MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: Danish Girl, Boy, Intruders, Beautiful When Angry, Iron Sheik and more

The Danish Girl: Blu-ray
As the just completed awards season evolved, the biggest controversy surrounding The Danish Girl was the decision made by its distribution company, Focus Features, to promote the movie’s wonderful Alicia Vikander in the academy’s Best Supporting Actress category, instead of in the more prestigious and competitive Best Actress race. In fact, the rising Swedish superstar is on screen longer than the formidable Eddie Redmayne, who was properly placed in the Best Actor grouping. The strategy worked, of course, and went unmentioned in Vikander’s acceptance speech. If the brouhaha over the lack of minority nominees hadn’t erupted, someone might have made a bigger deal over the maneuver, which the Academy has rarely cared to challenge. As expected, 26-year-old Sacramento-native Brie Larson walked away with the Best Actress Oscar, for Room, and everyone walked away happy … except, perhaps, the other Supporting Actress candidates. Vikander will be back soon enough. Still, whenever the Motion Picture Academy lowers itself to the level of the Golden Globes, where The Martian was deemed a comedy-musical, instead of a drama, well, it raises eyebrows. Oscar’s presence in the ancillary marketing campaign – albeit, tarnished – should encourage potential viewers to take a chance on Room and The Danish Girl on DVD-Blu-ray or VOD. If neither picture performed particularly well at the domestic box office, Danish Girl is doing very well globally.) It will be interesting to see if Universal Studios Home Entertainment places advertising in Sunday’s second-season premiere of “I Am Cait” or finds a way to piggy-back off the critical success of Amazon’s “Transparent.” However much overhyped, Bruce Jenner’s public transition to Caitlyn Marie Jenner brought more attention to the struggle for LGBT rights and respectability than could have been achieved in a dozen marches on Washington or PBS documentaries.

Adapted from David Ebershoff’s best-selling novel by screenwriter Lucinda Coxon and director Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl is an intelligent and absolutely gorgeous movie. If neither the book nor the movie bear much resemblance to the historical facts, the film’s interwar European settings, set design and period costumes are splendidly rendered and the lead characters’ paintings are very easy on the eyes. As are Redmayne’s Einar Wegener/Lily Elbe and Vikander’s Gerda Wegener. In the book and film, Gerda is the loyal wife and fellow artist who supports Einar from the decisive modeling session in which he meets his inner Lily, through Lily’s first awkward relationships with men and the surgery that came with no guarantee of success. By choosing to focus on a romance that tested the limits of loyalty, patience and love, Hooper risked offending those of us who prefer the truth to pathos and unharnessed sentimentality. The real story, which has been obscured by time and distance, is extremely compelling, if not nearly as cinematic. What else is new? There’s certainly no discounting the drama of the sexual-reassignment surgery and Lily’s decision to undergo a relatively unproven procedure. Neither has Gerda’s struggle to be recognized as an artist of significance in a man’s world lost any of its relevance. Indeed, what happens in the next nine years in Gerda’s life – she died in 1940, at 54 – would provide ample material for a sequel, if anyone chose to tackle the subject. Also fascinating here is the depiction of German gynecologist Kurt Warnekros (Sebastian Koch) and his relationship to the work already being conducted in Berlin at Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Research. Anyone inspired to learn more about the early years of sexual-identity research should know that most of it was destroyed in 1933, when the Nazis closed the institute and Hirschfeld was able to escape to France. Gerda’s erotic paintings, illustrations and portraits of Lili currently are on display at Copenhagen’s ARKEN museum, with addition stops on the tour possible. Einar/Lili’s work, largely landscapes, is tougher to track down, but some pieces can found in public collections, including the Vejle Art Museum, in Jutland, Denmark. The Blu-ray, which nicely captures Danny Cohen’s imaginative lighting and camera work, adds “The Making of ‘The Danish Girl.’”

