MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: Mustang, Where to Invade Next, Patty Duke, In a Lonely Place and more

Mustang: Blu-ray

Once upon a time, when the world was a much larger place, the Arabic and Farsi-speaking world was seen from afar as a land of camel caravans, wandering Bedouins, harems, men who resembled Rudolph Valentino and woman shrouded head to toe in elegantly embroidered robes. That perception would change drastically after first the oil embargo, the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and even more when the Taliban thought it necessary to destroy the Buddhist statues at Bamiyan and declare war on women’s rights under God. Today, we’re much more aware of the religious practices and cultural nuances in states where Islam is the dominant faith, as well as among Muslim families here. Who, for instance, had heard of honor killings and female genital mutilation before the ascension of Ayatollah Khomeini opened the doors to discussions of such extreme practices or knew that such atrocities occurred in the U.S.? If only Lawrence of Arabia was still around to defend western ideals in a hostile land. The thing to remember is that Hollywood no longer shapes the world’s perception of life in parts of the world once so foreign to us. We learning a lot from the home-grown movies shown at international festivals and artists nominated for career-defining prizes.

Nominated for a 2015 Academy Award in Best Foreign Language Film category, Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s and co-writer Alice Winocour’s heart-breaking coming-of-age drama, Mustang, describes what happens in a country, Turkey, where the dreams and hopes of too many girls are crushed at the onset of puberty. By now, stories of atrocities against women are almost commonplace in the international cinema, sometimes ending in shootings (He Named Me Malala), barbaric executions (The Stoning of Soraya M.) and genital mutilation (Desert Flower, God’s Sandbox). Controversies over Muslim women being forced to wear a hijab or burqas in public have migrated to Europe and the U.S. In Mustang, other forces are at play. School’s just ended for summer break in a village nestled along the cliffs of the Black Sea coast and the freedom the boys and girls enjoyed at secular institutions can’t be guaranteed under the roofs of guardians whose daily grind hasn’t changed much since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Five orphan sisters frolic in the shallow waters, oblivious to prying eyes of neighbors and any sense of shame. At one point, two of the girls are hoisted to the shoulders of male friends from which they can wrestle. What we see as innocent horseplay is treated as an immoral provocation by a neighbor of the girls’ uncle and grandmother. Embarrassed by the gossip, the grandmother berates and possibly strikes the girls off camera. When the uncle arrives home, he drags them to the nearest hospital, where all five are examined to see if their hymens are intact. The high-spirited girls barely know what to make of their elders’ behavior, probably because they have never received any sex education. The older girls already are aware of the urges that swell within their bodies occasionally and that boys experience them, as well. Their guardians have other concerns than rumor-mongering, though.

They know that village girls are worth nothing to the families of perspective husbands if tarnished before a wedding. The girls, even the youngest, are at an age when marriages are arranged and their values are established by people they don’t even know. All of them react differently when the oldest sister is assigned to a boy not of her choosing. It is at this point in the drama when the oh-so-religious uncle begins to make his midnight creeps outside their bedrooms and absent the new bride’s protective eye. Sexual abuse may not be condoned in the holy books of any religion, but no commandment has prevented a determined pervert from stalking his prey. Here, while the grandmother seems aware of her son’s tendencies, she’s unable to keep him in check. The sooner the girls are married off, the saver they’ll be … theoretically, at least. Another wedding doesn’t go so well, causing the remaining virgins to panic. Ergüven effectively disguises her intentions for their future, allowing the girls to muster the strength and moxie they have left to concoct a survival plan. One of the points the Ankara native makes clear is the difference between life for girls and women in the rural villages and those in Istanbul. It also applies to the women hired to teach girls in these areas, especially those looking for role models. Mustang is an exceptional movie, especially for a first-timer, neither as brutal and upsetting as it could have been nor completely devoid of humor. The girls and their grandmother are allowed to maintain their individual personalities and quirks, and several of the male characters demonstrate they aren’t stuck in the 18th Century. Things are pretty fragile right now in Turkey and no one can say with any certainty what the future holds for the people we meet in the movie. The Blu-ray adds Ergüven’s similarly impressive short, “A Drop of Water”; interviews with the giddy teen actors at Cannes; a 16-page Special Edition collectible booklet; and soundtrack download.

