the checks didn’t bounce. Thus, the fracking war pitted neighbor against neighbor, county against county, states against states, environmentalists against people who promote the “clean” fuel, and politicians against people who voted for them. Ministers of oil-rich states have begun to voice their concerns about losses in revenue how it could impact relations between allies. The only thing missing is J.R. Ewing threatening to turn the Southfork into a gas station. In the ensuing four years, energy interests have worked very hard to discredit “GasLand” and rally politicians to their cause. The word, “fracking,” has become part of the lexicon and bipartisan support for it has grown, regardless of the very real damage it’s caused in some parts of the country. “GasLand: Part II” extends the debate, by challenging assertions made by executives in the energy industry and echoed by bought-and-paid-for politicians, including the current president. Without an exceedingly clear crystal ball, it would be impossible to refute all of the industry’s arguments. Certainly American could benefit from a seemingly endless supply of a clean source of energy as much as the rural residents who lease their land to the conglomerates. What has yet to be debated in any real way, though, is the possibility that we’d be replacing one devil with another. Cooke’s films remind us that Americans have been fooled before by untrustworthy representatives of special-interest groups and the stakes have grown even larger since “GasLand.” It adds deleted scenes and interviews.

It’s difficult to make a case for global warming when more than half of all Americans are freezing their buns off with each new polar vortex. That’s just fine with the deniers of wholesale climate change, of course. For the companies that profit from the use of carbon-based fuels, it isn’t enough to measure the polar icecaps or shrinkage of glaciers. As long as ice cubes aren’t melting in the refrigerators of their stockholders and swimming pools aren’t turning into saunas, global warming doesn’t exist. Or, at least, that’s the baloney the spinmeisters are trying to sell the rubes. Craig Rosebraugh’s “Greedy Lying Bastards” investigates the reasons behind stalled efforts to tackle climate change, despite consensus in the scientific community. It follows the people and organizations casting doubt on climate science and claims that greenhouse gases are not affected by human behavior. It’s always good to remember that it’s the “greedy lying bastards” who cry the loudest when their oxen are gored and only listen to reason when there’s money in it for them. The film contains interviews with scientists, industry experts, international delegates, as well as leading deniers.

Whenever a suspected terrorist is killed by a rocket fired from a drone, the media eats it up as if the home team had just made the playoffs. They dutifully echo the Pentagon line about making “every effort to prevent harming non-combatants.” That, of course, is code for, “Yes, some innocent women and children were killed or maimed in the attack, but, heck, our drones can’t see through walls, can they?” Given that western reporters aren’t generally welcome in the regions controlled by al-Qaeda or Taliban, it’s been next to impossible to verify or refute every report of civilian casualties. Even so, Robert Greenwald’s “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars” makes a convincing argument for media’s culpability in the expansion of the drone program. For all sorts of reasons, the press has been more likely to believe reports from the military over unhappy tribal leaders, survivors and other eyewitnesses, holding up physical and photographic evidence. The filmmakers made the trek to Pakistan, where they covered a press conference held to address the problem and into the field, where, among other, they spoke with a teacher, pharmacist and surviving relatives. One of the teenage boys, Tariq Aziz, we meet at the press conference, was soon thereafter targeted by a drone attack. Apparently, his only crime was driving members of a soccer team to a match at the wrong time. A Pentagon spokesman insists that Aziz was on a list of suspected terrorists, but he doesn’t say how he got there or if his alleged crime warrated the death penalty. The boy’s name matches that of Saddam Hussein’s former adviser and government spokesman, so, maybe, someone simply forgot to cross it off of the most-wanted list. Most telling, though, is the testimony of former U.S.A.F. drone targeter Brandon Bryant, who lost confidence in the program when he was mistakenly ordered to kill a young man walking on a mountain path. He’d already blown off his leg, a fact that couldn’t be ignored on satellite-delivered images sent to a facility in central Nevada. The victim may have been guilty of something, even if it wasn’t terrorism, so another rocket was ordered. Later, a survivor of a “double-tap” attack on a regular meeting of tribal elders makes the point that villagers have become frightened to walk outside during the day, because they don’t know when it’s their turn to be sentenced to death by someone half a world away. If “Unmanned” feels one-sided, it’s only because the Pentagon is winning the propaganda war and feels no need to further justify its actions. Various psychiatrists add their own perspective on how people who live in the path of these drones have begun to suffer the psychological effects of a constant threat. – Gary Dretzka