The Boy
Craig William Macneill’s second feature, The Boy, has several good things going for it, not the least of which are excellent performances by David Morse and Rainn Wilson, as diametrically opposed father figures to a 9-year-old sociopath. Morse plays John Henley, divorced father of Ted (Jared Breeze) and struggling proprietor of an old-fashioned motor lodge in an undefined mountain setting. His wife had her fill of trying to make a dollar stretch to the breaking point and split for Florida, leaving them both behind. The motel’s been in the family for a generation, or two, and John expects to hand it over to Ted when the time comes, whether he likes it or not. Odds are, though, there won’t be anything left to inherit, thanks to a distinct lack of tourist dollars. At first glance, John seems to be a decent father. Before long, however, his bouts with self-pity and booze begin to wear on Ted, whose assignments include sweeping road kill off the highway, feeding the chickens and cleaning up after the guests. One of the first clues that any boy is developing antisocial tendencies is a fondness for killing defenseless animals. One rainy night, Ted uses strewn garbage to lure a deer into the middle of the highway, where, he expects, a speeding car won’t see it in time to hit the brakes. The driver of that car is William Colby (Wilson), who’s escaping something that has something to do with the ashes of his wife carried in a box next to the driver’s seat. Although Colby isn’t looking for company as his wounds heal, he finds Ted’s willingness to help him get back on the road irresistible. For his part, Ted sees in the mysterious stranger an opportunity to hitch a ride to Florida. Every new visitor to the Mt. Vista Motel provides the boy fresh victims for his insipient sociopathy. And, yes, things do get ugly a hurry. In an interview included in the bonus package, Macneill admits to envisioning The Boy as the first installment in a trilogy about the evolution of a serial killer. That kind of thing works if Chapter One is as powerful as The Silence of the Lambs or, dare I say, The Godfather. A more recent example of misplaced chutzpah was evidenced in the dreadful Atlas Shrugged trilogy, which, dollar for dollar, may be one of the greatest box-office flops in history … times three. Even if The Boy looks like the first chapter in the Mad Max series, compared to that hot mess, I can’t see how a direct-to-DVD thriller could raise much financial interest in a trilogy. But, like I said, the performances are worth a look and the mountains – Colombian, as it turns out – are well photographed by first-timer Noah Greenberg.

Just as The Boy teases us with potential, so, too, does Adam Schindler’s debut feature Intruders, which was forced to change its better title, “Shut In,” to avoid confusion with an upcoming film starring Naomi Watts, Oliver Pratt and boy wonder, Jacob Tremblay. Beth Riesgraf, who was so good as the larcenous acrobat in “Leverage,” stars as a pretty blond, Anna, whose agoraphobia is so severe that she can’t even leave the confines of her spacious Victorian house to attend the funeral of her brother. In fact, she can barely accept the fact he’s left her behind. Part of her undesired inheritance is a bag full of money, possibly ill-gotten, that she tries to donate to her flakey Meals-on-Wheels driver, Dan (Rory Culkin), who qualifies as her only friend. Instead of going to the funeral, Anna is at home when a trio of low-life thugs decide to break into the house to steal the money. How they even know the money exists is a mystery to Anna – and us – until what should be the most obvious answer to the question is revealed. In the meantime, she proves herself quite adept at taking on the intruders on her own terms. Everything that happens after Anna takes out the first crook qualifies as a spoiler. What I can say, however, is that Intruders eventually reminded me of a cross between O’Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief,” crossed with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” or “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Reisgraf demonstrates her versatility as Anna evolves from victim to tormenter and avenging angel. How far is she willing to push her luck? Stay tuned. It the screenplay by newcomers T.J. Cimfel and David White isn’t able to sustain the story’s promise, well, it isn’t likely anyone will be bored or come away from the movie unimpressed by Reisgraf.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry
The nine words guaranteed to make anyone born after 1980 cringe are, “This is how we did it in the ’60s.” No single generation of Americans has proven to be more self-absorbed than the Baby Boomers, of which I was a member. Yes, we helped change the world for the better, if not always for ourselves, then our children and grandchildren. But, we’ve made it awfully difficult for anyone else to carve a niche for themselves. If Mary Dore’s extremely timely history of the women’s liberation movement, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, can be criticized, it’s because it too often feels self-congratulatory and, maybe, if I were 30 years younger, preachy. The women we become reacquainted with here deserve to have their story told and hard-won victories recalled. It isn’t until the final few minutes that we get to the crux of the matter, however. The same young women who’ve benefitted most from the feminist imperative – and, too often, reject the appellation, feminism – are the ones who stand to lose the most if the Supreme Court is allowed to swing even further to the right. In a very real way, the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade sparked a war that no one saw coming until Ronald Reagan sold what was left of his soul to evangelical activists. Like the appointment of Antonin Scalia, it went largely unchallenged by members of the so-called Me Generation. Now, it may too late.

