MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Blu-ray
It says a lot about the Hollywood establishment that one of the most entertaining, commercially successful, technically advanced and critically lauded movies of at least the last 10 years failed to be accorded an Academy Award nomination for something other than sound mixing, visual effects and sound editing. I don’t know what else a movie needs to do to be recognized by such an august body of self-satisfied dweebs, but, perhaps, the members drew the line at the bushel bucket full of Oscars thrown at “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” in 2004. Or, perhaps, members of the actors’ branch were attempting to encourage their peers to drop the fantasy routine and get back to performing serious roles. Like Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, a little bit of Gandalf goes a long way. While I’ll admit to harboring some of the same sentiments, I still can’t understand why the Academy, in its collective wisdom, couldn’t make a case for “The Desolation of Smaug” being honored as the tenth nominee for Best Motion Picture, if not one of the nine that did make the cut. Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen equally deserving titles as “Philomena,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and, for that matter, Peter Jackson’s mega-epic, so no offense intended, I’m sure. Granted, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is the second entry in a trilogy, which, itself, is a prequel to the”LOTR” trilogy. It can stand on its own merits easily enough, however. If Best Character in an Animated or CGI Picture had been added to the list of categories – along with Best Voice Actor — the Smaug dragon and Benedict Cumberbatch might have won the Daily Double.

Just for the record, “The Desolation of Smaug” finds Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield and a dozen dwarves advancing on Lonely Mountain to retrieve their kingdom and the stolen treasure contained therein. That they meet resistance from all quarters – perhaps, even, an auroch or two from “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – is only to be expected. These are some bad-ass dwarves, however, and Smaug will prove the greatest obstacle of all. The battle royal that consumes most of the movie’s final scene is a real hum-dinger. Even at 161 minutes, the story’s pace never seems forced or the story padded. Not being a Tolkien scholar, it would be difficult for me to say if Jackson’s narrative tweaks detract from or complement the author’s vision. Likewise, I can only speculate as to how “H2” looks in Blu-ray 3D. Given the attention paid to all other details, though, I suspect that it looks terrific. The Blu-ray adds a salute to New Zealand and an entire second disc devoted to bonus material, which will impress buffs but feel redundant to more casual fans. – Gary Dretzka

I Am Divine
My Fair Lidy
Although Divine (a.k.a., Harris Glenn Milstead) was a full-fledged celebrity by the time of his death in 1988, his sole exposure on mainstream American talk shows consisted of single appearances on “Late Night With David Letterman” and “Thicke of the Night.” For those of you born after 1988, Letterman was still at NBC at the time and Alan Thicke’s pop-star son, Robin, was only 7 years old. Today, of course, Divine would have a talk show of his own. The wonderfully nostalgic “I Am Divine” was made by the prolific show-biz documentarian Jeffrey Schwarz, who understands exactly how much contemporary pop culture owes to the dangerously overweight drag superstar, with or without John Waters. (If nothing else, he was posthumously recognized as the inspiration for Ursula the Sea-Witch in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”) The frequently bullied Milstead and Waters, Baltimore’s future “queen and king of bad taste” met during high school and began making no-budget underground films soon thereafter. It wasn’t until the 1972 release of “Pink Flamingos” that they became known outside the Baltimore demi-monde. (Thanks primarily to the infamous poop-eating scene, which still is capable inducing projectile vomiting.) Sixteen years later, “Hairspray” would endear Divine to mainstream audiences. In it, he played the twin roles of the protagonist’s mom, Edna Turnblad, and the segregationist media mogul Arvin Hodgepile. In the Broadway and Hollywood musical adaptations of “Hairspray,” Turnblad would be played by Harvey Fierstein, Michael Kean, Bruce Vilanch, John Pinette, George Wendt and, most famously, John Travolta. Just as the 42-year-old Divine/Milstead had reached the pinnacle of his success, however, even establishing a burgeoning cabaret act, he died of sleep apnea, complicated by obesity. Among the many celebrities and friends paying tribute to the Man Who Would Be Elizabeth Taylor are Waters, Vilanch, Ricki Lake (“he taught me how to walk in high heels”), Tab Hunter, Mink Stole, Michael Musto and his mother, Frances. The DVD arrives with commentary by Schwarz, producer Lotti Phariss Knowles and Mink Stole, as well as 30 minutes of deleted scenes.

