MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: ET, Vietnam, Big Sick, Glory, Certain Women, The Hero, Hana-Bi, By the Time It Gets Dark, The Prison, The Flesh, Moderns … More

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: 35th Anniversary Limited Edition: Blu-ray, 4K UHD
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 40th Anniversary Edition: Blu-ray, 4K UHD
Smithsonian: The Real Story: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Star Wars: The Blueprints
Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars/Starship Troopers: Blu-ray, 4K UHD
I wonder how many kids and young adults have only watched E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind on screens smaller than a Mini or Fiat. There probably have been plenty of opportunities to catch a special screening at a plus-size theater with state-of-the-art visuals and sonics, but the temptation to watch something with less mileage probably outweighed the advantages of seeing these masterpieces the way Steven Spielberg intended. While you could say the same thing about dozens of other classic films now being re-released on 4K UHD, the arrival of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind within seven days of each other raises all sorts of nagging questions. Foremost among them: With Disney finally having joined the 4K parade, how long will it take for skeptics to hop on the band wagon? The investment wouldn’t be as great as adapting to 3D, which, so far, has proven prohibitive. Still, it’s hardly a drop in the proverbial bucket. While both sci-fi fantasies feature visitors from another solar system, most of what happens is rooted in terra firma and there’s nothing post-apocalyptic or dystopian about them. I can’t remember any ammunition being wasted, either. And, yes, both still legitimately carry a PG rating. (The PG-13 modification was introduced in July 1984.) The “Limited Edition” of “ET” may not represent a huge technical advance on the first-class 2012 Blu-ray edition, but the 4K upgrade is noticeable. And, while the extensive bonus package has been ported over, it adds premium packaging, a re-mastered CD soundtrack and a collector’s booklet, with behind-the-scenes stories and rare images from the archives. The “Close Encounters” gift set features illuminated packaging, which plays the iconic five-tone motif, and an expanded booklet with rare archival photos.  New bonus content includes never-before-seen home movies and gags from the set, as well as the featurette, “Three Kinds of Close Encounters,” with fresh interviews with Spielberg, J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) on the legacy of the film.

At the time of its release, most fans of Close Encounters assumed it was a work of enlightened science-fiction, informed by the 1947 Roswell UFO Incident and reports of alien abductions credited to crackpots and fantasists. After the movie became a huge hit, the mainstream media decided to take a cue from the National Enquirer and at least consider the possibility that thousands of UFO sightings couldn’t all be blamed on swamp gas and LSD. One thing we learned was that the U.S. Air Force had begun to take the reports as seriously as sci-fi novelists and screenplay writers had for decades. “Smithsonian: The Real Story: Close Encounters of the Third Kind” introduces us to J. Arthur Hynek, an American astronomer, professor, and ufologist, who acted as scientific advisor to the Air Force on Project Sign (1947-49), Project Grudge (1949-52) and Project Blue Book (1952-69). At first, Hynek served as an apologist for government nay-sayers and a paid denier of theories based on eye-witness reports. Eventually, though, he began to change his tune. In addition to developing the close-encounter classification system, he would become a consultant to Columbia Pictures and Steven Spielberg. He can be briefly be seen after the aliens disembark from the “mother ship,” bearded and with a pipe in his mouth, stepping forward to view the spectacle. Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center, adds his intelligence to the informative 45-minute documentary.

I originally planned on saving the monumental coffee-table book, “Star Wars: The Blueprints,” for a holiday gift-guide selection. Since we’re discussing intergalactic space travel, however, what better time to bring out the big guns than now? It was originally published on September 15, 2011, in a limited edition that weighed 35 pounds and contained 240 blueprints, 500 photographs and large-format illustrations, and 10 gatefolds. Most of the drawings of spaceships, buildings and robots had never been outside the Lucasfilm archives. Only 5,000 copies were produced by Epic Ink and individually numbered. The first 125 were signed by Academy Award-winning art directors Norman Reynolds, Les Dilley and Roger Christian, and carried a price tag of $1,000, while the remaining editions went for $500. (Try bidding that amount on Ebay today and see how far you get.) On April 2, 2013, “Star Wars: The Blueprints” was re-released at a more affordable price — $70, if memory serves – and with new cover art. They went out-of-print not long after they were published, assuring a ready market at online bidding and resale sites. Earlier this month, Epic re-released the 2013 edition of “Blueprints,” at the full list price of $79.99. Combined with Rinzler’s insightful commentary, the collection maps in precise, vivid and intricate detail the genesis of one of the most enduring and beloved series in movie history. The meticulously researched text gives voice to the groundbreaking engineers, designers and artists who created the most imaginative machinery and iconic locales. They include the rebel blockade runner, the Millennium Falcon, the bridge of General Grievous’ flagship and Jabba the Hutt’s throne room.

Without Star Wars and its sequel/prequels, it’s safe to say that the 20-year-old “Starship Troopers” franchise – not counting the 1988 Japanese adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s landmark novel, published in 1959 – probably wouldn’t have flourished to the point where a fourth sequel, Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, would be released just days after the Cassini orbiter bit the dust of Saturn. All the sequels to Paul Veohoeven’s marginally successful, if considerably more challenging live-action release, Starship Troopers, have taken the direct-to-DVD path to the marketplace. Fans will be happy to learn that the computer-animated Japanese-American production, Traitor of Mars, marks the reunion of original characters Johnny Rico and Dizzy Flores (Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer) for the first time since the original. The Federation’s enemy here is a mighty army of bugs – escapees from the Arachnid Quarantine Zone – that were introduced in Heinlein’s novel as communal beings from the planet of Klendathu. They’re among the few things that have survived from the best-selling book, which was first published as a two-part serial in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, as “Starship Soldier.” At the time, Heinlein stated that he used the novel to clarify his complex views on militarism, politics and his opposition to the discontinuation of nuclear testing. Traitor of Mars was co-directed by Shinji Aramaki and Masaru Matsumoto, from a script by Edward Neumeier. The Blu-ray and UHD bonus packages add “A Look Inside Bugs and Powered Suits,” “A Look Inside Story and Characters,” “Expanding the Universe,” a deleted scene and photo gallery. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, as well, with a new 4K Blu-ray edition. It contains vintage special features, including director and cast commentary, deleted scenes, 19 featurettes and screen tests.