What’s happening today in Texas, Mississippi and most of the other “red” states could spread to the “blue” states in a heartbeat. And, not just the right to have an abortion on demand or equal pay for equal labor, either. The threat can’t be exaggerated. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry rightly traces the women’s liberation movement of the 1960-70s to the Suffragettes, who, decades earlier, had refused to be dismissed or silenced. That the campaign for women’s suffrage became associated with the temperance movement would come back to haunt activists when Prohibition raised its ugly head. Unlike zealots in the New Left and anti-war movements of 1960s, who too often treated women as if they were slaves, with benefits, progressives came to realize that women’s liberation couldn’t be achieved unless they reached out to sisters of all ethnic, political, religious, economic and sexual orientations. Dore doesn’t ignore the deep fissures in the movement, either. In some cases, victories were won despite the static of dissent. The excitement and passion heard in the voices of the film’s witnesses is so palpable that it might inspire young women today to stand up for the rights they stand to lose in a worst case political solution. Another positive thing about She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is that it allows the daughters and granddaughters of the activists we meet in the film to see them when they were young, burning with passion and had the numbers … not simply as the prigs who bug them about wearing mini-skirts, heels and too much makeup to school. It wouldn’t kill sons and grandsons to watch it, either. The DVD adds deleted scenes that probably were difficult to edit out of the finished product.

Narcopolis: Blu-ray
One of the great conspiracy theories of the 1960s involved tobacco companies, anticipating the inevitable legalization of marijuana, bidding to trademark such brands as Acapulco Gold and Panama Red, which, at the time, were the marketing equivalent of Burgundy wine, Roquefort cheese and Scotch whisky. If the rumor wasn’t true then, it almost certainly will become true as legalization and decriminalization continues apace. And, of course, once Big Tobacco gets its greedy hands on the product, the next most likely thing to happen is the criminalization and taxation of home- and boutique-grown herb. Sound familiar? If not, pick up a copy of Thunder Road or google, “moonshine/NASCAR.” That worst-case scenario is the easiest thing to grasp about Justin Trefgarne’s overcomplicated debut thriller, Narcopolis, which imagines a not-too-distant future in which the manufacture and consumption of all drugs have been legalized, just as long as said drugs have been grown or dispensed by licensed pharmaceutical firms. And, of course, licensing breeds corruption. In the dystopian underground of 2024, an elite police unit, Drecks, has been created to keep black-market dealers off the streets and the drug companies rich. Elliot Cowan (“Da Vinci’s Demons”) plays a former cop and addict, Frank Grieves, called in by Dreck to investigate the identity of a corpse and source of the drug shot or ingested. Not surprisingly, it’s traced to a conglomerate, Ambro, so large its right hand doesn’t know what its left hand is doing … or, if it does, refuses to acknowledge it. The biggest question then becomes, if the establishment wants to protect itself from the truth, why hire someone capable of upending the applecart? Once the jig is up, all that’s left is a long chase that goes nowhere none too fast. On the plus side, the low-budget project looks better than it has any right to be, thanks to newcomer Christopher Moon’s Blade Runner-inspired cinematography and set/art/production designs that provide a legitimately futuristic environment. Also prominent are Jonathan Pryce (“Game of Thrones”), James Callis (“Battlestar Galactica”) and Elodie Yung (“Daredevil”).