Where to Invade Next: Blu-ray

If Donald Trump really wants to make America great again, as he continually asks us to believe, it means that the presumptive Republican torch-bearer, 1) doesn’t consider the U.S. to be as great as most of us assume it still is, and 2) he has something up his sleeve more constructive than building a wall along the entirety of our border with Mexico, eliminating health-care benefits for all citizens and getting Rosie O’Donnell to lose weight. Say what you will about documentarian Michael Moore and his confrontational methodology, but in Where to Invade Next, at least, he offers several measured alternatives to the status quo Mr. Trump considers to be so inadequate. They’re not his ideas, really, they’re ours. The title refers to Moore’s tongue-in-cheek self-help strategy, which involves “invading” countries from which we can stake claim to programs, innovations and initiatives the U.S. could implement to make itself great again. The gag here is Moore’s assertion that all of the reforms originated here and were borrowed by such countries as Italy, France, Germany, Slovenia, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Tunisia. The initiatives, in one form or another, by workers, first, and later by industrialists who benefited from their implementation. Today, of course, corporations have turned their backs on their employees and their ideas, to meet terms dictated by the renegade state of Wall Street. In Where to Invade Next, Moore spends more time listening than preaching and inserting his snarky opinions into the discussions.

In Italy, he feigns astonishment when interviewing workers about their eight-weeks’ paid vacation and generous maternity leave. He asks French children to compare their school lunches to photos and descriptions of meals served to their American counterparts. Chefs, administrators and nutritionists explain how leisurely lunches, etiquette lessons and culinary diversity all serve the common good, just as they did before President Reagan’s USDA found a way to qualify ketchup and pizza as vegetables. The segment on the seemingly cushy Norwegian prison system might appear to viewers to be an apples-vs.-oranges comparison to penal conditions here, but not so the status of women in Iceland and Tunisia, drug laws in Portugal and progressive education systems in Slovenia, Germany and Finland. The arguments make sense and the statistics don’t lie. This kinder, gentler Moore will be recognizable those who follow him on the Internet or on talk shows, if not those so alienated by his grandstanding inBowling for Columbine, Sicko, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Roger & Me. It can be argued that Moore cherry-picks his examples in the doc, knowing that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to social reforms. Then, too, Where to Invade Next was made before the current refugee crisis and explosion of racism in Europe. Even so, Moore offers more alternatives to our current doldrums in two hours than the presidential hopefuls did in the entirety of the Republican and Democratic primary season. It’s funny, though, that the pressing issue of who can use which bathrooms wasn’t addressed, even once.

I Know a Woman Like That

I have no idea why it’s taken Elaine and Virginia Madsen’s celebratory documentary, I Know a Woman Like That, seven years to find a home outside festivals and private screenings. Nor, why its release on DVD comes two days after Mother’s Day, instead of several days before the holiday. In lieu of flowers and chocolates, it would have made a lovely gift for mothers and daughters of a certain age and older. The title derives from a comment made by Elaine to her Oscar-nominated daughter, after a glowing salute to an elderly woman of accomplishment in Chicago. Mom mentioned how nice it was to attend events honoring “women like that” and that she hopes Virginia will meet some. She replied, “I do know a woman like that.” Elaine parlayed that compliment into this film, in which 17 “exceptional and vigorous women … share an extraordinary attitude about how to live the upper decades of one’s life.” The wide-ranging and conversational interviews benefit from taking place in casual settings and absent any agenda, hidden or otherwise. Some of the women, who range in age from their 60s to their 90s, are instantly recognizable — Gloria Steinem, Lauren Hutton, Eartha Kitt and Rita Moreno – while others will require some prodding, including Evanston Mayor Lorraine Morton, restaurateur Elaine Kaufman, actor Olive McQueen and author Maxine Hong Kingston. The subject matter takes us from accomplishments and expectations, to maintaining beauty and sexual relations. The one thing that isn’t mentioned is retirement, which, of course, may have negative connotations for women of means and quite another for those whose working lives were far less fulfilling.