Anyone who doubts Divine’s lasting pop-cultural legacy need look no further than Ralph Clemente’s “My Fair Lidy,” in which a working-class Florida youth embraces his feminine side to the consternation of his wife and redneck buddies. Desperate to raise the $400 needed to afford a dental procedure to fix his wife’s “snaggletooth,” the handsome young mechanic, Lidy, exploits his resemblance to Marlene Dietrich to win a prize at a local drag bar. He even learns to approximate her distinctive voice. While the drag performers support his new career choice, Craig Liderman-Lidy’s grease-monkey pals and intolerant wife are far less accommodating. When he finally figures out that his only true friends and family members are his fellow performers at the club, a giant weight is lifted off of his back. If the story is entirely predictable, it’s also easy to enjoy the drag acts and judge them on their merits. Christopher Backus, a dead ringer for Guy Pearce, is appealing as the Lidy/Dietrich, while the real-life female-impersonator Leigh Shannon makes the most out of the supportive Miss Sal. – Gary Dretzka

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones: Blu-ray
Only 31, native Texan Katie Featherston has made a career playing Katie in the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. You could say that she owns the part. With the new-to-DVD “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” and set-for-October “Paranormal Activity 5,” Featherston will have appeared in all six “PA” titles. Only soap-opera actors enjoy such longevity. Enough about Katie/Katie, though, because any more info would require a massive spoiler alert and she isn’t the key figure here. “The Marked Ones” diverts from the usual haunted-house format by going all Mexican-American on us. Here, the primary villain is a “bruja” – Spanish for witch – who does awful things in the first-floor apartment of an Oxnard duplex. When upstairs neighbor and recent high school graduate, Jesse, begins to investigate the strange goings-on … well, let’s not spoil anyone’s fun. Apparently, “The Marked Ones” was specifically made to take advantage of the franchise’s loyal Hispanic following. It isn’t so Hispanic – Latino, take your pick – that subtitles are required for gringo audiences, however. Neither does it exploit the target audience by throwing in tired clichés every 10 minutes, or so. As someone who’s gotten weary of the found-footage format, I found “The Marked Ones” to be reasonably chilling and acceptably surprising in its hauntings. On a cost-per-customer basis, it did OK in its theatrical release. Whether it can sustain a parallel “Marked Ones” franchise depends on how it does in its video afterlife, however. The Blu-ray adds only a handful of deleted scenes. – Gary Dretzka

Cavemen: Blu-ray
What happens when a first-time director and second-time writer combines the clichés of bromances and sitcoms into one vapid package? Herschel Faber’s “Cavemen.” The only things keeping it from drowning are the setting – L.A.’s increasingly lively Arts District – and the exotic Camille Belle, whose visual appeal is magnetic. As one might guess from the title, “Cavemen,” the story involves a loft inhabited by a small army of single guys and the occasional overnight visitor of the female persuasion. An eviction notice prompts the boys to think about giving up the singles game and settling down, but not without one last party. Among other things, it provides the terminally non-committal Dean (Skylar Astin) his final opportunity to seal the deal with his longtime “best friend” and confidant, Tess (Belle). She’s grown tired of playing second-fiddle to the aspiring screenwriter’s romantic writer’s block. If “Cavemen” hadn’t found a theatrical distributor, it could have been submitted to a network for consideration as a sitcom pilot. It’s that inconsequential. To be fair, however, the young and attractive cast tries very hard to keep the story from going belly up in the first half-hour. The nightlife and downtown scenes are well-rendered, as well. If better parts don’t start coming her way, my fear is that movie audiences could soon lose Belle (“The Ballad of Jack and Rose”) to a television series, not unlike “New Girl” and the eternally quirky Zooey Deschanel. There are no bonus features. – Gary Dretzka

