MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: Only the Brave, LBJ, Suburbicon, Aida’s Secrets, Clouzot’s Inferno, Jackie Gleason and more

Only the Brave: Blu-ray
Joseph Kosinski’s stunningly effective Only the Brave is the rare disaster movie guaranteed to leave its audiences not just in tears, but in mourning for the victims, their families and community at large, as well.

Anyone who’s lived in the path of a wildfire and lingered long enough to watch it move with the wind can attest to its ferocity, speed and unpredictability. After identifying the hollow feeling that comes with surrendering to the fire’s power, most witnesses will admit to being hypnotized by the beauty of its stories-high flames and the sparkling plumes of sparks dancing to the inferno’s roar. Even from a safe distance, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the skill and courage of the firefighters called to battle the monster barreling down on homes. Only the Brave, based on the tragic, true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, opened in theaters while an epidemic of wildfires was scorching wide swaths of property in northern California, causing more than $9 billion in insured property losses, alone, and leaving 44 people dead. Only a few weeks later, strong Santa Ana winds would trigger a new round of wildfires, this time to the south in Ventura County, forcing more than 230,000 people to evacuate, with the six largest fires burning over 307,900 acres and more than 1,300 structures. Despite numbers like these, Californians have learned to adjust to the threat of such disasters – including the mudslides that invariably follow them – just as people in the upper Midwest accept the inevitability of sub-zero temperatures in January and folks in Tornado Alley anticipate killer tornadoes. What’s never expected is the death of a firefighter engaged in protecting property and rescuing residents. In December, an engineer for Cal Fire, based in San Diego, died while battling the Thomas fire in the Fillmore area of Ventura County. It’s no exaggeration to say that Cory Iverson’s death shocked and saddened millions of people, not just in southern California, but everywhere volunteers risk their lives for those of people they’ve never met.

Only the Brave introduces us first us to Prescott’s highly trained and previously tested Hotshot unit, which was comprised of 20 men. In time, we get to know some of the members’ backgrounds and families. We already know that 19 of them were killed in the line of duty when the massive Yarnell Hill Fire – practically in the backyard — unexpectedly changed directions and overran their position. It is based on the book, “Granite Mountain,” which tells the highly personal story of the lone survivor, Brendan McDonough, well-played here by Miles Teller. McDonough is portrayed as a no-account local, who volunteers for the team as a last resort to losing his family and winding up in prison or dead of an overdose. It’s mostly through his eyes that we become intimately acquainted with firefighters played by battle-hardened Josh Brolin, Taylor Kitsch, Alex Russell, Ben Hardy, Geoff Stults and James Badge Dale, among more than a dozen other actors. Jeff Bridges plays the unit’s sage supervisor, while Jennifer Connelly, Andie MacDowell, Jenny Gabrielle, Rachel Singer and Natalie Hall make sure we know how the lives of the wives, children and mothers of these men are impacted by the work. It doesn’t appear as if writers Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer were required to take much poetic license with facts of the terrible incident or wring any more empathy from viewers than it already warrants. They balance the arduous process of training with humor that derives largely from McDonough’s hazing, while keeping the sometime thorny personal stuff in perspective, as well. As was the case with Deepwater Horizon, the fire, itself, carries Only the Brave the rest of the way, through a blend of digital and practical visual effects, and thunderous sound. A true 4D experience would have added some forced-air heat into the mix. If the movie failed at the box office, it wasn’t because of anything Kosinski failed to do. Claudio Miranda’s cinematography nicely captures the natural tinder box of the American Southwest and some spectacular nighttime footage. Ironically, perhaps, Bridges’ lavish home north of Santa Barbara survived the Thomas fire, but not the mudslide that followed a month later. The actor, his wife and their dog were rescued from the muck by a fire department helicopter. Only the Brave contains several worthwhile extras, including Kosinski and Brolin’s commentary; deleted scenes; a music video of Dierks Bentley’s “Hold the Light”; and a trio of featurettes.