Weaponized: Blu-ray
With hall-of-famers Tom Sizemore, Mickey Rourke and Michael Paré on board, almost any straight-to-disc movie is going to have a leg up on the competition. It hardly matters if the story doesn’t make sense or the director is in over his head, because some genuinely nutty stuff is bound to happen between the credit rolls. Weaponized (a.k.a., “Swap”) is no exception. Timothy Woodward Jr.’s action-heavy sci-fi thriller opens with a terrorist attack intended to remind viewers of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Private military contractor Kyle Norris (Sizemore) facilitates the development of a bio-mechanical weapons program by Professor Clarence Peterson (Rourke), who’s seeking revenge for the death of his son. According to the synopsis, the program allows soldiers to swap consciousness with an enemy target, giving them complete, if temporary control. While the program was intended to combat terrorists and safeguard American soldiers, its goals have been subverted. Naturally, when Detective Walker (Johnny Messner) unwittingly stumbles upon the program, he’s removed from the investigation by his captain (Pare) and a world of shit lands in his lap. I added that part. Frankly, I lost track of what was going on pretty early in the proceedings. Consciousness swapping is a new gimmick to me and I can’t say that it makes much sense. Still, watching these masters of schlock at work is worth the price of admission … barely.

The Sheik
The genius of professional-wrestling magnate Vince McMahon came to the fore in the 1980s, when he took a page from Stan Lee’s book and turned the WWF into a spectacle worthy of a Marvel Comics reunion. By turning a bunch of underappreciated ex-jocks and barroom brawlers into costumed superheroes and supervillains, then adding a rock-’n’-roll soundtrack to the proceedings, McMahon made fans of a generation of young people more attuned to Kiss and Metallica, than Dick the Bruiser and The Crusher. Igal Hecht’s extremely entertaining bio-doc, The Sheik, describes how a supremely talented Iranian athlete would find fame half a world away in an activity that resembles amateur wrestling in the same way that ballroom dancing approximates pogoing and stage diving. Born in Teheran in 1942, Khosrow Ali Vaziri represented Iran in the 1968 Olympics, as part of the Greco Roman wrestling team, before becoming a bodyguard for the Shah of Iran and his family. After his good friend, Olympic gold-medalist and national hero, Gholemreza Takhti, was found in his hotel room, dead of a not-so-apparent suicide, Vaziri decided to split for the United States. He became an amateur champion and coach, before joining Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association. After kicking around various North American circuits for several years, the Islamic fundamentalists who captured the American Embassy opened the door to eventual superstardom in the then-WWF. As the Iron Sheik, he taunted fans by spouting pro-Iran gibberish and waving the country’s flag. His trajectory was straight up, finally winning the championship in 1983 from old-schooler Bob Backlund. A month later, the Iron Sheik’s tenure would be overwhelmed by Hulkomania. His athleticism and showmanship allowed him to go from supervillain to superhero, until the fateful day in 1987 when Vaziri and his “arch-rival” “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan were pulled over by a New Jersey state trooper and busted for possession of cocaine and marijuana. His cover blown, the Sheik would lose his standing in the WWF and develop habits that threatened his marriage, career and health. Most of the second half of the no-holds-barred documentary is devoted to those dark years, from which he would emerge in the early 2000s as a pop-culture hero. What differentiates this film from a dozen others on the same topic and sports, in general, is the forthrightness of Vaziri, family members and 25 fellow wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who add their testimony on his place in WWF/WWE history.