The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick: Blu-ray
The most disturbing thing about Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s almost tortuously comprehensive “The Vietnam War” is learning how easy it would have been to avoid the whole bloody mess in the first place. That the number of bombs dropped on North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos mirrored the many lies told the American public emanating from Washington to justify our presence in South Vietnam. Pentagon personnel and elected officials, congressmen, journalists and presidents, from Harry S Truman to Gerald Ford, all contributed to the barrage of bullshit. And, most of the lies were told to protect the American public from the learning the true nature of the despotic regimes we would back in the wake of our triumph over fascism in Europe and the Pacific. Our parents weren’t told, for example, that Ho Chi Minh – an important World War II ally — asked Truman to allow his countrymen the same opportunity to pursue liberty as that accorded Americans in 1776. Instead, the “leader of the free world” chose to back France in its doomed effort to maintain control of its longtime colony. What isn’t widely known is how that definitively anti-democratic decision drove the Viet Minh into the parallel orbits of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, and how fear of losing France to the post-war communism convinced American leaders to back the wrong team. In 1956, we allowed South Vietnam’s hugely corrupt Diem brothers to block the election ordered in the Geneva Accords to ensure the re-unification of Vietnam. It would take the self-immolation of Buddhist monks in the streets of Saigon to convince strategists within the Kennedy administration to quietly support a coup by disaffected military leaders there. The regime would be replaced by generals every bit as greedy, intractable and bigoted as the Diems. If the media could no longer ignore Vietnam, they didn’t work very hard to dispute the lies fed them about our growing role there. After LBJ ascended to the presidency, he ignored his own skepticism about the chances for a U.S. victory in Vietnam by maintaining his predecessor’s policies. In the run-up to the 1964 elections, Johnson ordered his team to keep his constituents in the dark as to the degree to which our advisers to the South Vietnamese Army had become involved in the insurrection in the countryside. The Tonkin Gulf Resolution, enacted on August 10, 1964, gave the president authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia. Its passage, too, was based on fabricated reports from the region. The failure of the Operation Rolling Thunder bombing campaign to dissuade Ho Chi Minh and his increasingly militant aides from supporting the uprising in the south also was kept secret. It led to the increased deployment of American troops and the beginning of anti-war protests back home. The American people bought the lies, if for no other reason than patriotism demanded as much from us. We perceived ourselves as the cowboys who wore the white hats and had God on our side in every gunfight. Anyone who disagreed with that conceit – including college students and historians – was loudly denounced as being an agent of Moscow, Beijing and Hanoi. Young volunteers and draftees faithfully agreed to follow their fathers and grandfathers into battle, at least until comrades and relatives began coming home in flag-draped caskets or, on leave, perfectly willing to correct the record.

And, that scenario only takes viewers to Episode Six of “The Vietnam War,” covering the first half of 1968, a period as fateful as any since the Civil War. By the time Burns and Novick get to the Tet Offensive, the weight of 20 years of lies, combined with the horror of watching corpses and grotesquely wounded soldiers being carried off the battlefields is almost too much to bear. The French fought to maintain their right to profit from Vietnam’s material bounty, at least. By 1968, the sole goal of our fighting men was to avoid being killed or maimed, not stop international communism. So, why stay with “The Vietnam War” for another 10 hours? For the first time, we hear the voices of North and South Vietnamese who suffered even more than Americans in the war and witness exactly how much damage was inflicted on the North Vietnamese infrastructure, with no direct impact on the resolution of the war. The producers have collected documents, archival photos and film footage never made public here. American voices from both sides of the debate are heard, as well as those of dozens of remarkably unembittered Vietnamese men and women, but those stories, recollections and testimony are more familiar to us … if no less penetrating. The release of the Pentagon Papers, testimony of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and coverage of the My Lai Massacre left no excuses for Americans to continue to believe the lies. Still, enough voters bought Nixon’s baloney about Vietnamization and pledges to never to turn our backs on South Vietnam to ensure his re-election, in 1972. Nixon and Henry Kissinger both knew that U.S. resolve would end with the return of the POW’s, but still found excuses to bomb the North Vietnamese to near oblivion, anyway. It not only turned the world against the country once admired as a beacon of liberty, but it also produced dozens more captured airmen.

It should be pointed out that, while Burns, Novick and writer Geoffrey C. Ward frequently criticize the decisions made by American commanders and presidents, without ignoring the evolution of dissension among the troops and citizenry, they never question the bravery, dedication and heroism of the men and women who fought and died in Vietnam under our flag. That includes many of the ARVN soldiers who fought alongside them, but never were given credit for their resolve and successes. Neither do they demean the anti-war protesters or their occasionally self-serving reasons for avoiding induction. They do, however, leave room for regrets on the parts of the soldiers, dissidents and political operatives. (Jane Fonda’s ill-considered visit to Hanoi being the rare exception.) Reports of dissent within Ho Chi Minh and General Võ Nguyên Giap’s inner circle came as a surprise, as did the testimony of NVA, Viet Cong and ARVN veterans … men, women and children who’d witnessed the carnage. It made wonder how the Vietnam War is being taught in high schools, today, and if the students are being warned about the lies that fuel all wars. The invasion of Iraq, which inevitably led to the rise of ISIS, was based completely on officially sanctioned falsehoods, some of which were disseminated through the “liberal” press. We’ve been at war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria for several years longer than we were in Southeast Asia, and have repeated many of the same mistakes. Dissenters have been branded as anti-American and enablers of Islamic terrorists. If protests within the ranks isn’t as great, it’s only because the single most important lesson our leaders learned from Vietnam was to maintain an all-volunteer fighting force or entrust mercenaries to do the dirty work for them. Unlike Burns’ groundbreaking “The Civil War,” which challenged our way of thinking about that terrible conflagration, I suspect that reactions to “The Vietnam War” will be far more visceral. Watching the veterans describe their experiences in combat, based on the insane orders of their superiors – all the way up the chain of command — is nothing short of heartbreaking. The final chapter’s post-mortem is as sad as anything else in the series. The final irony, of course, is that Vietnam has adopted a “reformist economy,” complete with high-end resorts, world-class dining, casinos and talk of legalizing prostitution in tourist areas. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The Blu-ray adds a making-of featurette and two sets of deleted and expanded scenes and interviews.