LBJ: Blu-ray
For the outspokenly liberal Rob Reiner, the temptation to depict a real POTUS in action, especially after watching Donald Trump’s first few months in office, must have been far too great to overcome. His opinion of Lyndon Baines Johnson and his presidency has changed dramatically since the 1960s, when he was an easy target for antiwar protesters and black-power advocates who blamed him for everything bad that was happening in the country. While it’s clear that LBJ bore the brunt the blame for the escalation of the war in Vietnam, the CIA made it no easier for him to see the truth there than it did for the rest of us. Even if he wanted to pull out, it isn’t likely that Congress or mainstream pundits would go along with his wishes. Johnson probably should have encouraged Hubert Humphrey to disown the administration’s wartime policies before the Democratic Convention, in Chicago, but party leaders underestimated Richard Nixon as much as Hillary Clinton devalued Trump’s ability to overcome his self-inflicted wounds. That facet of Johnson’s tenure in office isn’t anywhere to be seen in Reiner and screenwriter Joey Hartstone’s LBJ, which pretty much ends when thoughts of re-election begin. What carries the movie is Woody Harrelson’s masterful impersonation of the president, with a tight focus on his ability to schmooze friends and allies, alike, over dinner, in the Oval Office and occasionally sharing anecdotes from his formative years, while taking a dump. Harrelson is especially adroit in recalling Johnson’s hilariously stern instructions to his tailor, complaining about a tightness in his trousers just south of his “bunghole.” To my mind, Reiner’s greatest miscalculation came in overestimating the interest of fellow boomers in watching another capable actor take on LBJ, so soon after Bryan Cranston’s Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated turn in Jay Roach’s adaptation of Robert Schenkkan’s play “All the Way.” In 2014, in Selma, Tom Wilkinson also played Johnson. Even further back, Randy Quaid won a Globe and was nominated for an Emmy for NBC’s “LBJ: The Early Years” (1987). In another four years, he would be played by little-known Tom Howard in Oliver Stone’s JFK. In between came such authoritative books as “The Triumph & Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson: The White House Years,” by Joseph Califano Jr.; Robert A. Caro’s four-edition, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” series; and Doris Kearns Goodwin’ “Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.” Compared to the LBJ revealed in those books, even the best impersonations of the man amount to little more than parlor tricks. Jennifer Jason Leigh is unrecognizable as Johnson’s closest confidante, Lady Bird. Richard Jenkins, Bill Pullman, C. Thomas Howell and Michael Mosley are also good in key supporting roles. As JFK and RFK, Jeffrey Donovan and Michael Stahl-David effortlessly depict how miserable working with the Kennedys must have been for a good ol’ boy from Texas. Special features were MIA.

Suburbicon: Blu-ray
In “Welcome to Suburbicon,” the half-hour featurette that accompanies George Clooney’s latest turn in the director’s chair, almost all of the cast and crew members interviewed point to Suburbicon’s “darkly comic” script as their motivation for agreeing to appear in it. As much as I love watching darkly comic movies, especially those written and directed by the Coen Brothers, I found it difficult to be entertained by Suburbicon, for the simple reason that I couldn’t find anything particularly funny in it … light, dark or in between. Drama, yes … irony, yes … humor, not so much. The Coens wrote the screenplay years earlier with the intention of having Clooney playing a key role in the movie. For some reason, they decided to dump the script in a drawer and pursue other projects. When Clooney’s production company was scratching for a new project of its own, he remembered Suburbicon and received the Coens’ blessing to produce it. Clooney then called on Grant Heslov, with whom he co-wrote The Monuments Men and Good Night, and Good Luck, to revise and update the script. It’s easy to see the Coens’ fingerprints on the story, as it takes place in a seemingly idyllic Eisenhower-era suburb, where the events that inform the story aren’t supposed to happen. A series of murders elicits some skittish laughter, but it’s overwhelmed by the ugliness of the racism on exhibit next-door. Suburbicon is based on events that took place in the planned community of Levittown, Pennsylvania, in 1957. With its look-alike houses, green lawns, micro-gardens, post-stamp porches, fences and concrete driveways, residents had every reason to believe they were sharing a facet of the American dream their immigrant parents couldn’t have possibly foreseen, and the GI Bill made it affordable.

It only took one African-American family to move into Levittown to prove that white middle-class Americans would fight to keep the dream to themselves. They didn’t feel the need to don pointy white hoods to protect their anonymity, either. Here, at the same time as protests over the black family’s presence grow louder and the potential for violence mounts, their next-door neighbors find themselves entangled in circumstances that would shock the hoodlums unhappy with the perceived decrease in the value of their homes even more. Gardner Mayes (Matt Damon) is the prototypical 1950s’ suburban male, except for the fact that he’s in love with the sister of his disabled wife, both of whom are played by Julianne Moore. There’s something fishy about the break-in in which the wife is killed and his son is overcome by chloroform, but it isn’t readily apparent. Before long, Gardner is playing house with his sister-in-law and making plans to move to Aruba, after the lump-sum life-insurance payment is made. The bigger problem comes when the crooks (Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell) who broke into the house attempt to extort more money from Gardner and an insurance investigator (Oscar Isaac) shows up at his door to punch holes in the claim. Because the son, Nicky (Noah Jupe), eavesdrops on everything going on in the house, he’s able to suss out a two-pronged conspiracy long before anyone else does. It puts him in mortal danger, as does his friendship with the boy next-door (Tony Espinosa). The neighbors don’t like the fact that they play together, either. Everything that follows would require a spoiler alert, which I am loath to do. There’s nothing wrong with cast, which also includes top character actors Karimah Westbrook, Leith M. Burke and Gary Basaraba. The Blu-ray adds commentary with Clooney and writer/producer Heslov; “The Unusual Suspects: Casting,” a closer look at the actors who bring life to the film’s key roles; and “Scoring Suburbicon,” which explores Alexandre Desplat’s music.