You’ll Like My Mother: Blu-ray

Symptoms: Blu-ray
The same question raised about I Know a Woman Like That’s post-Mother’s Day release applies for the folks at Scream Factory with You’ll Like My Mother. This year, the designated date for the holiday – the second Sunday in May – arrived earlier than usual, possibly causing the distributors of these mom-centric pictures to be blindsided. No matter, there’s a better excuse for picking upYou’ll Like My Mother than timing purchases to the happenstance of holidays. Its star, Patty Duke, died on March 29, at the too-early age of 69. A true star of stage, screen and television, Duke was only 16 when she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in her first major starring role, as Helen Keller, in the The Miracle Worker. She had originated the role on Broadway, opposite Anne Bancroft, but only after appearing in a string of made-for-TV movies and anthologies. In what some observers probably considered to be a lateral move, Duke almost immediately switched gears to play twin cousins – one urbane, the other more free-wheeling – for three years, on “The Patty Duke Show.” (Her TV father, William Schallert, died this week, at 93.) Although her identification as a kooky teen never completely was erased, the New York native tried mightily to demonstrate her range in such pictures as Valley of the Dolls,Deadly Harvest and My Sweet Charlie, whose director, Lamont Johnson, would call on her again in You’ll Like My Mother. Set in the middle of a blizzard in northern Minnesota, the taut psychodrama plays out almost exclusively inside a grandly designed mansion populated with nut jobs. Duke portrays the very pregnant Francesca Kinsolving, whose arrival at her dead husband’s boyhood home is greeted with something approximating fear and loathing. This, despite his titular claim, “You’ll like my mother.” Rosemary Murphy (To Kill a Mockingbird) can’t wait for the snow to clear to be rid of the interloper, no matter that Francesca is carrying her grandchild. There’s something desperately wrong, as well, with the other two occupants, represented by Sian Barbara Allen and Richard Thomas (“The Waltons”). The unraveling of the mystery is neatly handled by Johnson, although kudos should also be accorded the set designers, who turn the stately home into an elegantly appointed house of horror. (A few years later, a horrible double murder would take place in the same Glensheen Mansion used in the movie.) I can’t recall if any of Duke’s obits or appreciations mentioned You’ll Like My Mother, but, if not, it’s no reflection on her performance. Fans and genre buffs will be happy to find the sparkling new Blu-ray editions, which add lengthy new interviews with actors Thomas and Allen, who would become lovers during the production.

Catalonian genre specialist José Ramón Larraz (Vampyres) employs much the same claustrophobic setting – a once-elegant estate in the rain-drenched British countryside – for Symptoms (a.k.a., “Blood Virgin”), a 1974 creep show that earned its R-rating and then some. Thought lost for most of the last 30 years, it underwent an extensive renovation by BFI Video before being released here by independent U.S. distributor Mondo Macabro. The company is one of several new entities whose international focus on erotic horror has produced impressive results. Angela Pleasence (From Beyond the Grave) plays Helen, a fawn-like young woman drawn to the mansion for reasons that coincide with her only barely submerged lesbianism. She’s invited the much healthier looking blond beauty, Anne (Lorna Heilbron), to share a weekend filled with walking through the forest, rowing, cooking and, perhaps, some bedtime fun. Adding to the tension is groundskeeper Brady (Peter Vaughan), the kind of hulking presence who lurks behind trees along the pathway and outside kitchen windows at night. That the house is haunted, as well, by other things that go bump in the night – possibly including Helen’s former lover, Dora — becomes clear well before the storm cuts off the electricity for the first time. One needn’t possess a Ph.D. in gothic horror to know how things are going to play out in Symptoms. What sells Larraz’ film are the clinging comic-book atmospherics and his willingness to push the borders of exploitation delivered, at the time, by Hammer and AIP. If he appears to have been influenced by early Roman Polanski, Vicente Aranda, Jesús Franco and Belgian writer Thomas Owen, it can also be said that his work likely inspired an entire generation of suspense specialists, including Guillermo del Toro, Jaume Balagueró, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. The special features add the 2011 documentary on Larraz, “On Vampyres and Other Symptoms”; “From Barcelona to Tunbridge Wells,” a 1999 TV documentary on Larraz, part of the “Eurotika!”; new interviews with stars Pleasence, Lorna Heilbron and editor Brian Smedley-Aston. The retail version of this release will be preceded by a limited, numbered version (500 copies only) with exclusive extras.