Paprika: Blu-ray
Peekarama: Erotic Adventures of Candy/Candy Goes to Hollywood: Blu-ray
Peekarama: The Young Like It Hot/Sweet Young Foxes
Sensual Encounters of Every Kind
Sex and Astrology
Movies featuring prostitutes, call girls, mistresses, madams, pimps and other freelancers are dime-a-dozen and have been since the silent era. Those set within the walls of a brothel are fewer in number, if for no other reason than the reality of life in a house is less easy to manipulate than those of individuals caught up in the game outside of one. The truly legendary bordellos no longer exist and the prostitutes can in no way be manufactured from a mold or cookie cutter. Among the titles that stand out are Belle de Jour, House of Tolerance, In the Realm of the Senses, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Love Ranch, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Pretty Baby, Working Girls, Saint Jack, the French TV series “Maison close” and such documentaries as “Cathouse: The Series,” Chicken Ranch and Born Into Brothels. The hypocrisy of the American government quietly sanctioning the existence of brothels during times of war, while legislating them out of existence in times of peace, was noted in “Biloxi Blues,” “Catch-22,” “From Here to Eternity” and the History Channel’s “XY Factor: Sex in World War II: The Pacific Front.” Released in 1991, Paprika combined social realism with co-writer-director Tinto Brass’ personal memories of killing time in legal brothels in post-war Italy, instead of attending college classes. It was inspired by John Cleland’s “Fanny Hill,” published in 1748, but updated to 1950s Italy. The astonishingly gorgeous and naturally sexy Debora Caprioglio plays a country girl, Mimma, who, after the death of her parents, lands a job in a big-city brothel to earn money for her boyfriend to start his own business. Given that the only business for which he’s shown any skill is pimping, Mimma soon will be sharing her earnings with the cad and Madame Collette, who nicknames her Paprika for her physical attributes. She only anticipates working at the brothel for two weeks, but is encouraged to stay on and conserve her money. To call Mimma a natural wouldn’t be an exaggeration. With a few exceptions, she enjoys the work and adapts well to the relative luxury and security of brothel life. The patrons are relatively well-heeled, but she falls for an aspiring seaman with dreams of owning his own boat. Mimma’s personal ambitions lead her from one house to another, as well as benefactors of increasing wealth and privilege. Besides the debt Mimma’s been led to believe she still owes her first boyfriend, the underlying tension throughout Paprika is a conservative initiative to close the brothels and return control of the business to pimps and mobsters. In an entertaining interview, Brass explains how the new legislation, while detrimental to his social life, probably forced him to focus on a career in filmmaking. Considering that Brass would become renowned as an eroticist, obsessed with busty babes with big butts, he clearly found a way to monetize the time wasted in his college days. Paprika isn’t exclusively interested in promoting the pulchritude of Italian womanhood, as is usually the case with Brass’ output. The narrative also offers commentary on the hypocrisy of Italian lawmakers and the plight of working girls, who, after the Merlin Law went into effect, in 1958, were forced to work the streets, take on pimps, rely on their own resources for health concerns and weather the ravages of age on their own. If Paprika has a happy ending, it can be credited in large part to the gumption and inspiration of Fanny Hill. Part of what makes Brass’ films such a treat are the brilliant production values on display, including the lighting, sets, costume designs and many strategically placed mirrors. No matter how one feels about his sexual appetites, his slightly softer than hard-core approach to porn never lacks polish, eye candy or winking humor. And, it looks great on Blu-ray.

Vinegar Syndrome’s series of “Peekarama” double-features takes viewers of a certain age back to a time in American eroticism when some companies gave lip service, at least, to the idea that porn needn’t be peddled exclusively to the rain-coat crowd. Some movies were distinguished by recognizable narratives, sex-positive couplings and attractive actors. (Ron Jeremy didn’t always resemble an overgrown Chia Pet.) That, of course, would change as budgets were kept from matching the aspirations of the more creative artists. In 1978, shortly after the amazing financial success of Deep Throat suggested that all things were possible, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner teased buxom blonds everywhere by hinting of a worldwide search for the actress to portray Playboy’s cartoon goddess, Little Annie Fanny, in a live-action movie. That didn’t happen, of course, but it wasn’t for lack of inspiration. VCX beat Playboy to the punch, intentionally or otherwise, with Erotic Adventures of Candy and Candy Goes to Hollywood, whose star, Carol Connors, combined the attributes of Daisy Mae Yokum and Little Annie Fanny. As conceived by Gail Palmer, the former is a comic adaptation of Voltaire’s, “Candide,” by way of Terry Southern’s novel, “Candy,” in which the virginal farm girl is curious about sex, but is forced to learn all the essential lessons the hard way. In Candy Goes to Hollywood, our heroine no sooner steps off the Greyhound on Hollywood Boulevard than she attracts the attention of a predatory sleazeball (John Leslie), who convinces her that he should serve as her agent. This one is full of the then-current pop-cultural references, including Saturday Night Fever and “The Gong Show.” The sex scenes aren’t anything special, but everything else easily qualifies as comedy. It includes a guest appearance by the late punk performer, Wendy O. Williams. Also in the mix of both pictures are such Golden Age stars as Desiree Cousteau, Sharon Kane, John Holmes, Rhonda Jo Petty, Richard Pacheco, Don Fernando, Georgina Spelvin, Paul Thomas, Patti Cakes and Eileen Welles.