The Big Sick: Blu-ray
Instead of pulling a quote from the many favorable reviews or promoting the contributions of The Big Sick’s excellent cast and creative team, the first blurb one notices on the cover of the DVD/Blu-ray extolls the participation of Judd Apatow,
“producer of Bridesmaids and Trainwreck.” The reasoning, of course, is to grab the attention of the same women who turned those uproarious R-rated comedies into big commercial hits, by dragging their boyfriends along for the ride. Hence, the quote below the title, “The funniest date movie of the year,” alongside the Rotten Tomatoes’ “Certified Fresh” seal of approval. Conspicuously missing are any references to director Michael Showalter and the awards-caliber writing of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, whose “awkward true story” it is… if loosely. (A photo of Karachi-born actor-writer-comic, Nanjiani, does appear on the jacket, along his co-stars.) Obviously, Lionsgate wanted to accentuate The Big Sick’s appeal to men and women – together or separately – and potential for an enjoyable night of cross-cultural laughs. That’s understandable, if more than a little bit misleading, in that the pathos written into the screenplay adds a bittersweet quality to a story that constantly teeters on the edge of tragedy and intolerance. Anyone who’s seen Showalter’s previous features, The Baxter and Hello, My Name Is Doris, would already know to expect something that combines comedy and drama in precise measures, while also capturing Nanjiani and Gardner’s unique personalities. Nanjiani plays Kumail, a Chicago standup comedian, who drives for Uber and performs at night. His traditional Pakistani Muslim parents continually set their son up with Pakistani women, whose parents are looking for Pakistani sons-in-law. Kumail goes along with it to please them, but is too busy with his career to consider marriage, traditional or otherwise. During a show, Kumail is gently heckled by Emily (Zoe Kazan), a decidedly non-Muslim woman in the audience. After the show he approaches her, and what begins as a one-night-stand soon blossoms into that “awkward” relationship. The first sign of trouble comes when Kumail learns that Emily’s been hiding a first marriage from him and the bruises have yet to heal. Then, Emily discovers a cigar box full of photos of women his mother wants him to consider as a potential wife.

Kumail takes them less seriously than Emily, who correctly understands that it’s Kumail’s way of hanging on to his traditional upbringing. Moreover, despite their love and compatibility, that she’ll never be accepted as a daughter-in-law and he’ll never sever his ties with his family to make it so. Not long after she breaks up with him, Emily develops a lung infection and must be taken to a hospital. Upon learning of her ailment, Kumail rushes to her side, a place she doesn’t want him to be. At a crisis point, a nurse mistakes him for next-of-kin and demands he make a life-or-death decision as to whether she should be placed in a medically induced coma with tracheal intubation. When Emily’s parents arrive, they thank him for making the right decision, but, like their daughter, dismiss him. Instead, he sticks around, imposing himself on them. Boisterous and demanding, the parents played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are polar opposites of those portrayed by Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff. In fact, they’re opposite sides of the same coin. Showalter sets up the rest of the movie with a series of questions: what will happen if Emily dies?; what happens if she suddenly comes out of the coma and survives?; will Kumail’s parents ever cut him some slack?; will he ever stand up to them?; will anyone pay good money to watch Kumail’s one-man-show? Unless viewers already are aware of Nanjiani and Gardner’s personnel odyssey, the answers are left hanging until the very last minute. What might seem inevitable, isn’t always so. It’s what makes The Big Sick such a satisfying investment of two hours’ time. Don’t be surprised if two or more acting-award nominations are accorded the movie. The Blu-ray package adds commentary with producer Barry Mendel, Showalter and the writers; a backgrounder with producer Apatow and cast members; a funny featurette on “The Real Story”; a panel discussion from the 2017 SXSW Film Festival Panel; deleted scenes; and outtakes.

The Hero: Blu-ray
Forced to choose between his mustache and voice, I’d have to say that Sam Elliott’s most distinguishing feature is the latter. In the 40-plus years since his breakthrough performance in The Lifeguard – OK, maybe, that came in The Mask – Elliott has only been seen fully shorn in a small handful of roles: including in We Were Soldiers, The Contender and FX’s “Justified.” The absence caused much consternation on websites dedicated to facial enhancements, where the 73-year-old Sacramento native’s appendage is genuinely iconic. Still, a great mustache neither helps nor hinders one’s ability deliver voiceovers or commercial boilerplate, Elliott has one of the most distinctive deliveries in the business. In The Hero, a movie that sometimes feels too much like a valedictory, Elliott plays a longtime cowboy star who supplements his royalties with studio and commercial work behind a microphone. Listeners can only assume his character, Lee Hayden, hasn’t shaved off the bushy appendage, which, since his last paid gig, has turned completely gray and shaggy. Hayden lives in the apartment above his dope-dealing friend, Jeremy, played by Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation”). In a neat coincidence, Offerman’s mustaches and beards have frequently been displayed alongside those of Elliott, Tom Selleck and Hulk Hogan. While sharing a joint, Hayden is introduced to one of Jeremy’s drop-in customers, Charlotte (Laura Pepron), who’s struggling to make a living as a standup comedian. In a textbook example of marijuana-induced kismet, Charlotte takes an immediate shine to the actor. Lee doesn’t accept it as such until a chance meeting at a canteen truck, where he invites her to be his guest at a Hall of Fame induction that might otherwise be a complete drag for him. I don’t want to spoil any of the fun, but the event takes on a completely new light after she slips him an Ecstasy mickey, causing his acceptance speech to go off the rails in a most delightful way. The impromptu performance quickly become an Internet meme, with more hits than the city’s casting directors can ignore. It isn’t that co-writer/director Brett Haley (I’ll See You in My Dreams) is a spoil-sport, but, without a couple of complications, Charlotte and Lee’s June/November romance would make for a very short movie. Here, one of the primary characters is given a life-threatening ailment and an estranged daughter, Lucy (Krysten Ritter), makes things uncomfortable for Hayden, as well. Elliott’s real-world wife, Katharine Ross (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), plays his former wife and Lucy’s mother. (It’s her first film role in a decade.) Despite some decent reviews, The Hero was accorded a release date unfavorable for melodramas aimed at the AARP crowd. It deserves a better shot in DVD/Blu-ray/VOD. The disk adds commentary with Haley and Elliott, as well as a photo gallery.