Grudge Match
This completely unnecessary boxing movie stars Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, as a pair of over-the-hill fighters desperate to settle an old score. Essentially, Henry “Razor” Sharpe and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen are stand-ins for Rocky Balboa and Jake La Motta. The premise resembles the plot of 2006’s “Rocky Balboa,” in which the former champ comes out of retirement to fight a far younger Mason “The Line” Dixon. Rocky overheard some boxing experts argue about a video game, featuring the two men, and wanted to prove them wrong. In “Grudge Match,” the Kid remains pissed off that he wasn’t given a rematch in what was supposed to be a best-of-three series and still thinks he can beat Razor. He’s also upset that his foe stole his girlfriend (Kim Basinger). For his part, Razor sees the whole thing as an annoyance. Red-hot Kevin Hart plays the son of a Don King-like promoter, attempting to get Razor and the Kid to put on motion-capture gear for a video game pitting the two. One thing leads to another and they reluctantly agree to a main event. Adding to the appeal to younger audiences is the inclusion of the Kid’s estranged son B.J. (Jon Bernthal), whose mother jilted the boxer to go with Razor. If everything else rings hollow, the fighting scenes are convincingly staged by director Peter Segal. Also making her debut appearance is Basinger and Alec Baldwin’s daughter, Ireland Basinger Baldwin, as Young Sally. The Blu-ray adds deleted scenes, a pretty good making-of featurette, backgrounders, one of which stars Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfeld, and alternate endings and beginning scenes. – Gary Dretzka

Bayou Blue
Anyone who was completely bowled over by HBO’s “True Detective” already understands the power of the environmental ambience of southern Louisiana’s bayou country. Like so many other wilderness areas, the natural beauty frequently masks the most heinous of man-made crimes. I don’t know if those responsible for the HBO mini-series had seen “Bayou Blue” before setting out on their not dissimilar journeys – the serial killer in each story is deranged in his own unique way – but it’s entirely possible that they had. Where “True Detective” is a work fiction informed both by a case of so-called Satanic possession, revealed in 2005, and an 1895 anthology of horror stories about a fictional play, “The King in Yellow,” “Bayou Blue” is a documentary based on a very real criminal investigation. From 1997 to 2006, self-admitted serial killer Ronald Dominique raped and killed between 8-23 men in poverty-stricken Southeastern Louisiana. The case was broken after an intended victim escaped Dominique’s control and his identity was confirmed through DNA evidence. He is serving eight consecutive life sentences, which, we’re reminded, means that Dominique will never be eligible for parole. That much, at least, is indisputable and little pity need be reserved for the killer. One of the most salient points made by Alix Lambert (“The Mark of Cain”) and David McMahon (“Skanks”) is the lack of interest in the case shown by the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets, even after being alerted to its immensity. According to a local reporter, the Times dismissed it as being of “regional interest.” Even so, much of the film’s power derives from Lambert and McMahon’s willingness to locate the scenes of the crimes and describe how such evil could impact a community whose primary kinship is poverty. Dominique refused requests for an interview, but his recorded voice from police interviews couldn’t be more haunting. The scenes filmed at night, retracing the steps of the killer and his victims, could have come from outtakes of David Lynch’s “Lost Highway.” – Gary Dretzka

Black Jack: 35th Anniversary Edition: Blu-ray
Watching Ken Loach’s rollicking picaresque, “Black Jack,” I was reminded of the live-action yarns Disney has been churning out since 1950’s imagination-expanding adventure, “Treasure Island,” and continues to do so today with every new “Pirates of the Caribbean” installment. Adapted from the classic children’s novel by Leon Garfield, “Black Jack” looks far more formidable than it is. The thick Yorkshire accents, which frequently require subtitles, would challenge an adult, let alone a child, but the story compares to the adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. The most memorable involve children, forced by circumstances to navigate their way through a world complicated by scoundrels, villains, insurmountable physical obstacles, bigotry and elitism. More than anything else, however, these are stories that stir the imaginations of young people looking for ways to break the chains of conformity. A decade after the triumphs of “Kes” and “Poor Cow,” Loach’s career was stuck in the doldrums. Forced to confine himself to documentaries and TV series, he was given a too-small budget and too-short schedule to make “Black Jack.” Nevertheless, even after severe editing, it was awarded the first of many prizes the writer/director would carry home from Cannes. It also was nominated for top honors at the Chicago International Film Festival.