In a Lonely Place: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray

Stripped of any necessity to meet box-office expectations and tease awards prognosticators, some movies are allowed to mature over time like a fine wine so as to impress future generations of imbibers, er, viewers. It explains why lists compiled by critics every 10 years, or so, rarely match those of largest-grossing films, even those prorated for inflation. Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place is a terrific mid-century noir that works as a crime drama, romance and inside look at how Hollywood’s rank-and-file suffer drunkenly for their craft. Made outside the studio system by Humphrey Bogart’s independent Santana Productions, Andrew Solt’s script took liberties with Dorothy B. Hughes’ source novel, sharpening some edges while ignoring other conceits. Bogart delivers a terrific performance, but his character is very different than the one adapted from the book. Because Americans aren’t big on nuance, or keen on seeing their heroes portrayed in atypical ways, In a Lonely Place didn’t impress at the box office or blow away the critics. That would come later. Among many other accolades, it was added to the registry of the National Film Preservation Board 57 years after it was released. Neither did Ray’s personal odyssey, as reported in the fan mags and trades, lend positive buzz to the marketing campaign. Blessedly, the new Criterion Collection release can be enjoyed and studied completely divorced from complaints about the adaptation, gossip surrounding Ray and Gloria Grahame’s tempestuous marriage, Bogie’s advancing years and premature comparisons to Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. If the production’s backstory remains fascinating, it’s the kind of stuff that’s best suited for preludes to airings on TCM.

Bogart is easily recognizable as the hard-drinking, chain-smoking and deeply unhappy screenwriter Dixon Steele, who, like everyone else in Hollywood, is desperate for an assignment that’s intellectually fulfilling and sells tickets, too. Dix resents the fact that he’s only been asked to hack out a workable screenplay from a trashy best-seller and keep his flashy embellishments to himself. He’s so alienated from the project that he recruits a hatcheck girl to come home with him one night to synopsize the plot, so he doesn’t have to read the book … really. Dix quickly tires of her presence and gives her some money and directions to the nearest cabstand. The next morning, he’ll be told that she was strangled and tossed out of a moving vehicle sometime during the night. Today, we’d say that Dix has serious rage issues and is off his meds, so anything’s possible. He doesn’t have an alibi or even a logical explanation as to why he’d pass up what appears to have been a sure thing. After being grilled in the local police station, Dix becomes acquainted with his next-door neighbor, Laurel Gray, who gives him the alibi he would need to go home. As played by blond bombshell Grahame, his neighbor possesses everything necessary to lower his defenses for a while. They become lovers, of course, but Dix’s tirades and paranoia over the open murder file not only become tiresome for Laurel, but dangerous, as well. The chemistry between them is incendiary and Ray, who would divorce Graham immediately after the production wrapped, milked every spark from it. The ending will keep first-time viewers and those only familiar with the novel guessing. The supplemental features include an original trailer; new video interview with writer and biographer Vincent Curcio; archival featurette with director Curtis Hanson; new audio commentary with film scholar Dana Polan; the archival documentary film “I’m a Stranger Here Myself”; and an illustrated leaflet, featuring an essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith.

Sheep Skin

Compared to the number of movies about vampires and zombies extant, werewolves appear to be an endangered species. CGI effects have helped make the transformations from man to beast cheaper, easier and scarier, but keeping up with the Joneses requires money. Sheep Skin, Kurtis Spieler’s first feature, is said to have cost $25,000 and, yes, there are times when it looks as if they ran out of funds prematurely. Instead, he made the smart decision to go heavy on dialogue and save the wham-bam action and special effects for later. As such, there are plenty of times when Sheep Skin more closely resembles a revenge thriller than a horror flick. In it, a group of friends in a punk-rock band kidnap a horn-dog business man, Todd (Laurence Malleny), who they believe is actually a werewolf hiding in plain sight. The group leader’s sister was murdered on the same full-moon night she accepted a date with the married jerk. Other young women disappeared under similar circumstances, only to be found ripped apart in the cruelest way possible. After the suspect is lured away from his office by one of the women band members, he’s taken to a warehouse to confess to his transgressions or be beaten to a pulp. Unlike the solidarity of the kidnappers, Ted holds firm that he’s only flesh-and-blood. When his wife shows up to find out what he’s doing out so late, things get more than a little crazy. At 80 minutes, very little time is wasted in extraneous narrative. The beast on the cover arrives at the right time and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Sheep Skin was adapted from Spieler’s considerably different 2007 short film, which is included in the bonus package. It also offers a Werewolf Reference Guide, stills gallery, commentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurette and separate B&W version of the film.