Certain Women: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray
I’m not sure how Kelly Reichardt’s new film ended up with Criterion Collection, a company known more distributing restored editions of foreign movies, documentaries and classics than recent arthouse fare with modest commercial expectations. Consider it a blessing that the company picked up Certain Women, adding a 2K digital transfer with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack; interviews with Reichardt, author Maile Meloy and executive producer Todd Haynes; and an essay by critic Ella Taylor. It isn’t often that a movie that’s returned slightly more than a million dollars – her first of six feature releases to do so – is accorded such first-class treatment. Here, Reichardt shifts locations from her usual stomping grounds – the wilds of Oregon — to the high-lonesome ranchlands surrounding Livingston, Montana. Not exactly a thriving metropolis, even by Montana standards, it’s the kind of place writers and artists go for splendid isolation and locals find difficult to leave. It’s not far from the capital, Helena, where Meloy was born and raised, or the settings of her short stories, “Travis B.,” “Native Sandstone” and “Tome.” The self-contained, but interlocking episodes of Reichardt’s gorgeously photographed tryptic explore the shifts in personal desire and social expectation that affect the circumscribed lives of its primary characters. Laura Dern plays a lawyer forced to subdue a troubled client, while navigating the rocky shoals of an affair with a married man (James Le Gros). His wife (Michelle Williams) plans to construct her dream home out of sandstone rocks taken from demolished landmarks. Kristen Stewart plays a Livingston lawyer, who consuls teachers in a distant town and forms a tenuous bond with a lonely ranch hand (Lily Gladstone). With unassuming craft, Reichardt captures the rhythms of daily life in small-town Montana through fine-grained portraits of women trapped within the landscape’s wide-open spaces. In this way, Certain Women would make an ideal double-feature with Criterion’s Paris, Texas, in which the late, great Harry Dean Stanton plays a traumatized man who’s spent four years wandering in the deserts of the American Southwest, accompanied by his tortured memories and broken dreams.

The Treasure
Even without hearing a word of dialogue, there’s no mistaking the fact that both of these offbeat movies are set in countries formerly locked behind the Iron Curtain, where the line separating drama and comedy is often indiscernible. It’s been 25 years since Bulgaria and Romania freed themselves from the chains of communist rule, but not much appears to have changed in the interim … or, maybe, it’s the bad haircuts, tired eyes, downcast faces and clunky cars. Although Bulgaria isn’t particularly well known for its cinematic exports, such post- Ceaușescu Romanian films as The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Police, Adjective and 12:08 East of Bucharest have been released to universal acclaim. If the ironic humor isn’t always easy to discern, it’s only because we don’t always know where to look for it.

In Corneliu Porumboiu’s subtle comedy, The Treasure, a man who likes to read the tales of Robin Hood to his 6-year-old son at bedtime is given an opportunity to become a hero in real life, if not in the usual way. Costi (Toma Cuzin) is a Bucharest bureaucrat, barely making a living, but, for the time being, assured a job. One night, out of the blue, a neighbor asks him to consider investing in a scheme he insists will make them a fortune. The unemployed printer, Adrian (Adrian Purcarescu), needs money to hire a metal-detecting expert capable of locating a treasure his great-grandfather told him is buried in the backyard of their old home in a nearby village. He suspects that the valuables were buried to avoid being found by post-World War II communists confiscating everything of value from prosperous citizens. Costi manages to come up with the money to afford the skills and equipment of Cornel (Corneliu Cozmei), a lumpen fellow who grows impatient with Adrian’s anger over not being able to immediately pinpoint a likely location in the spacious garden. Speculation over the contents of the hidden cache runs from ancient Roman coins to great-grandma’s jewelry. Sometimes, though, the dialogue between the three men resembles that of Three Stooges in surgical garb. What none of them want to have happen is to discover a fortune in something the government would consider to be of national interest and then see it confiscated or taxed. Long story unspoiled, Adrian and Costi begin digging at a location indicated by the metal detector and, well into the night, locate a metal box. All I will say is that viewers won’t be able to predict what they find, let alone the reception they receive from village police and the specifics of a very happy ending. They might also learn a bit about Romanian history.

The lesson to be gleaned in Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s follow-up to The Lesson can be boiled down to an observation attributed to Oscar Wilde, “No good deed goes unpunished.” That’s especially true in the muddled Bulgarian bureaucracy described in Glory, the country’s official entry in this year’s Best Foreign Language Film competition.

Tsanko Petrov (Stefan Denolyubov) is a railroad worker assigned the task of walking from section to section, tightening the bolts holding the rail to the crosstie. One day, Tsanko discovers a substantial pile of loose bills on the side of the tracks. Instead of pocketing the small fortune, he alerts the proper authorities and hands it over to them. Because such good deeds are rare occurrences in Bulgaria – anywhere, really – the public-relation czarina for the transportation department arranges a show-and-tell event for the local media, at which Tsanko will be introduced to the minister and given a reward. The problem for Julia (Margita Gosheva) is that Tzanko looks more like a hobo than the kind of guy who should be allowed to shake hands with such an esteemed bureaucrat. He also has a speech impediment that makes it difficult for him to make his feelings known. Instead of just saying “thanks” and going home, Tsanko informs the minister of the routine theft of diesel fuel in his section, as well as his ability to name names. The pompous official brushes him off. Julia also makes the mistake of taking Tsanko’s old watch off his wrist to make room for a snazzy new one. When he tries to get it back from her – the windup timepiece was a gift from his father — Julia blames her staff for losing it and arranges for a cheap replacement. Not only does Tsanko not appreciate the subterfuge, but he also finds a reporter willing to listen to his story about the theft of fuel. Now, Julia really is in a fix. Her boss is about to be exposed in the press as someone who won’t listen to a whistleblower and allows his subordinates to steal a prized watch. It’s at this point that Tsanko discovers that he’s being used by both sides for their own gain and worse, perhaps, his mates at the local pub think he’s a) a fool for turning in the money, and b) a rat for exposing their racket. Viewers will have to decide for themselves if Julia – who can’t put down her cellphone, even during a consultation with her fertility doctor – deserves to be punished for knocking down the first domino, or if she’s merely a symbol of what’s wrong with the country’s revival. The Film Movement package includes Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson’s heart-warming Oscar-winning short “Helium” (2013) and a directors’ statement.