The story’s protagonist, Tolly, is a poor boy lacking the wherewithal to refuse the orders of his elders or to strike out on his own in a countryside still plagued by highwaymen, rebels and rogues. His first encounter with the notorious outlaw Black Jack comes when he ordered to keep watch on the coffin to which he’s recently by confined. Before being escorted to the gallows, the doomed man had inserted a spoon or pipe into his throat to prevent the rope from snapping his neck. He’s arranged for the undertaker to have his body placed in a coffin, from which he can escape when the timing is right. Of course, Tolly was as shocked by the man’s resurrection as anyone would be. Jack (Jean Franval) enlists the unwilling Tolly (Stephen Hirst) to act as his voice and errand boy, In turn, Tolly and Jack rescue a rambunctious girl from the privileged family that wants to commit her to Bedlam, so she won’t be around when her sister begins receiving suitors. Together, they survive the Dickensian streets of London and join a traveling circus, which takes them to other places where corruption, danger and highway robbery await them. Thanks to Loach’s obsessive attention to 18th Century detail, “Black Jack” is a lot of fun for pre-teens and parents, alike. The interesting thing about this Cohen Media Blu-ray is its status as a “director’s cut” version of the original. Financed in 2010 with a grant from the British Film Institute, actually shortened the movie by about 10 minutes. The Blu-ray adds commentary by Loach and scenes deleted in the re-mastering process. – Gary Dretzka

Don’t Ask Me Questions: The Unsung Life of Graham Parker and the Rumour
One of the more entertaining things about being a lifelong fan of rock ’n’ roll is reading the many lists of top albums and arguing about them afterward. Limiting such lists to 100 titles or even 500 is something of a fool’s errand. Although it isn’t difficult to find a consensus about the top 20 in any given decade or genre, there simply have been too many excellent-to-great releases over the last 60 years for such surveys to be meaningful. Then, too, far too many post-WWII African-American artists are routinely relegated to the R&B category, when, if fact, they had already invented rock ’n’ roll. I bring this up because the British rock ensemble and blue-eyed-soul specialists Graham Parker and the Rumour have done far better on polls than in sales. Their 1976 breakthrough album, “Howlin’ Wind,” and balls-out 1979 release “Squeezing Out Sparks” both made the cut in Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 100 Albums From 1967-1987. In 2003, “Squeezing Out Sparks” landed at No. 335 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Those are no small feats. Sadly, though, such recognition failed to make Parker a superstar at the only place they really matter. It also explains the title of the new video bio-disc, “Don’t Ask Me Questions: The Unsung Life of Graham Parker and the Rumour.” Parker’s biggest hurdle was debuting at a time when punk was about to explode, as were the better-marketed Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. The description, “uncompromising,” did him no favors, either. For the next 40 years, Parker (mostly minus the Rumour) kept on keepin’ on during concert tours and the occasional album, both supported by an enthusiastic Boomer following. Indeed, in the Judd Apatow film, “This Is 40,” Parker and Rumour played themselves as a touchstone memory for the characters. Michael Gramaglia’s affectionate rock-doc introduces newcomers to the songs that made Parker famous and fills in the gaps in time for his loyal following. It features interviews with Parker, various members of the Rumour, Apatow, Nick Lowe and Bruce Springsteen, among other recognizable names. – Gary Dretzka

Henry Jaglom Collection Volume 3: The Women’s Quartet
Some idiosyncratic movie buffs can measure their love affair with the cinema from their first encounter with a Henry Jaglom picture. They might have observed, “Well, that’s different … I’ll need some time to figure it out.” For almost all of his 40-plus years as an auteur, Jaglom has made a science of confounding, confusing and riling viewers. Critics, too, seemed to be divided on the value of such naturalistic portraits of the artist’s friends, collaborators and relatives. Having amassed a sizable “cult following,” Jaglom demanded their attention, whether or not they wanted to give it to him. No one put a gun to their head, forcing them to watch or comment on movies that, frankly, baffled them. If Jaglom seemed obsessed with Orson Welles, well, he was a better choice than most others he could have adopted as muse. Over time, however, the mountain would meet Mohammad half-way and the gap between viewers and the filmmaker would narrow dramatically. Because his movies are less concerned with plots and narrative, than, say, ideas and themes, it’s been easy for Rainbow Releasing and Breaking Glass Pictures to create individual packages based on them. “Henry Jaglom Collection Volume 3: The Women’s Quartet,” follows on the heels of “Volume 1: Love and Romance” and “Volume 2: The Comedies.” None of his films are completely devoid of love, romance, comedy or drama, but some fit more easily into certain categories. He doesn’t appear on screen in “Eating” (1990), “Babyfever” (1994), “Going Shopping” (2007), and “Irene in Time” (2009), but, because of his affection for the women cast in them, these titles are certainly among his most personal. They include a who’s who of actresses who’ve fallen off Hollywood’s radar screen, as well as some feisty newcomers. Tanna Frederick is Jaglom’s current muse, but also represented are Frances Fisher, Mary Crosby, Victoria Foyt, Mae Whitman, Frances Bergen, Victoria Tennant, Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Lee Grant and Toni Basil. All still have/had things to offer the industry and audiences, but, today, it’s the rare filmmaker who asks them to share it with us. – Gary Dretzka