If there’s a word in the American vernacular misused as often as “awesome” and “iconic,” it has to be “surreal.” No one should be allowed to use it unless he or she is able to pick Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Joan Miro and René Magritte from a lineup of 20th Century artists. Being able to parse the difference between a tobacco pipe and a painting would suffice, as well. In Toyen, Jan Nemec pays homage to artist Marie Čermínová, who co-founded the Surrealist movement in her native Prague, survived the Nazis and the Communists, maintained artistic and personal relationships with artists Jindrich Heisler (whom she hid during WWII) and Jindrich Styrsky, and was an active member of the French Surrealist circle. In order to access the almost exclusively male modernist art world, Čermínová adopted the gender-neutral name, Toyen, while also creating paintings and drawings that were overtly erotic. Nemec’s essay captures much of Toyen’s style, including a belief that, “Surrealism becomes a remarkably good way to understand the Nazi Occupation and Communist eras.” Toyenmixes archival footage with re-enactments, poems by Toyen, Heisler and Styrsky, and, according to Peter Hames, in “Czech and Slovak Cinema,” “a visual palette and soundscape that penetrate the interior life of this enigmatic and great artist.” While some familiarity with 20th Century artistic movements would increase a layperson’s appreciation of the film, a reminder of Nemec’s own contributions to the international cinema also add to the experience. Described as the enfant terrible of the Czech New Wave, Nemec came to prominence with his 1964 debut feature Diamonds of the Night, “a largely wordless tale of two boys who escape from a concentration camp,” which was followed by the Kafkaesque satire, A Report on the Party and the Guests, and the Surrealist triptych, Martyrs of Love. His critiques of authoritarian rule weren’t appreciated by the ruling Communist Party hacks and he was forbidden from making any more of them under their watch. Unlike fellow exile Miloš Forman, who would prosper in the west, Nemec found it difficult to work within the confines of traditional formats. He would return to filmmaking and teaching after the fall of the Iron Country. Co-written by Tereza Brdecková, Toyen didn’t find distribution in the U.S. until picked up by Facets Video, which released it on DVD a week after Nemec’s death, in Prague, at 79. The DVD includes bonus features relevant to the artist’s career and art.

Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman
Although the deaths of Nemec, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Chantal Akerman didn’t receive quite the same amount of hyperbolic coverage as that of Prince and David Bowie – how could they? – they were duly noted in major newspapers and in appreciations published in other dedicated forums. Of the three, García Márquez maintained the highest profile outside South America and Europe, if only because he won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature, which rarely is a guarantee of fame and fortune. The Colombian novelist, short-story writer, film critic, screenwriter, journalist and statesman’s legacy includes the universally admired and widely translated “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” (1967), “The Autumn of the Patriarch” (1975) and “Love in the Time of Cholera” (1985). Not only were they acclaimed by critics, but they also were greeted with commercial success. Among other attributes, they popularized the literary style, “magical realism,” which injects supernatural elements and events into otherwise ordinary scenarios. Justin Webster’s highly accessible Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez does a very nice job defining the people, places and things that shaped a simple country boy’s journey from the “banana republic” of Aracataca – the basis for the fictional village, Macondo – and on to Barranquilla, Bogota, Barcelona, Havana, New York, Paris, Oslo and beyond. The influence of “solitude” in his work is traced to his parents’ near-abandonment of the boy when they left Aracataca for Barranquilla and left him with his maternal grandparents. They would introduce him to the art of storytelling and, yes, ice: a “miracle” found at the United Fruit Company store. García Márquez’ non-literary achievements would find him at the forefront of his country’s political struggles of the 1970s and 1980s and a previously unknown role in negotiations between Cuban leader Fidel Castro and American President Bill Clinton. In addition to Clinton himself, the documentary includes the testimony of former Colombian president César Gaviria; writers Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza; journalists Enrique Santos, María Jimena Duzán and Xavi Ayén; New Yorker correspondent and author Jon Lee Anderson; biographer Gerald Martin; literary agent Carmen Balcells; and siblings Aída and Jaime García Márquez.