Hana-Bi: Blu-ray
If there’s anyone in the cinematic universe who, without reservations, comes the closest to being a Renaissance man, it’s Japanese hyphenate, Takeshi Kitano, who acts under the name, Beat Takeshi. On Hana-Bi (a.k.a., “Fireworks”), alone, his credits include lead actor, director, writer, editor and the artist responsible for the brilliantly colorful and imaginative paintings that punctuate the narrative. After being thrown out of engineering school for rebellious behavior, he worked as an elevator operator at the Asakusa France-za striptease club, where became an apprentice of comedian Senzaburo Fukami and emcee. With a friend, “Beat” Kiyoshi Kaneko, he formed the comic duo, “The Two Beat,” which would become one of Japan’s most popular variety acts. After shows, Kitano has said that he sometimes would be invited to drink with yakuza, whose wild stories about crime bosses would come in handy when he turned to writing and directing genre fare. In his first major film role, Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), he played a tough POW camp sergeant, opposite Tom Conti, Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Bowie. (The deadly serious portrayal confused his fans, who were expecting a comedy.) In 1986, Kitano became the first celebrity to work on a video game, Takeshi no Chōsenjō, as a consultant and partial designer. Two years later, he published a memoir, “Asakusa Kid,” which would be followed by novels and other non-fiction titles. In 1989, he replaced Kinji Fukasaku as director of Violent Cop, which he changed from comedy to drama and played the title role. His next efforts in the crime genre, Boiling Point, Sonantine and Kids Return, brought him to the attention of festival audiences around the world. It wasn’t until he was involved in a serious motorbike accident, in 1994, that he took up painting, another discipline in which he excelled.

That much is clear in Hana-Bi, an alternately contemplative and explosively violent drama that won the Golden Lion award at the 54th Venice International Film Festival and Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics. Those awards not only cemented his reputation abroad, but also forced Japanese audiences to take him seriously as a director. In it, Kitano plays a world-weary police detective forced to retire after a pursuit goes haywire, leaving one cop dead and two others severely injured. He blames himself for the tragedy, even if it’s unclear how things went so wrong, so fast. If retirement doesn’t sit well with Nishi, at least it gives him time to spend with his terminally ill wife, who’s also suffering from depression over the recent loss of their child. To pay off a loan from the yakuza and compensate for his friends’ losses, he devises a scheme to rob a bank. He also wants to help the dead cop’s widow and take one last holiday trip throughout Japan with his wife. If there ever were a genre picture one could characterize as minimalistic, it would be Hana-Bi. Long passages without dialogue or movement are interrupted by volcanic action. There are comic moments, but they’re introduced in such a deadpan manner that it takes a second or two for the gag to register. Unless the viewer is aware of Kitano’s own accident, it would be difficult to fully appreciate the kindness shown to the partially paralyzed cop by Nishi. After Horibe loses his family and will to live, he confides to Nishi that his only regret is not learning how to paint. With his ill-gotten gains, Nishi purchases a box full of artist’s tools, including a beret. The necessarily pointillist works, painted by Kitano, make cameos throughout Hana-Bi. The climax couldn’t be more touching. In real life, Kitano would return to hard-core action in Brother, The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi and the Outrage series. He also co-starred in Battle Royale and its sequel, for which he supplied a class portrait of the student competitors. The Blu-ray adds commentary by David Fear, of Rolling Stone magazine; a making-of featurette; and illustrated booklet, featuring an essay by film writer Jasper Sharp.

By the Time It Gets Dark
Thailand has selected Anocha Suwichakornpong’s second feature, By the Time It Gets Dark, as its national representative in the Academy Awards’ current race for foreign-language honors. She previously directed Mundane History and was a producer on the excellent gay drama, How to Win at Checkers Every Time. Inspired in part by the 1976 Thamassat University student massacre – condoned by government officials and perpetrated by right-wing paramilitary forces — By the Time It Gets Dark melds composite and repeat characters with a broader sense of recent Thai history. In it, a young director, Ann, attempts to make a film about the massacre, aided by her muse, a student activist in the mid-1970s. Other stories, which loosely connect, involve a waitress who is forever changing jobs, an actor and an actress. The settings shift from city to country; deserted houses, to hi-rise condos; teeming streets to serene nights on the river. All are vividly captured by Ming Kai Leung’s camera. Anocha’s protagonists sometimes change identities in scenes that play out in different ways with different actors. Finally, a flurry of confounding images overwhelms the director and audience.

While the Thai cinema produces more than its fair share of gaudy action pictures and crowd-pleasing comedies for domestic consumption, its indie and arthouse wing has attracted the attention of festival audiences around the world. Since 2002, Apichatpong Weerasethakul has been a perennial presence at Cannes, with Un Certain Regard-winner Blissfully Yours, Jury Prize-winner Tropical Malady, Palme d’Or-winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and special showings of Mekong Hotel and Cemetery of Splendour. Other indie directors include Aditya Assarat (Wonderful Town), Pimpaka Towira (One Night Husband), Thunska Pansittivorakul (Voodoo Girls), Sivaroj Kongsakul (Eternity), Wichanon Somumjarn (In April the Following Year, There Was a Fire) and Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit (36). Not widely screened at the home, they share poetic narratives, spectacularly shot landscapes, ghosts and demons, monks and monsters, modern media overload, imprecise memories, and a palpable awareness of the country’s social ills and hypocritical mores. Gay-themed movies, with explicit sex, are almost commonplace.