The second double-feature is from 1983 and, therefore, more buttoned down, as these things go, anyway. Both qualify as couples’ viewing, though. Otherwise, Bob Chinn’s The Young Like It Hot and Sweet Young Foxes are noteworthy for introducing the glamorous Native American actress and two-time Miss Nude Galaxy, Hyapatia Lee, to adult-movie fans and, boy, did she make an impression. In The Young Like It Hot, telephone operators at a small-town company turn to phone-sex when threatened by their boss with automation. In Sweet Young Foxes, Lee plays a college freshman home from school and bored out of her mind. Along with some hometown friends, none of whom look remotely young enough to still be in college, Lee uncovers a world of sexual delights she never knew existed. In addition to Lee, the casts include Kay Parker, Shauna Grant, Lili Marlene, Herschel Savage, Mike Horner, Joey Silvera, Cara Lott, Pat Manning, Eric Edwards and a 30-year-old Jeremy. All four movies have been scanned and restored from 35mm camera negatives and add original theatrical trailers. Interviews with director Bob Chinn and actor Bill Margold are included in the former.

As long as we’re strolling down mammary lane, here, there’s 1978’s Sensual Encounters of Every Kind in which several more future all-stars – Leslie Bovee, Serena, Dorothy LeMay, Jon Martin, the ageless Spelvin and ubiquitous Leslie – pass an ancient talisman from one generation to another. Possession ensures its owner will be granted an ultimate sexual fantasy. The plot device will be used and reused for as long as porn exists. The new 2K restoration adds an audio interview with Jon Martin. Co-written by Harold Lime (Amanda by Night) is pretty hot, actually.

Even if Matt Cimber hadn’t created the ridiculous 1980s TV series, “GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” or anticipated the mainstream porn revolution with the 1971 mockumentary, Sex and Astrology, his place in the show-biz hall of shame would be assured by the notoriety surrounding the Pia Zadora vehicle, Butterfly, which he adapted from a James M. Cain novel. Historians will immediately recall Butterfly as the movie most closely identified with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s greatest moment of infamy. It also was nominated for 10 Razzies, including two for Oscar-winner Ennio Morricone and one for Orson Welles. (To be fair, Cimber also directed recently re-released The Witch Who Came From the Sea, which wasn’t half-bad.) Anyway,

in Sex and Astrology, Cimber explored the erotic, humorous and downright unappetizing confluences of the constellations and human sexuality. It extends from toga parties in ancient Greece and Rome, to hippie freakouts in the psychedelic 1960s. Vinegar Syndrome brings it to home video for the first time, restored in 2k from newly discovered 16mm vault elements.