Semi Colin
This oddly constructed, if ultimately compelling documentary introduces the world to the largely unheralded British illustrator and graphic novelist Colin Murray. It’s even difficult to find mention of him on the Internet. Far more elusive and withdrawn than R. Crumb was considered to be in his prime, the 71-year-old Murray’s illustrative pinup art and erotically charged graphic novels only began to surface with the publication of “The Lady and the Vampire,” in 2000. He lives and works in seclusion in the small flat in which he was born and it takes a veritable eternity for him to finish an illustration or novel. Although it seems unlikely that Damien Lay’s “Semi Colin” actually represents his first interview, it’s true that Murray may be the most underrepresented artist of his stature in his time. Even so, it wouldn’t be accurate to describe him as a late-bloomer. He began drawing female nudes while still in his teens, but kept them secret from his mother and the public for decades. The easiest way to visualize the typical Murray subject is as a hybrid of Alberto Vargas’ pinup girls, Harvey Kurtzman’s Little Annie Fanny, Al Capp’s Daisy Mae, Crumb and Russ Meyer’s Amazonian wet dreams and, of course, the inimitable Betty Page. Murray’s women are built from the same physical template, but exist in a universe all of their own. They’re painstakingly drawn and exquisitely colored. Sexually, the women in his illustrations take as well as they give, often engaging in acts and exchanging fluids in ways most people would call pornographic. Murray doesn’t like the word attached to his creations, but, by definition, some definitely fit the description. The graphic novels also blend horror, humor and action into their adventurously erotic narratives. “Semi Colin” may confuse viewers expecting a documentary experience that matches the hype on its cover. Instead, we spend the first 10 minutes watching the artist wake up from a deep sleep and go about his daily routine. Even at his most loquacious, he prefers to let his illustrations do the talking for him. To get any more out of Murray, Lay would have needed a double major in film and dentistry. Extras consist of a director’s commentary and three-minute montage of Murray’s work set to composer Chris Morgan’s energetic film score. If you’ve always wanted to watch Terry Zwigoff’s bio-doc, “Crumb,” but have yet to do so, there’s no better time than alongside “Semi Colin.” – Gary Dretzka

Sunrise: Blu-ray
Fans of “Jeopardy!” probably already know the question to this answer: it won the first Academy Award in the category, Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production. If you guessed, “What is ‘Sunrise’?,” instead of, “What is ‘Wings’?,” you win today’s Daily Double. It’s a trick answer, only in the sense that the 1929 ceremony was the only one at which two pictures were handed the trophy as Best Picture. Technically, “Wings” was named Best Picture, Production. “Sunrise” and “Wings” both were excellent choices for tops honors. Just how good can be seen in Blu-ray editions of both pictures now on sale. With the visually innovative “Nosferatu” and “The Last Laugh,” F.W. Murnau had already changed the way audiences around the world watched movies. When he was lured to America by William Fox, he was given the money to create the most lavish melodrama of the silent era. It afforded Murnau and cinematographer Charles Rosher the time and space to create lavish sets and experiment with intricate lighting techniques. “Sunrise” tells a simple story, really, equal parts fable and morality play. Janet Gaynor and George O’Brien play the Wife and the Man, country mice who are about to be devoured by Margaret Livingston’s Woman From the City. Lacking the backbone to resist her vampish charms, the farmer nearly succumbs to her requests that he cause her to drown, sell off pieces of his property and move to the city to make her happy. At the last minute, however, he makes a decision that will change the course of all of the characters’ lives. Instead of gambling on an uncharted future with the Woman From the City, the Man reignites his relationship with his wife. The fickle finger of fate, alone, will decide what will happens next.