The Prison: Blu-ray
Although most of Na Hyeon’s directorial debut will feel overly familiar to prison-movie completists, it has atmosphere to burn and enough punishing action to satisfy most buffs. The Prison may seem borrow from such gritty arthouse pictures as Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet (2009) and the Filipino hitman thriller, On the Job (2013), but my guess is that writer/director Na and his backers would be satisfied with commercial success in mainstream theaters. You’ve got to start somewhere. After a fatal hit-and-run accident, former police inspector Yu-gon Song (Kim Rae-won) is sentenced to hard time in a jail populated with gang members he helped arrest. It doesn’t take long for Yu-gon to learn what it takes to stay alive in stir and he’s tough enough to attract the attention of Jung Ik-ho (Han Suk-Kyu), the inmate who runs the joint from his penthouse digs. Moreover, he’s in control of the corrupt warden and his aides, who look the other way when Ik-ho’s team sneaks out to commit crimes under the cover of the perfect alibi. After Yu-gon proves his worth to Ik-ho, viewers should be able to see what’s coming from a mile away. The stylish editing allows it to avoid clichés, however. Na and cinematographer Hong Jae-sik do manage to keep things interesting for most of The Prison’s exhausting two-hour length.

The Flesh: Blu-ray
At first glance, the illustration on the sleeve covering Marco Ferreri’s little-seen 1991 satire, The Flesh (a.k.a., “La Carne”), suggests that what’s inside is a vintage example of Italian sexploitation. It shows a voluptuous woman, whose barely clothed body has been divided into sections, as if to resemble a chart on the wall of a butcher’s shop. The photo on the Blu-ray’s actual dust jacket features lead actors peering from the door of a doghouse, with Francesca Dellera and Sergio Castellitto entwined in a way that can only be described as … wait for it … yes, doggy-style. Missing from it is the original tagline, in Italian, “Una storia che vorresti capitasse anche a te,” which translates to, “A story you’d like to happen to you.” While enticing, neither illustration accurately describes the curiously bittersweet romance contained therein. In fact, it tells the story of a piano player (Castellitto) in a smoky cabaret, who falls in lust with a woman (Dellera) so spectacularly beautiful that he’s left with a permanent erection, a condition that is less amusing than it sounds. Paolo’s recovering from a recent divorce, which left their children in the custody of his crazy ex-wife, while Francesca remains unnerved by a recent abortion. By the time that Paolo realizes that his condition can only be relieved by satisfying Francesca’s insatiable carnal urges, they’re already comfortably ensconced in a cozy seaside cottage, seemingly designed for round-the-clock couplings. While he doesn’t particularly object to serving as a sex slave, it can be exhausting. Just when he becomes addicted to the orgasmic rushes, Francesca decides that she’s bored with the arrangement. Her decision to leave the cottage doesn’t sit well with Paolo, who has determined that he can’t live without her curative powers. In a very late twist, Francesca witnesses something resembling a miracle – a flock of storks is involved – and it causes her to rethink leaving Paolo. Is it too late to save the relationship? This summary may make The Flesh sound like the kind of non-stop sexual romp favored by Tinto Brass or Jesús Franco, dripping with innuendo and dick jokes. Instead, The Flesh is surprisingly romantic and not at all reliant on graphic nudity. Dellera would drive most men and women so inclined to distraction, even if her character was required to wear parka in the sex scenes. Then, as now, Castellitto was seen as a serious actor, with a gift for comedy. (He’s probably best known here for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and Mostly Martha.) And, while Ferreri is famous for provocative fare as La Grande BouffeTales of Ordinary Madness and The Ape Woman, he takes full advantage of the seaside location for lovely sunsets and warm interludes. The Cult Epics package adds a funny behind-the-scenes featurette; archival interviews with Ferreri and the actors; original lobby cards; and footage from the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, where The Flesh was nominated for a Palme d’Or.

The Prince and the Nature Girl
Convoy of Girls
Cannibal Cop
In Douglas Martin’s obituary of 90-year-old Doris Wishman, which was published in the New York Times on August 19, 2002, he called her “a prolific independent director of truly tasteless movies … from nudist-camp romps to the cult classic, Bad Girls Go to Hell.” Truly tasteless? It’s a bit like basing an assessment of John Waters’ career on Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Mondo Trasho. Those pictures were intentionally tastelessly, but not indicative of his later output. If anything, Wishman’s movies were guilty of being truly goofy, titillating and sexploitative. They also helped open the door for the mainstream acceptance of soft- and hard-core pornography, the earliest stages of which are being chronicled on HBO’s “The Deuce.” Emboldened by a 1957 New York Appeals Court ruling, which allowed films depicting nudism to be exhibited in movie theaters in New York State, Wishman borrowed $10,000 from her sister to produce Hideout in the Sun, in which sibling bank robbers find refuge in a members-only nudist camp. Her next film, Nude on the Moon, didn’t fare nearly as well, legally. According to state’s censorship board, films featuring nudity in a nudist colony were legally permissible, but nudity in a fantasy film, merely set in a “nudist colony on the moon,” was not. While it sounds laughable, today, the 1961 ruling formalized a distinction that would be tested in various forms for the next 20 years. Wishman produced eight nudist films in total between 1958 and 1964, including Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (1962), perhaps, the first celebrity nudie, and the newly re-released on DVD, The Prince and the Nature Girl. At 53 minutes, Pop Cinema’s reissue of the latter could never be confused as a great example of sexploitation. It barely qualifies as entertainment. It looks like a 16mm movie, alternately shot in a refurbished warehouse and Florida nudist colony. The paid and amateur actors, neither of whom seem to mind the extra exposure, were carefully coached as to how to pose without revealing their pubic hair. In it, a successful businessman named Prince – no relation to the Purple One — takes an interest in the blond half of a pair of newly hired identical twins. The girls, Eve and Sue, are opposites: Eve, the blond, is lazy and uninhibited, while Sue, the brunette, is hardworking and demure. Captivated by Eve, Prince is thrilled to run into her at his favorite nudist camp. A light flirtation ensues, with neither realizing that stay-at-home Sue is helplessly in love with the same man. When Eve leaves to attend a friend’s wedding, Sue embarks upon a deception that will change their lives forever. Yup, it’s practically Shakespearian. Sourced from the only known 35mm print, this first-ever DVD transfer includes a brand-new English dialogue track, commentary with Doris Wishman biographer Michael Bowen and filmmakers Michael Raso (The Seduction of Misty Mundae) and John Fedele (Play-Mate of the Apes); Bowen’s essay and liner notes; vintage trailers; and short films, “About Nudism,” “The Nature Girl” and segments from Atomic TV.