Since the death last October of Chantal Akerman, hardly a month has gone by without some new or restored DVD release carrying her name. Despite being distraught over her own mother’s death – she was a Holocaust survivor, living in Brussels — Akerman had been working on a couple of projects, including her conversations with Marianne Lambert in I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman. At a mere 68 minutes, the film couldn’t possibly do justice to the Akerman’s nearly 50 years making movies, teaching and traveling the world, which, in part, explains the title. Akerman considered herself to be a nomad, even though the ties to her mother remained long and taut. She shares with Lambert her cinematic trajectory – albeit in a nonlinear fashion – using clips from Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai Du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), News From Home, The Rendez-Vous of Anna, Je, Tu, Il, Elle, South, From The East, From The Other Side, Là-Bas and last year’s No Home Movie. (Some newly reissued or collected in boxed sets.) With her editor and long-time collaborator, Claire Atherton, Akerman examines the origins of her film language and aesthetic stance. It’s pretty heady stuff, but nothing someone interested in learning more about her career should find intimidating.


BBC/A&E: War and Peace: Blu-ray
Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops
Transformers: Robots in Disguise: Season One
Newhart: The Complete Fifth Season
PBS: Ecuador: The Royal Tour
PBS: NOVA: Iceman Reborn
PBS: Yoga for the Rest of Us: Easy Yoga for Diabetes
Nickelodeon: Bubble Guppies: Fun on the Farm
Like most people who claim to be well-read, I’ve never finished “War and Peace,” a novel considered essential by many scholars and librarians. At a length of more than 1,000 pages, there’s a very good chance that I won’t get to it again in my lifetime. I don’t say that with any sense of pride, arrogance or xenophobia, however. In some ways, I greeted the prospect of watching the 354-minute BBC/Weinstein mini-series, “War and Peace,” with the same degree of trepidation. But, watch it, I did … in two sittings. While there’s no doubt on my part that I missed almost all of the key literary nuances and subtexts invested in the story by Tolstoy, I took away plenty of worthwhile things, perhaps, even, a desire to tackle the novel on a long vacation. As adapted by the reigning king of British prime-time soaps, Andrew Davies (“Mr Selfridge,” “House of Cards”) and directed by relative newcomer Tom Harper (“Peaky Blinders”), this “War and Peace” offers concessions to easily distracted viewers, without sacrificing the major themes or shortchanging the characters. The fine Anglo-American cast includes Paul Dano, as Pierre; James Norton, as Andrei; Lily James, as Natasha; Tuppence Middleton, as Helene; and, in other prominent roles, Greta Scacchi, Jack Lowden, Aisling Loftus, Jim Broadbent, Stephen Rea, Chloe Pirrie, Gillian Anderson and Brian Cox. There are dozens more, of course. We meet most of them in St. Petersburg, circa 1805, as the young officers prepare to join Austria in its crusade to stop Napoleon from taking control of Europe. They settle for a temporary non-aggression pact the older soldiers know won’t satisfy the pip-squeak potentate. The lull does give the young aristocrats a chance to polish their brass buttons, take dancing lessons and find suitable partners for a lifetime of luxury. The war proves cruel for everyone involved, however, especially the French lured to Moscow like a doomed mouse to the cheese in a trap. I don’t know if Tolstoy maintained a 50/50 balance between war and peace, but, here, I’d say the balance is tilted slightly in favor of romance and other palace intrigue, which, for the purposes of the medium, is OK. Some people might be curious about Dano’s casting as the idealistic Pierre, the illegitimate son of Russia’s richest man, but, finally, a real mensch. They might want to check out his work in Youth, Love & Mercy, Looper and 12 Years a Slave before passing judgment. The Brits, of course, appear to be of the manor born. The bonus features are short and insufficient to any understanding of the production challenges, but, after six hours of binge viewing, they’ll do: “From Page to Screen,” with writer Andrew Davies expanding on key parts of the writing process, including stage directions, and Tom Harper discussing staging the production; “The Read Through,” an inside look at the first stage of creating chemistry among cast members; “Making the Music,” with Michael Garvey, director of music, composer Martin Phipps and Andrew Skeet, orchestrator and conductor; “Count Rostov’s Dance,” in which choreographer Diana Scrivener and actor Adrian Edmondson quickly recall a captivating dance scene from the program; “Rundale Palace,” which examines the locations’ historical highlights; and “What Is War & Peace?,” another quick, playful piece in which the cast offers a few thoughts on what the story has to offer.