The sterling Blu-ray edition of “Sunrise,” from 20th Century Fox, makes it abundantly clear why several decades’ worth of critics have lavished praise on the movie. The original Movietone negative was destroyed during a fire at Fox in 1937, and no one has been able to track down the second negative used for the different cuts of the film. Even so, the Blu-ray looks great. The set contains two versions of the film: the previously released Movietone version, and an alternate silent version of the film recently discovered in the Czech Republic, which is of a higher visual quality than any other known source. The Blu-ray edition includes restored high-definition transfers of two different versions: the American Movietone version, and the silent Czech version. The former adds the original English intertitles, while subtitles are available on the latter. It offers both the original Movietone score (mono) and alternate Olympic Chamber Orchestra score (stereo). The commentary by cinematographer John Bailey is well worth effort to find it, as are the outtakes, which derive from a 35mm nitrate workprint kept as a souvenir by its editor, Harold Shuster. “4 Devils: Traces of a Lost Film,” includes Janet Bergstrom’s updated 40 minute documentary about the lost Murnau films, an original theatrical trailer, original “photoplay” script by Carl Mayer, with Murnau’s handwritten annotations (150 pages in pdf format), and a 68-page illustrated booklet with numerous essays and a new reprint of a piece by Dudley Andrew. – Gary Dretzka

BBC/Sundance: Top of the Lake
Fresh Meat
When Emmy and Golden Globe nominations were read off during early-morning press conferences, I wonder how many people said, “What?,” after the title “Top of the Lake” was announced eight times in the case of the Emmys and twice during the Globes’ session. The six-hour mini-series was shown on the Sundance Channel, which is one of the pawns that gets shuffled around when the bigger cable networks squabble over carriage issues. That “Top of the Lake” got enough attention from voters to be nominated in eight overlapping categories should tell you just how terrific a production it is. Elisabeth Moss, who’s been nominated several more times for her work on “Mad Men,” surprised everyone, I think, when her name was called Sunday night at the Globes. Created and co-directed by Jane Campion and Garth Davis, “Top of the Lake” is ostensibly a crime drama, but only in the same way that “Twin Peaks” and “Blue Velvet” are crime dramas. Creepy and overflowing with a sense of imminent dread, the movie is set along the shores of a beautiful lake in the mountains of southern New Zealand. The nearby town is largely populated by men who probably wouldn’t re-locate to a big city if they were paid handsomely to do so. The most dominant character among them is a Charlie Manson wannabe, Matt (Peter Mullan), whose brood is comprised of more brothers and sisters than anyone can accurately count. He owns the undeveloped land around the lake and is willing to kill anyone who attempts to buy property that spoils the serenity. The only people he allows to live there is a group of abused and abandoned women, who stopped counting time when 1969 turned into 1970. They live in shipping containers and support themselves by helping bag drugs for Matt and sharing sexual favors in and around town. They appear to worship a female guru with long white hair and a litany of spacey pronouncements. GJ is played to a “T” by Holly Hunter, who last teamed with Jane Campion on “The Piano,” also shot in New Zealand. Moss plays a police detective, Robin, imported from Australia to her NZ hometown because of her skills as an investigator of sexual-abuse cases. Robin’s handed a doozy when a pregnant half-Maori girl, Tui, is brought to the police station after being found wading chest-deep in the freezing lake. All that we’re told about the 12-year-old is that Matt purports to be her father and she’s scared to death of him and her thuggish half-brothers. As soon as Tui’s released from the hospital, she hightails it into the mountains around the lake, where she plans to stay until the baby is born. The more obsessed Robin gets with her case, the more it becomes apparent that she’ll have to get through Matt to find the answers to this very deep and dark mystery.