Cheezy Movies usually can be depended upon to deliver the goods when it comes to “truly tasteless movies.” Pierre Chevalier and Jesús Franco, both under aliases, are responsible for Convoy of Girls, which began its life in 1978 as “East of Berlin.” Although both men’s sleazeball credentials are impeccable, it’s a WWII movie that promises Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, but delivers something closer to “Barbie and Ken Join the Wehrmacht.” Jean-Marie Lemaire plays Aryan dreamboat Erich von Strässer, who turns against the Third Reich out of love for his high school sweetheart, Renata (Brigitte Parmentier). After the blond beauty and her father are caught sheltering a Jewish girl in their Berlin home, Renata’s forced to work in a brothel, while her father is sent to a concentration camp. Von Strässer uses his influence as a decorated Nazi officer to save her, but it’s too late to prevent her from being put on a convoy train to eastern front. There’s a bit of nudity and simulated sex, but nothing you couldn’t find on premium cable. The dramatic aspects are actually pretty well rendered, as well. Genre buffs might recognize footage cribbed from Fraulein Devil and Oasis of the Zombies.

The most “truly tasteless” of the movies cited here, hands down, is Srs Cinema’s Cannibal Cop. Shot on a microbudget in Nashville and New Orleans, the 75-minute bloodbath is the brainchild of Donald Farmer, who’s been churning out such subgenre fare as Shark Exorcist, Chainsaw Cheerleaders and Red Lips: Eat the Living since 1987. Here, a bad cop named Warbeck is caught beating a suspect by an iPhone-toting civilian, who turns to a voodoo queen to exact justice on him. The sorceress casts a spell on one of the cop’s dead victims, causing the zombie to attack Warbeck and turn him into a cannibal. In some ways, it only makes him more dangerous. Besides the prolific Jason Crowe, as Warbeck, Farmer’s repertory company includes Channing Dodson and Roni Jonah (Shark Exorcist), Kasper Meltedhair and Alaine Huntington (Hooker With a Hacksaw), and Shawn C. Phillips (MILFs vs. Zombies). The DVD adds Farmer’s commentary and a retrospective of his greatest hits. In its own way, it’s pretty hilarious.

Aaron Leong and writer Rick Kuebler’s debut feature appears to merge Joan Rivers’ ill-fated 1978 comedy, Rabbit Test, and Back to the Future. Like Billy Crystal, in the former, a boy becomes pregnant through the machinations of a mad scientist, not unlike Christopher Lloyd, in the latter. In Mamaboy, BMOC Kelly Hankins (Sean O’Donnell) has a forbidden summer liaison with Lisa (Alexandria DeBerry), the worldly blond daughter of Reverend Weld. Naturally, a few weeks later, Lisa informs Kelly of their impending parenthood. Because he respects Lisa and knows she’s intent on maintaining the grades she’ll need to go to college, Kelly searches possible solutions that don’t include abortion. It comes while visiting an eccentric uncle who’s recently transferred an embryo into the chest cavity of a male monkey. He offers to do the same thing for the embryo being carried by Lisa, who reluctantly accepts the challenge. Sure enough, Kelly’s pregnancy reveals itself in all the usual ways, including a bulging tummy and morning sickness. It does not, however, prevent him from being bullied and ostracized by the school’s jocks. If I’m not mistaken, Leong and Kuebler’s intention wasn’t to make a comedy, like Rabbit Test, but to demonstrate to young male viewers what women go through during pregnancy … so, wear your rubbers. From a distance, the nine-month ordeal looks as uncomplicated as raising tropical fish. That, of course, isn’t the case. I don’t know where the money came from to afford a sterling cast of actors who pass for teenagers in various television series and movies. They also managed to cast Gary Busey as, what else, a coach named Dombrowski, and the talented character actor Stephen Tobolowsky (“Californication,” “Silicon Valley”). The acting makes up for whatever limitations came from a tight budget. The DVD includes a “Hollywood Red Carpet” behind-the-scenes featurette.

Cartels: Blu-ray
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but action star Steven Seagal and writer/director/producer Keoni Waxman have collaborated, in one way or another, on 9 straight-to-DVD movies and 13 episodes of the reality-based crime show, “True Justice,” in seven years. This would represent a career’s worth of co-productions for most Hollywood teams, if not an actual marriage, but, in Seagal and Waxman’s case, the alliance has a more mechanical feel. The last five were shot in Romania and share certain themes, crimes and templates. The biggest difference between their third 2016 release, Cartels, and most of the earlier thrillers is the star’s level of participation in the fight scenes. In fact, only one of the showdowns stands out in my memory, and that’s because it looked so uncomfortable for him … as if he were battling arthritis. This doesn’t mean Cartels is short on action – quite the opposite – only that the big dog is content to remain in a supporting position for most of its 95 minutes. An elite team of DEA agents – is there any other kind? – is assigned the task of protecting a dangerous drug lord, Joseph “El Tiburon” Salazar (Florin Piersic Jr.), who’s cut a deal with the feds and faked his own death. The task force leaders believe they staged the raid in such a way no one could doubt its veracity. No sooner is Salazar is lifted from his coffin and taken to a seemingly secure location – a high-rise hotel, in an Eastern European city – than it’s invaded by a small army of heavily armed men and women, several of whom are proficient in the martial arts. How did they know Salazar had turned rat and was playing possum? If it doesn’t take much guesswork on the viewers’ part, it’s also beside the point, which is the non-stop fighting that breaks out from the parking garage to the roof, where employees smoke dope. And, get this, Salazar owns the hotel chosen by the feds for shelter and designed it in anticipation of such assaults. Cartels also stars Luke Goss, as a maverick U.S. marshal; UFC fighter Georges St. Pierre, as the cartel underboss; Darren E. Scott, as a trustworthy agent; and Martine Argent, Sharlene Royer and Adina Galupa, who are as beautiful as they are deadly.