Marilyn & the Senator
Jekyll & Hyde Portfolio/A Clockwork Blue: Blu-ray
Lust for Freedom
There are a couple of things to know about Carlos Tobalina’s 1975 porn epic, “Marilyn & the Senator,” before investing too much money and 121 minutes of time into it. One, anyone who thinks that the title refers to any of the brothers Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe will be disappointed. The movie’s original title was “Swinging Senators,” but unauthorized shots of the Watergate Hotel suggest later scandals, involving congressmen Wayne Hays and Wilbur Mills; Hays’ clerk/secretary/escort Elizabeth Ray, who bore a likeness to Monroe and leading lady Nina Fause; and Mills’ stripper/mistress, Fanne Foxe, who more resembled porn star Vanessa del Rio. The other important thing to know going into “Marilyn & the Senator” is that co-star William Margold’s hilariously candid commentary track is far more entertaining than anything in the movie. He holds nothing back on his opinions of the actors, directors and how he looks having sex. He even points out how Tobalina managed to get shots of the Watergate and an NFL game, which might have landed the production in a heap of trouble at the time. The plot, such as it is, involves a beautiful blond CIA agent, Marilyn, who wants to pay a married senator $10,000 to impregnate her … as if. Without the advantage of Viagra or Cialis, that’s no small trick. Arriving at the dawn of the Golden Age of Porn, filmmakers were still interested in giving their customers stories made within a traditional narrative framework. Fans would have to wait another couple of years, though, for actresses who actually knew how to act. “Marilyn & the Senator” arrives in home video for the first time in its full-length director’s cut, scanned from the 35mm camera negatives and restored in 2K.

Also from cult-film-preservationist Vinegar Syndrome comes “Jekyll & Hyde Portfolio” and “A Clockwork Blue,” both of which predate “Deep Throat” by a few minutes. They’re being presented as part of the company’s “Drive-In Double-Feature Collection,” as a salute to the less-than-prolific director, Eric Jeffrey Haims. While the former bears a passable resemblance to the source material, the latter should remind exactly no one of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.” “Jekyll & Hyde Portfolio” looks vaguely like a Hammer gore-fest, with some T&A and sadism thrown in for kicks and giggles. The print is way below par, which means it must have been unwatchable when picked up by VS for re-mastering. Somehow, by contrast, “A Clockwork Blue” looks fresh as a daisy. In it, a hippie-dippy researcher, Homer, travels through history, discovering the erotic secrets of the past. The sex is predominantly of the soft-core variety.

A 1986 Troma Entertainment pickup, “Lust for Freedom” was written, produced and directed by Eric Louzil, who would go on to make two sequels to “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” and “Bikini Beach Race,” best-known for a cast that includes Dana Plato, Ron Jeremy and Edgar Allan Poe IV. In her sole acting credit, the gorgeous undercover cop Gillian Kaites is implicated in the slaying of her boyfriend during a sting operation and is sentenced to prison. While in stir, she discovers a system that’s completely corrupt and brutal to the inmates, who seem to take an inordinate number of showers. “Lust for Freedom,” which also features the music of Grim Reaper, will be of interest primarily to women-in-prison completests. It comes with an interview with producer Lloyd Kaufman, conducted by Louzil. – Gary Dretzka

BBC/Discovery: Earthflight: The Complete Series
Winged Planet: An Earthflight Film
Nature: Ireland’s Wild River: Blu-ray
So many outstanding nature documentaries have been made for television in the last 10 years, it’s difficult to imagine how a new mini-series could be any more spectacular than the one that preceded it. Shown here originally on the Discovery Channel, “Earthflight” is going to be a tough one to beat, in that viewers are literally invited to share the same airspace with the bids. Narrated by David Tennant (“Doctor Who”), it is so brilliantly photographed, there are times when the images of birds in flight look as if they might have been rendered by the CGI jockeys at Pixar. Instead, individual birds have been outfitted with mini-cameras both for extreme close-ups and spectacular long-distance images. Easier to control are the drones, light aircraft and life-like dummies that capture the birds as they interact with other species on their pit stops. One dramatic example demonstrates how birds benefit from observing the hunting and feeding patterns of sharks, dolphins and whales, and benefit from their leftovers. The same thing happens when African vultures spot herds of migrating wildebeest and wait for the laggards to be killed by predators or break their legs attempting to escape them. It’s absolutely spectacular. “Earthflight” is divided into six equal parts: North America, Africa, Europe, South America, Asia and Australia, and “Flying High,” about the creation of the series and training of some of the birds. Parents will be every bit as impressed by the material as their kids, who will forever look at birds from a different perspective. “Winged Planet: An Earthflight Film” is a 90-minute condensation of the 360 minute series.