On its surface, “Fresh Meat” is a completely nutty horror flick, likewise from Down Under, where the combination of gore, sex, crime and horror already has a name of its own: Ozploitation. Even though I’m perfectly aware of the fact that Australia and New Zealand are two separate countries, with unique topography, individual flags and people who speak with slightly different accents, their genre flicks share plenty of similarities. On the lower end of the muy macho cinematic scale, they include a need for speed, mindless violence and heads as thick as a brick. Before Peter Jackson became one of the leading fantasists on the planet, he made his bones in the horror dodge, including its cannibalism subgenre. If flesh-eating is a recurring theme in the land of the hemorrhaging kiwi, it probably has something to do with tales of ritual cannibalism among the native Maori population. A long and storied history of such incidents is exploited in Danny Mulheron’s off-the-wall “Fresh Meat.” When a gang of escaped criminals breaks into an upper-middle-class home that is owned by a Maori family, the miscreants are in for a big surprise. As lead actor Temuera Morrison demonstrated in Lee Tamahori’s ferocious 1994 drama, “Once Were Warriors,” the Maori take shit from no one. While the family’s college-age daughter is off at school, majoring in becoming a lesbian, her parents and brother decide to embrace their roots. “We’re not Maori cannibals, we’re just cannibals who happen to be Maori,” explains Mulheron’s character. As messed up as the crooks are, it doesn’t take much effort for the family to get them in a position where they could be put on the night’s menu. The daughter sees in the female gangster a meal of a different sort. “Fresh Meat” is every bit as crazy as it sounds. The DVD adds behind-the-scenes Interviews with cast and crew. – Gary Dretzka

Plus One: +1
Dennis Iliadis’ follow-up to “The Last House on the Left” starts out like a slightly more mature version of “Project X,” but evolves into something more closely resembling a cross between “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and Shane Carruth’s debut, “Primer.” In “Plus One,” three more-or-less normal college friends arrive at a wild party at a mansion, just as a meteor crashes to Earth in the background. It causes the lights to flicker violently, while, otherwise, barely making a sound. By the time the partygoers notice the absence of sound and light, the electricity starts right up, again. For a while, anyway, nothing stranger than the blackout occurs. About 15 minutes later, though, clean-cut David (Rhys Wakefield) is invited to an upstairs bedroom by a blazing-hot blond (Natalie Hall), who isn’t at all shy about getting both of their rocks off. A minute or two after coitus, the blond moves her act into the bathroom for a shower, conveniently forgetting to close the door. As he’s enjoying the show, a couple of unnerving things happen: 1) a dead-ringer for the blond climbs into the bed with him and she’s as naked as the one taking the shower only a few feet away, and 2) David’s similarly attractive girlfriend, Jill (Ashley Hinshaw), walks in on the couple, immediately causing her to break off their relationship. This WTF moment would begin to repeat itself soon thereafter, among other partygoers and the paid go-go dancers. The doppelgangers appear to be mimicking the actions of their human host, only 15 minutes removed from the present. Not all of the duplicates arrive simultaneously, so it takes a while for everyone to catch onto what’s happening. When they do … well, let’s just say, the real fun begins. Iliadis gets a lot of help maintaining a frantic pace from composer Nathan Larson, cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. and editor Yorgos Mavropsaridis. “Plus 1” is the rare sci-fi/thriller that’s smart, funny, inventive and very aware of its intended audience. Bonus material adds a featurette on the special-effects, commentary and deleted scenes. – Gary Dretzka

A Chorus Line: Blu-ray
PBS: Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love
I doubt that the simultaneous release of “Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love” and the Blu-ray edition of “A Chorus Line” was a planned event. As coincidences go, though, this one isn’t bad. Among his many accomplishments, Hamlisch contributed the music for the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical and Broadway blockbuster. Richard Attenborough’s movie version laid an egg critically and at the box office. It has been argued, however, that, in an effort to be more filmic, screenwriter Arnold Schulman missed several of the essential points made in Michael Bennett’s story. The casting was less than perfect, as well. My guess is that some plays and musicals simply aren’t meant to be transferred to film. One of the things that happen to musicals when they’re re-located to a Hollywood sound stage is the creation of a new song or two for Oscar consideration. Here, “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,” “Sing!,” and “The Music and the Mirror” were deleted, in favor of new songs “Surprise, Surprise” and “Let Me Dance For You,” both by Hamlisch and Ed Kleban. Instead of a salute to dancers, “What I Did for Love” was turned in a love song by Cassie about Zach. That’s a lot of messing around with perfection. Less picky viewers should find something to enjoy in the movie adaptation, but, as Tammi and Marvin once opined, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.”