There’s something terribly sad buried deep within the levity on the surface of the shows featured in Time Life/WEA’s “Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops.” The smiling faces in the audiences aren’t at all dissimilar to those seen in 50 years’ worth of the beloved entertainer’s previously broadcast Christmas specials. The entertainers seem genuinely pleased to be in Hope’s company, whether they’re performing to full houses on bases a half-world away from the shit or others only a few klicks from the DMZ’s in Korea and Vietnam. The DVD features three specials, two from the Vietnam era and a never-before-released 1951 special from Korea. Although Hope takes some shots at the pace of the Paris peace talks, only a single question from a soldier reveals the hostility we’ve been told greeted the entertainer as the Vietnam war dragged on and men died unnecessarily. The years, 1970 and 1971, were still pretty hot, despite President Nixon’s occasional pullouts and ceasefires. In a very real sense, though, it’s hard to look at the faces in the crowds and not see the ghosts of Christmas Yet to Come. Too many of them wouldn’t be coming home. Then, too, we’ve since watched a USO show go terribly wrong in Apocalypse Now andApocalypse Now Redux, in which the fate of the Playboy Bunnies is dramatized in the aftermath of the chaotic liftoff. “Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops” encourages us to take the shows at face value, though. As corny as the jokes are, we laugh at them along with the audience members, who’d been deprived of any kind of television for months. There was no scarcity of skin mags in Vietnam, but the guys still go ape at the sight of Connie Stevens, Ursula Andress, the Golddiggers and various Miss Universes to which they’re introduced from the stage. It’s almost quaint. Most poignant are the shots of wounded soldiers carried to the shows on stretchers, while the cigar-chomping brass lounged nearby on cushioned chairs. The stops weren’t limited to war zones, though, as Hope made sure the men and women in far-flung bases and ships were entertained, as well. The 1951 special takes place on an aircraft carrier not far from the fighting in Korea. In its wisdom or lack thereof, the government had disbanded the USO after WWII due to lack of funds, but Secretary of Defense George Marshall and Secretary of the Navy Francis P. Matthews requested that the USO be reactivated to serve the troops in the soon-to-be-hellish conflict. It’s worth mentioning that the USO continues to provide entertainment for troops around the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2009, Stephen Colbert performed the last episode of weeklong taping of “The Colbert Report,” carrying a golf club on stage and dedicating it to Bob Hope’s service for the USO.

Shout! Kids Factory and Hasbro Studios have combined once again to bring the well-travelled characters from “Transformers: Robots in Disguise” to DVD. The 26 episodes of Season One lead off with a Cybertronian prison ship filled with Decepticons crash landing and unleashing its prisoners on Earth. Bumblebee returns to the planet he once called home and, with Strongarm, Sideswipe, Fixit and Grimlock, tracks the escapees down, in order to bring them to justice. Along with their new human allies, Denny and Russell, this unlikely team of robots in disguise must protect the Earth while preparing for an ominous threat suited only for a Prime. The DVD includes all 26 episodes and bonus features of the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International Panel, featurettes and animated shorts.