Kung Fu Trailers of Fury: Blu-ray
Common wisdom among moviegoers today holds that trailers not only are too goddam loud, but that they give away far too much of the plot. If the trailer sucks, it’s highly likely the movie it plugs will, too. The nature of the cinematic beast now demands that teasers sometimes appear a year ahead of a potential blockbuster’s release, serving best as trailers for trailers to come. Those savvy viewers who wouldn’t think of taking their seats after the trailers begin to roll know that the earlier a trailer is shown, the less likely it is that a scene they see will appear intact in the finished product. The same is true for the music and, even, a character. That’s because the first trailers for highly anticipated movies are finished before shooting is completed and long before the soundtrack has been recorded or special effects edited. Exhibitors who gather in Las Vegas each spring expect to be shown previews of films they’ll be showing at Christmas, if not some early footage and appearances by a star or two. Genre films not destined for holiday release are allowed to take their time. From Severin Films comes “Kung Fu Trailers of Fury,” a two-hour compendium of vintage previews for dozens of movies from the Golden Age of Hong Kong action flicks. What’s wonderful about them is the amount of martial-arts action and stunt gags represented in the trailers, leaving almost nothing to anticipate when the finished product finally arrived. And, for Western audiences, many of these pictures never did open. Among the many actors shown in various stages of their career are Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Lo Lieh, Sammo Hung, Angela Mao, Chuck Norris, Jimmy Wang Yu and Wu Tang, in such classics as The Way of the Dragon, Death Blow, Two Champions of Shaolin, Daggers 8, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Shaolin Wooden Men, The Story of Drunken Master, Enter the Fat Dragon and Brutal Boxer. There’s plenty more, as well. They’ve been transferred in 2K from a collection of recently unearthed 35mm reels. Blu-ray bonuses add “A Brief History of Kung Fu Cinema,” with martial-arts nerds Ric Meyers and Frank Djeng; commentary with Meyers (“Films of Fury”), Michael Worth (“The Bruceploitation Bible”), martial-arts instructor Greg Schiller and Rick Stelow of Drunken Master Video; “The Way of the Cube,” on the discovery of the original 35mm trailers underneath the stage of a maverick UK cinema.

The Bold Ones: The New Doctors: The Complete Series
Comedy Central: Drunk History: Season 3
Disney XD: Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales
Nickelodeon: Paw Patrol: Brave Heroes Big Rescues
With the release of “The Bold Ones: The New Doctors: The Complete Series,” Shout! Factory archivists have completed the cycle of groundbreaking series under NBC’s “The Bold Ones” umbrella: “The Lawyers,” “The Protectors” and “The Senator.” The network had also employed the wheel format for anthology series produced by Universal Studios, “The Name of the Game” and “The NBC Mystery Movie.” All of them reflected an effort by a new generation of producers to break from prime-time clichés and personality-driven gimmicks. Along with a mix of movie-tested actors and attractive newcomers, “The Bold Ones” showed new thinking in the various disciplines. “The New Doctors” chronicled the inner workings of the “prestigious” David Craig Institute of New Medicine, where Dr. David Craig (E.G. Marshall) and his assistants Dr. Paul Hunter (David Hartman) and Dr. Ted Stuart (John Saxon) tackled the most challenging of cases, frequently using cutting-edge medical techniques and “psychosocial” reasoning. At the dawn of the HMO era, doctors could afford the time to dig into maladies that today would be dismissed out of hand or passed along to another health-care provider. Despite some unrealistically soapy elements, the individual episodes – which ran for four seasons, from 1969 to 1973 — hold up pretty well today. Like most other network series of the time, women and diversity protagonists were limited to guest spots. (In “The Protectors,” African-American actor Hari Rhodes played a liberal district attorney to Leslie Neilsen’s conservative deputy chief of police.) Co-creator Steven Bochco was still a decade away from revolutionizing the industry with such series as “Hill Street Blues,” “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” “L.A. Law” and “NYPD Blue.” Directors included Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon), John Badham (Saturday Night Fever) and Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor). The 43-episode set adds an “Ironside” crossover.