“What He Did for Love” makes a convincing case for Hamlisch being one of the great over-achievers of our time. Besides winning the Sextuple Crown of the entertainment world (four Grammys, four Emmys, three Oscars, three Golden Globes, a Tony and a Pulitzer), Hamlisch could carry on wonderfully articulate conversations while looking a talk-show host straight in the eye and playing easily recognizable melodies on the piano. It is an instrument that sometimes seemed to be attached to his fingers. Although his ego could bowl over a Humvee, allowances must be made for genius. Moreover, by all accounts, Hamlisch was an extremely generous fellow, who didn’t feel the need to call a press conference whenever he did nice things for people. That’s far more important than winning a Golden Globe. Needless to say, “What He Did For Love” not only is full of great music, but also the testimony of such remarkable artists as Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Quincy Jones, Christopher Walken, Woody Allen, John Lithgow, Lucie Arnez, Carol Bayer Sager, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Robert Klein, Melissa Manchester and Donna McKechnie. Writer/director Dori Berinstein makes good use of material from Hamlisch’s personal archives in this 85-minute “American Masters” presentation and another hour’s worth of bonus footage. – Gary Dretzka

Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey
Secrets of Ancient Egypt
Top Gear: The Complete Season 20
Bad Dog! Season 1
Have you ever wondered how much fun it might be to take a road trip with Edina and Patsy of “Absolutely Fabulous.” Forget it … it’s not going to happen. Short of combing through several days’ worth of “AbFab” reruns for the odd episode shot on location, watching “Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey” – or, her mini-series shot on the Nile and Mount Ararat – is the next best thing. And, you don’t have to worry about succumbing to secondhand smoke. In the three full hours allotted her, Lumley covers the length and breadth of the country, with stops along the way on several islands. The goal here appears to have been combining reports on Greece’s distant past, its troubled present and eternal appeal, to people whose only previous connection with Hellenic culture is the local gyros restaurant. It also includes Lumley’s fond memories of her first romantic visit, at 20, when she mistakenly went to the tiny island of Poros, instead of the more tourist-friendly Paros. Of course, Lumley visits such obvious haunts as the Parthenon, Delphi, Olympia and Mount Olympus, where she experiences things not generally available to tourists. She explores how generations of invading empires, cultures and religions have shaped Greece’s traditions and treasures. Everywhere she goes, from the Gates of Hades to the Albanian border, she introduces us to common folks and site-specific customs. Seasoned travelers will find as much to enjoy here as those who’ve yet to book their first trip to Greece. The DVD comes with a 12-page viewer’s guide, a map, an interview with Lumley, a timeline of Greek history and articles on Lord Byron in Greece and the Muses, as well as a biography of Lumley.

Also new from Athena/Acorn is “Secrets of Ancient Egypt,” a compilation of five separate documentaries about one of ancient world’s great civilizations and our continuing fascination with it. It is hosted by Egyptian archeologist Zahi Hawass and geologist Farouk el-Baz, who get us up to speed on recent discoveries in the fields of biology, archaeology, geology, zoology and Egyptology. Not only are we shown how undiluted DNA can be collected from newly discovered mummies, but also the genetic factors, including in-breeding, that led to the collapse of the empire. (The pharaohs were concerned about polluting their bloodlines, so they decided to ignore common wisdom.) We learn, as well, what was lost and gained during incursions by the Greeks and Romans. They were so impressed by Egyptian funerary rituals, in fact, that wealthier Greeks and Romans had themselves mummified and entombed. The chapters include, “Secrets of the Pharaohs: A Quest for Ancient DNA,” “Oasis of the Golden Mummies,” “Secrets of the Sands,” “The Sacred Animals of the Pharaohs” and “Realm of the Dead.” It adds a 12-page viewers’ guide with more historical background.