Comedy legend Bob Newhart returns as harried innkeeper Dick Loudon for a fifth season of “Newhart,” alongside his lovely, forever sweater-clad wife Joanna (Mary Frann) and such off-kilter friends and colleagues as handyman George (Tom Poston), yuppie-in-training Michael (Peter Scolari), spoiled and sassy Stephanie (Julia Duffy) and wacky brothers Larry (William Sanderson), Darryl (Tony Papenfuss) Darryl (John Voldstad). Only a comic genius could pull off even half of the off-the-wall setups for the 24 episodes included in the new package and it has three more seasons to go.

PBS’ “Ecuador: The Royal Tour,” represents the seventh in a series of “ultimate” or “royal” tours of countries conducted by seasoned host Peter S. Greenberg … 8½, if you count “Mexico: Mucho Mas” and “Maria Shriver’s California.” As the titles suggest, Greenberg is given extraordinary access to off-the-beaten path destination and clear sailing through crowded tourist spots and markets. If the schmoozing wears thin after a while, it pays off in treatment most of us could never hope to expect, including transportation to far-flung places by private jets, helicopters and sponsored vehicles. President of Ecuador Rafael Correa rolled out the red, green and liquid carpet for Greenberg as they swam with piranha in the Amazon rainforest, went whale watching off the coast of Manta, shopped like locals in a rural market in the Andes, returned to the President’s hometown of Guayaquil and the school he attended, visited a cacao plantation and went diving with sharks in the Galápagos Islands. Previous destinationsin the series included Jordan, New Zealand, Israel, Mexico, Peru and Jamaica.

Armed with the latest 3D modeling tools, “NOVA” returns to the scene of world’s oldest known murder mystery in “Iceman Reborn” Since the discovery of Otzi’s mummified corpse was discovered by hikers in 1991, PBS has established a beach head when it comes to his case and those of similar finds in Egypt, the Andes, Bronze Age bogs and Washington State. The Iceman found on a barren pass in Italian Alps, has been poked, prodded, drilled, detailed and re-frozen to the point where you’d think there was nothing left for the imagination. The latest modeling technology allows for the creation of a virtual clone, reborn with resin, clay and paint under the supervision of artist and paleo-sculptor Gary Staab. We also are made privy to new revelations about Otzi’s life and legacy, including surprising secrets hidden in his genetic code.

In PBS’ “Yoga for the Rest of Us: Easy Yoga for Diabetes,” veteran instructor Peggy Cappy demonstrates her signature approach in a daily workout for people struggling with diabetes or pre-diabetes. The disc is divided into seven separate segments, with exercises that can be performed at home, all at once in just over an hour, or a segment at a time. Contrary to what some yoga fanatics argue, the exercise discipline isn’t a sure-fire cure-all. People living with diabetes are strongly advised to observe dietary restrictions. Other installments in the “Yoga for the Rest of Us” focus on arthritis, pain management and the heart. The bonus features emphasize circulation, breathing and diet.

The new collection of “Bubble Guppies” episodes, “Fun on the Farm,” invite young viewers to join the stars as they explore the world of farming and meet new animal friends, such Bubble Kitty and Spring Chicken. Kids can also join in exciting farm events like the Cowgirl Parade. The five episodes collected “Fun on the Farm” are “Have A Cow,” “The Bubble Bee-Athalon,” the “Bubble Kitty!” episode “Whiskers & Paws,” the “Spring Chicken Is Coming” episode of “Springtime Adventures” and the “Cowgirl Parade” of “Rootin’ Tootin’ Wild West.”

42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection, Vol. 16

I suppose there are tens of thousands of these things lying around in warehouses and garages around New York and New Jersey, just waiting to be discovered, re-tooled and re-distributed to folks who’ve never dropped a token into a slot in a peep-show gallery. According to “porn archeologist” Dimitrios Otis, Vancouver’s Movieland Arcade may be the last place in North America, at least, that still provides booths for pervs to enjoy 8mm and 16mm loops, as God intended them to be shown. To call the ones shown in 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection, Vol. 16 old-fashioned is akin to saying Pong is an old-school video game. And, yet, here are 15 more “classic” loops – Volume 16, to be exact — with such recognizable stars as Linda Shaw, Lisa DeLeeuw, Erica Boyer, Marlene Willoughby, John Holmes and the ageless Ron Jeremy, which suggests that some of the titles may be as recent as 1978, at the dawn of the VHS revolution.

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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