I don’t know if the producers of “Drunk History” have considered adding an interactive home game to the hilarious Comedy Central franchise. It wouldn’t be difficult for amateur comedians/alcoholics to improvise on their own, but a collection of scripts would save a tedious Wikipedia search for themes. The winners could be awarded a free Uber trip to a local rehab center or AA meeting. The star-studded show is an offshoot of the “Funny or Die” web series created in 2007 by Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner. In each episode, an inebriated narrator struggles to recount an event from American history, while actors enact the narrator’s anecdote and lip sync the dialog. Season Three topics include New Jersey, Miami, spies, New Orleans, Cleveland, games, journalism and Los Angeles. Guests include Kat Dennings, Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Jaleel White, Greg Kinnear, Stephen Merchant, Justin Long, Jason Ritter, Tony Hale and Christopher Meloni.  Since January 12, 2015, a British version of “Drunk History” has been broadcast on the UK’s Comedy Central.

A comparison can be made between “Drunken History” and the five-part mini-series “Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales,” in that the entire “Star Wars” story — “Phantom Menace” to “Return of the Jedi” – is told through the subjective memories of R2-D2 and C-3PO. As far as I know, the beloved robots were stone-cold sober while recalling events in the mega-franchise’s history, as dramatized by characters (and backdrops) built from Lego bricks. A working knowledge of all-things-Star Wars is probably necessary to fully enjoy the mini-series, but not essential. An accidental kidnapping occurs while the droids are reminiscing at a victory celebration in the Ewok village on Endor. Some parents may be concerned that “Droid Tales” is nothing more than an infomercial for related products, but, sadly, such interlocking synergies have become a fact of life. At least, young fans should enjoy the action and writing.

Nickelodeon’s popular adventure series for pre-schoolers is represented by the six-adventure collection, “Paw Patrol: Brave Heroes, Big Rescues.” Their daring canine heroes are required to “em-Bark” on missions that take them through dangerous caves, bunny-filled woods, an icy tundra, under the waves and Adventure Bay, to prevent a dinosaur invasion.  and more adventures.

Capture the Flag
Enrique Gato’s computer-animated sci-fi feature, Capture the Flag, was made in Spain, about one of the great conspiracy theories in American history. No sooner did the Apollo 11 team splash down in the ocean than skeptics began to spread the theory that the mission was staged on a Hollywood backlot and directed for broadcast by Stanley Kubrick, whose 2001: A Space Odyssey has made NASA groovy. Capture the Flag revisits the paranoia surrounding the mission and others to come. Mike Goldwing is a “plucky” 12-year-old surfer, whose father and grandfather were astronauts. Grandpa Frank remains haunted by the decision that kept him from joining Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. Even that memory is being threatened by a billionaire, who wants to fly to the moon, mine its resources and steal the American flag planted there. In an effort to thwart the scheme and redeem his grandfather’s reputation, Mike, gramps and his best friends, stow away on the shuttle. While Capture the Flag could never be mistaken for a Pixar or DreamWorks production, scientific-minded youngsters should find something here to enjoy.

Dudes & Dragons
What I know about cosplay movies could be put in a thimble, with room left over for spare change. I can’t even tell the difference between a straight fantasy adventure and a parody of a fantasy adventure. The title here, Dudes & Dragons, sounds as if it could be a satire, but I think I missed most of the jokes. Then, I learned that it originally was called, “Dragon Warriors,” which, while more accurate, wasn’t nearly as promising. It has to count for something, though, that Maclain Nelson and Stephen Shimelk’s film won a top prize at the 2015 Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival. What was able to discern immediately was that all of the action was shot in front of a green screen, so, occasionally, it seems as if elements from other movies or podcasts are accidentally intruding on the characters in Dudes & Dragons. Despite the momentary presence of Luke Perry, I suspect that most male viewers will be attracted to the movie by the beautiful Lady Ennogard (Kaitlin Doubleday), who spends an inordinate amount of time chained to makeshift gallows in an outfit that reveals plenty of side-boob, if not nearly enough front-boob. She’s being punished for refusing to marry the evil wizard, Lord Tensley (James Marsters), who, in retaliation, releases a deadly dragon to terrorize the land and eliminate love. Only the intercession of a true Dragon Master can break the curse and neutralize the dragon. It gets far more complicated from here. At 122 minutes, there’s plenty of time for things to get uncomplicated. How many viewers will make it to the end is another question altogether.


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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