Walking Out: Blu-ray
The possibility of leaving Montana to make a movie must be as difficult for Alex and Andrew Smith to consider as setting a film outside New York was for Woody Allen and Sidney Lumet, at least until it became beneficial to them financially. Like aspiring novelists, filmmakers are routinely advised to shoot what they know best, whether geographically or emotionally. The twins grew up in a region of west-central Montana blessed with lush forests, monumental mountain peaks, verdant valleys, snow-fed rivers, diverse flora and fauna, deep-seated traditions and close to the bright lights and schools of Missoula. The boys’ father died when they were 6 and their mother, Annick, became a successful writer, documentarian and producer – Heartland (1979), A River Runs Through It (1992) – leaving them with plenty of time to pursue “a classic Little House on the Prairie experience. (We) were able to play in the woods and subsist out there. We didn’t have a TV and I think that helped a lot.  … My mom was a cinefile and we would go into town every weekend.” In 1990, alongside her longtime companion — western author and educator William Kitteridge — Annick co-edited “The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology,” with more than 230 stories, poems, reminiscences and reports written by 140 men and women with special interest in the state. Alex and Andrews’ credits are pretty much limited to collaborations on The Keening (1999), The Slaughter Rule (2002), Winter in the Blood (2013) and the newly released, Walking Out. Of the latter, critic Matt Soller Seitz opined, “The movie would fit nicely in a film festival comprised of works with a similar theme, including Legends of the Fall and The Revenant and older wilderness dramas like Jeremiah Johnson and Bend of the River.” To that list, I would add The Call of the Wild and 127 Hours. Despite universally glowing reviews, festival exposure, a compelling story, fine acting, terrific cinematography and spectacular settings, Walking Out was accorded a release limited to 32 theaters. Adapted from a Hemingway-esque short story by outdoors writer David Quammen, it describes what happens when the estranged son of an off-the-grid Montana rancher is invited to join him on a hunting trip in the high country. Because the peaks are covered in snow and nighttime temperatures are forbidding, this wouldn’t be a walk-the-park bonding experience.

As a prototypical city boy, David (Josh Wiggins) is more interested in video games and texting friends back home than the prospect of tracking down a mythic moose or elk, just to make his dad, Cal (Matt Bonner), feel as paternal as his own father was to him. Even so, David humors him by participating in a preliminary bird hunt and agreeing to the more difficult trek, which some viewers will correctly guess is ill-advised and a tragedy-in-waiting. Sure enough, a terrible accident happens at a most inopportune time. They’ve stumbled upon a recently killed bear cub – possibly by a wolf – half-buried in the snow. It soon becomes apparent that the cub’s mother and brother are still maintaining a vigil nearby, which only spells trouble for the intruders. When a terrible accident cripples Cal, David is left with only one option: summon the strength to carry his father on his back, for many miles and through ankle-deep snow. Even though David isn’t portrayed as being a wimp, the odds of his success aren’t good. Even if he did reach the nearest home, the harsh conditions would make it difficult for him to retrace his steps and lead a rescue party to Cal. Fortunately, David was exposed to weightlifting at school and this afforded him a leg up, at least. With their heads practically touching, they’re able to remain alert by re-introducing themselves to each other through stories and important lessons taught to Cal by his dad (Bill Pullman). I don’t think many people will see the ending coming, but it fits with everything that’s led us there. If I were to hazard a guess as to why Walking Out, itself, wasn’t given more of a chance for survival, my first inclination would be that any marketing campaign outside red-state territory would face roadblocks in the form of talk-show hosts, reporters and PETA advocates, whose sentiments would be with the vengeful Momma Bear. Neither would many urban media reps consider hunting to be a viable rite-of-passage or bonding exercise in 2018. So, why bother? Although I wouldn’t categorize Walking Out as a date movie, I think that viewers who can get past the hunting scenario, which isn’t terribly graphic, will discover an old-fashioned story of survival, exceptionally well-told and well-executed, by filmmakers whose affection for the American wilderness – its pleasures and hazards – is palpable. The DVD adds some behind-the-scenes material.