Top Gear: The Complete Season 20” is a compilation of the six shows shown on the BBC and BBCA this summer. Motorists who’ve made it the world’s most popular car show already know what to expect from hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, who are as funny as they are learned. Although “Top Gear” remains firmly rooted in British soil, its international popularity has prompted producers to extend the show’s reach. Here, the lads set out to race a car against an America’s Cup yacht up the coast of New Zealand; attempt to find the world’s fastest taxi; and blast across Spain in three “affordable” supercars. There are track and performance tests of the BAC Mono, Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTI, Renaultsport Clio 200, Jaguar F-type, Range Rover Sport, the new double-decker Bus For London and Mercedes SLS Black; investigations into the possibility of designing a car that can turn into a hovercraft; comfort tests for caravan enthusiasts; and new “reasonably priced cars,” in which celebrity guests will perform their fast laps. Among them are Warwick Davis, Charles Dance, Joss Stone, Ron Howard, Benedict Cumberbatch and Steven Tyler.

Animal Planet’s “Bad Dog!” could just as easily be called “Clueless Owners!” and its overall appeal would be very much the same. The show, which isn’t limited to canine hijinks, combines the off-the-cuff flavor of YouTube with the too-often-staged mayhem of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” The show documents just how far pets can push their owners and still get unconditional love, and some of them can be almost intolerably mischievous. None of them seem to mind being on television, either. Besides the many destructive and noisy dogs and cats, the pets include parrots, monkeys, a buffalo, an anteater and a freakishly orgasmic tortoise. Adults should have as much fun watching “Bad Dog!” as the kiddies, although it might be tough to explain what’s going on with the tortoise. – Gary Dretzka

Marvel Knights: Wolverine vs. Sabretooth
Today, there are so many different ways to enjoy watching our favorite superheroes and supervillains, it would be a shame to limit ourselves to just one. Lots of people around the world took time out of their surely busy schedules this fall to watch Fox’s live-action “The Wolverine.” Others, no doubt, followed their favorite character by reading the source comics or picking DVDs of the various fully animated TV series. Somewhere in between, fans could find – if they hadn’t already – perused the series of “motion comics” that are based on storylines in the comic-book series. In them, the “Marvel Knights” stories are told nearly seamlessly through comic panels, with a little something-something added for smooth transitions and voice- and soundtracks. All of the delivery systems are valid artistically and commercially. What differentiates the motion comics from the others are the brilliancy of the colors and tight focus on the faces and emotionally charged responses to off- and on-screen stimuli. In “Wolverine vs. Sabertooth,” we’re told, “the world’s oldest and deadliest grudge match comes to an end,” with writer Jeph Loeb and artist Simone Bianchi at the controls. Wolverine and Sabretooth have been locked in a grudge match that goes back longer than either can remember and it’s time to bring it to a dramatic conclusion. – Gary Dretzka

The Beast of Hollow Mountain/The Neanderthal Mac: Blu-ray
If the pair of titles in Shout!Factory’s matinee-ready double-feature were any cheesier they would have had their world premiere in New Glarus, Wisconsin. Being a blast to watch with the kids makes up for the horrific re-purposed gorilla costumes, toy monsters, pre-fab dialogue and sad acting in “The Beast of Hollow Mountain” and “The Neanderthal Man” … both of which look pretty good on Blu-ray, however. In the former, Guy Madison plays an American cowboy running cattle in Mexico. Besides having to deal with some nasty hombres, bent on diverting his cattle drive to their pens, the cowboy’s livelihood is threatened by a cattle-rustling dinosaur. Trouble is, the dinosaur doesn’t make an appearance until an hour into the movie. Apparently, in 1956, “Hollow Mountain” was the first feature film to combine stop-motion animation with anamorphic Cinemascope and color.

Made in 1953, “The Neanderthal Man” is about a mad scientist who not only has created a serum that transforms him into a prehistoric caveman, but also his cat into a saber-toothed tiger and his housekeeper into an ape-woman. The loon has been trying to convince the local Naturalists’ Society of his theory on the relationship between the size of the skull and brain, as it relates to intelligence. When it is rejected by the eggheads, his only recourse is to force his body to adjust to different geologic time zones. If his theory is correct and local yokels don’t kill him first, it would mean that Neanderthal man was equal, if not superior, to Homo sapiens. But, we knew that already, didn’t we? There are no bonus features. – 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