Ireland’s Wild River” is a presentation of the PBS series, “Nature,” shot in hi-def and detailing only one small part of our eco-sphere. Host and cameraman Colin Stafford-Johnson spent a year living on the Shannon River and tributaries, at eye-level with its particular flora and fauna. His explorations are undertaken in a traditional canoe, so as to make the fewest possible ripples and get as close to the shore as possible. Each new season brings different discoveries and the arrivals and departures of migratory wildlife. The photography, which isn’t limited to what can be seen above the surface of the water, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It’s almost as if the animals got so used to sharing their habitat with Stafford-Johnson that they forgot he was there. – Gary Dretzka

Mayberry R.F.D: Complete First Season
I live in one of many communities across the country that are referred to by residents as Mayberry. Even though our Mayberry is 25 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, it has no streetlights, parking meters, drive-through restaurants or malls. We live in the shadow of a mountain, occasionally are visited by bears and cougars, and there’s a park where concerts and socials occur in the summer. Like the TV series that bears the name “Mayberry R.F.D.” – a.k.a., Mount Airy, N.C. – next to nothing happens here and that’s the way the residents like it. The last time there was a hullaballoo, a developer had convinced a number of council members to break their pledge to constituents by approving a multi-level parking lot and mixed-use building on a vacant corner of the town square. The voters simultaneously vetoed the proposal and voted the bums out of office. In the otherwise tumultuous 1960s, American viewers invited “The Andy Griffith Show” and spinoff series “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” and “Mayberry R.F.D.” into their homes each week. The possibility that there was a place in this agitated nation, where nothing happened that couldn’t be fixed in 24 minutes, was tremendously appealing. “Mayberry,” which effectively replaced Opie and Andy, got a huge boost when it was announced that Sheriff Andy Taylor and Helen Crump would be married on the first episode. Griffith would make occasional return appearances, but none that directed attention away from star Ken Berry. His character, too, is raising an orphan son, and hires Aunt Bee to make life easier for them on the farm. Berry’s Sam Jones is so exceedingly nice and reasonable that Aunt Bee immediately becomes the show’s Eddie Haskell to Buddy Foster’s Beaver Cleaver. (He’s the older brother of Jodie Foster.) The 26 color episodes in the new “Complete First Season” collection have been given a fresh polish and, for a 45-year-old product, look very good. I think that “Mayberry R.F.D.,” even more so than “The Andy Griffith Show,” is what Republicans mean when they emphasize the “family values” idyll: no crime, no minorities, no rock ’n’ roll and nothing to do. – Gary Dretzka

Tracie Long’s Longevity: Staying Power
I find it remarkable that one of the things that’s survived the seismic transition from VHS to DVD is the “workout tape.” But, why not? If Jane Fonda’s still churning them out, some folks must still be exercising at home. Long associated with the exercise regimen, the Firm, whose sales reportedly have exceeded 100 million units worldwide, Tracie Long recently set out on her own. Her DVDs are targeted to women and moms, over 35, who share certain physical limitations and scheduling issues. In the almost immediate wake of Long’s “Focus Series” comes “The Tracie Long Longevity Series,” which is broken up into 50- minute workouts. “Defining Shape” is designed to increase lean-muscle mass, focusing on the lower body and shoulders. “Staying Power” is an “interval style” discipline that delivers a balanced total-body challenge, concentrating on overall cardiovascular performance. “Step Forward” targets women’s legs with a range of motions and tempos. The workouts are intended to “ignite” a participant’s calorie-burning power and define shape, using high-energy, total-body-strength workouts and training exercises that combine upper and lower body movement to increase strength, create lean muscles and burn more calories than isolated muscle training, alone. I’m exhausted just writing this. – 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