The Moderns: Collector’s Edition: Blu-ray
It’s funny how much better some movies made 30 or 40 years ago look today, newly released on DVD and Blu-ray. Typically, films we loved back in the day – The Godfather, Chinatown, McCabe & Mrs. Miller – remain every bit as enjoyable in their Blu-ray incarnations, as they were the first few hundred times we watched them, in theaters, on VHS or Beta, on television, laserdisc and DVD. Others, though, sneak right back up on you. I don’t think that I’ve watched Alan Rudolph’s The Moderns since 1988, when it first came out. It isn’t that I don’t like the writer/director’s work, because I do. His quirks have tended to sync with mine, as has his Altman-esque approach to ensemble filmmaking. He hasn’t made a movie since 2002’s The Secret Lives of Dentists and, no, it doesn’t surprise me that his latest project, “Ray Meets Helen,” stars, among other formidable actors, Keith Carradine. I don’t know if Carradine could be considered Rudolph’s muse or just a lucky charm, but they’ve collaborated on five previous films, not counting Robert Altman’s Buffalo Bill and the Indians and Sitting Bull’s History Lesson and Nashville. In The Moderns, which is set in 1926 Paris, Carradine plays the sketch artist, forger and loverboy around whom almost every dish in the moveable feast revolves. Paris was the place to be for artists, writers, journalists and collectors on the verge of changing the world with their creativity and opinions. Among the non-fictional, non-composite characters we meet are Gertrude Stein (Elsa Raven), Alice B. Toklas (Ali Giron) and Ernest Hemingway (Kevin J. O’Connor). Geraldine Chaplin, Linda Fiorentino, Genevieve Bujold, Wallace Shawn and John Lone play other key roles. Things don’t begin to coalesce until a feud develops between Carrandine’s Nick Hart and Lone’s egomaniacal industrialist and art collector, who, coincidentally, is married to Hart’s ex-wife (Fiorentino). Sensing the chemistry that still exists between the former couple, the industrialist begins to taunt Hart, eventually challenging him to a boxing match. At the same time, Chaplin’s wealthy art patron urges him to use his well-honed artistic skills to forge three of her original paintings to sell to his nemesis. It leads to a confrontation that adds relatable mystery to sale of the art, while tying up the loose ends on two or three of Nick’s affairs and the suicide of a busybody gossip columnist. It took Rudolph and co-writer Jon Bradshaw 12 years to bring the project to fruition and, when they did, they lacked the money to shoot in Paris. Montreal fills in very well. Mark Isham’s music once again expands upon Rudolph’s vision, as does Toyomichi Kurita’s cinematography, which really shines in the 2K scan from the interpositive. The Shout!Factory Classic package adds new interviews with Rudolph, Carradine and producer Carolyn Pfeiffer.

Smithsonian: The Real Story: Scream
Nickelodeon: Blaze and the Monster Machines: Wild Wheels Escape to Animal Island
PBS Kids: Odd Squad: Villains: Best of the Worst
PBS: Happy Holidays Garfield
Mouse and Mole at Christmas Time
Just as the Smithsonian Channel’s “The Real Story” found a new way to piggyback on the enduring success of the aforementioned Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the series found a different angle on the story behind Wes Craven’s Scream. When it was released in 1996, Scream’s success was credited for revitalizing horror on the big screen. The genre was nearly declared extinct following an influx of direct-to-video titles and numerous sequels to established horror franchises of the 1970s and 1980s. Its cast of already-established and successful actors – Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Rose McGowan, David Arquette, Henry Winkler — helped it find a wider audience, including significant female viewership. While scary as hell, Kevin Williamson’s screenplay poked fun at overfamiliar slasher clichés. There was nothing ironic or funny about the series of murders that inspired the then-aspiring screenwriter. After watching a true-crime show about a series of grisly murders by the so-called Gainesville Ripper, Williamson became concerned about an open window in the house in which he was staying. It inspired him to draft an 18-page script treatment about a young woman, alone in a house, who is taunted over the phone and then attacked by a masked killer. It mirrored the actual methodology of the serial killer. “The Real Story: Scream” focuses on the manhunt by FBI and Gainesville police officials, as well as the widespread fear of college-age women and the community.

Nickelodeon’s “Blaze and the Monster Machines: Wild Wheels Escape to Animal Island” wins the award for longest title of the week. Blaze and his friends find themselves on Animal Island, transforming into high-speed animal trucks to save the day. Kids can join the gang as they thwart Lazard the Lizard Truck’s evil plan; help their new friend, Tooks the Toucan Truck, travel to Insect City; and cheer on Blaze in the Super Sky Race. As always, Blaze, AJ and the monster machines go on wild rides, while using their S.T.E.M skills to solve the problems around them.

In PBS Kids’ “Odd Squad Villians: Best of the Worst,” the agents of Odd Squad use their math and problem-solving skills to defeat criminals and set things right. When the Puppet Master turns a group of friends, including Otto and Olive, into puppets, the Odd Squad agents may be forced to turn themselves back into humans. The other stories find the Odd Squad team attempting to stop Odd Todd from turning townspeople and agents invisible; preventing villain Fladam from destroying the city’s cubes; and recovering Ms. O’s briefcase from the Shape Shifter.

It’s beginning to look a lot like … the fourth week of September. Even so, some companies can’t resist the urge to roll out the evergreen holiday packages. This week’s lot includes, “A Garfield Christmas,” circa 1987, in which Jon takes Garfield and Odie home to the farm for Christmas and Garfield wants to find grandma the perfect gift. Also included is “Garfield’s Thanksgiving” (1989), in which Jon invites Garfield’s veterinarian Liz over for Thanksgiving dinner. Like everyone else, Garfield wants to eat as much as possible, but Jon puts him on a diet.

This week’s other chestnut is “Mouse and Mole at Christmas Time,” a beautifully animated story from the U.K., about two friends who live together in a cottage in the country. Mouse is practical and cheerful, while Mole always gets himself into trouble and needs looking after. The DVD also includes 10 bonus tales, described as “wise, witty and filled with timeless charm.”

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One Response to “The DVD Wrapup: ET, Vietnam, Big Sick, Glory, Certain Women, The Hero, Hana-Bi, By the Time It Gets Dark, The Prison, The Flesh, Moderns … More”

  1. Woody says:

    Emily GORDON is the co-writer of The Big Sick, not Gardener.


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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