Aida’s Secrets
One of the most discussed films at the just completed Sundance festival was Tim Wardle’s disquieting documentary, Three Identical Strangers, about identical triplets separated at birth and reunited 19 years later, in 1980, completely by accident. It’s a great story, but one that’s haunted by the suicide of one of the brothers, 15 years later, and the circumstances that caused them to be separated and adopted into families of very different economic backgrounds. The growth and maturation processes were monitored, filmed and documented, under the guise of normal adoptive follow-up, to serve the interests of a psychologist who wanted to test the influences of nature versus nurture. It isn’t clear when Three Identical Strangers might be released into theaters – if only to qualify for awards consideration – but anyone fascinated by that summary should check out Aida’s Secret, another picture that demonstrates how easy it is for unsuspecting siblings to be turned into victims because of decisions made before they were born. Alon and Saul Schwarz’ extremely moving documentary begins in the immediately aftermath of World War II and rather quickly leads to an emotional reunion nearly 70 years later. Neither does the mystery end there. Izak Szewelwicz was born inside the Bergen-Belsen displaced-persons camp in 1945 and, at 3, was sent to Israel for adoption. His mother Aida was refused entry to Israel, but is allowed to immigrate to Canada.

She would visit Izak in Israel occasionally, without telling him that he had a younger brother, Shepsel, who was blind and raised by his birth father in a different city in Canada. His father rarely spoke about his experiences during the war or the circumstances of Shep’s birth. The brothers would have plenty to discuss when they finally met in 2013. Among other things, Shep had no idea their mother was still alive and living in a nursing home in Quebec. Even though Aida was delighted to reconnect with Shep, she was far less than forthcoming about the details of the boys’ separation. (Why weren’t both boys sent to Israel, “for a Jewish education,” for example.) In fact, a slip of the tongue suggests to Izak, Shep and the filmmakers that a third brother might be alive and living in Canada, as well. Another question with possibly devastating consequences involves the mother’s true ethnic and religious background. Aida’s Secret wouldn’t have been possible or, at least, nearly as interesting, if it weren’t for the exhaustive search through records and archives in Germany, Amsterdam, Canada and Israel. Serendipitously, a researcher recalled seeing an album of photographs taken at the camp – little known outside Germany — which gave the brothers’ reason to think that they may not, in fact, share the same father. The filmmakers are there when the DNA-test results are announced. By this time, however, the filmmakers were pushing the limits on their production deadlines, leaving one or two more questions unanswered. The good news comes in seeing Shep being able to fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem and gaining the love and support of a newly expanded family. Although friends of Aida recount bits of background she had shared with them, it’s clear she took some of her secrets to the grave.

Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton
Award-winning documentarian Rory Kennedy’s list of credits includes films that have taken on some of the world’s most pressing issues, including AIDS, immigration, torture, the collapse of South Vietnam, the threat of nuclear disaster and the problems faced by children being raised by mothers with mental impairments. The prospect of spending an untold number of hours in Hawaii, profiling one of surfing’s greatest competitors, innovators and bad boys must have seemed like a gift from the gods. Laird Hamilton is best known as the greatest big-wave surfer of all time, routinely taking on swells of 35 feet and moving at speeds exceeding 30 miles per hour. He’s also successfully ridden nearly vertical waves of up to 70 feet high, reaching speeds up to 50 mph. To accomplish such seemingly impossible achievements, Hamilton and his closest cronies invented tow-in surfing and equipment modifications unimaginable when Bruce Brown introduced the sport/lifestyle to ho-daddies from Maine to Malibu in The Endless Summer (1966). If Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton too often feels like an extended “60 Minutes” segment — without the annoying “gee-whiz” moments that make seasoned reporters sound like groupies – there’s much to recommend it. Hamilton’s life story is unquestionably fascinating. If he hadn’t caught a few breaks along the way, he might have ended up selling Maui Wowie to tourists or joining the pro circuit to cover alimony and child support. His against-the-grain arrogance, take-every-wave credo and competitive drive are legendary. One of Hamilton’s strengths is that he looks the part of a champion surfer, and has played them in movies, on television and as a model. He’s cognizant of the fact he’s made enemies out of friends and has acted at times like a complete dick. Kennedy doesn’t back away from such perceptions. What sells “Take Every Wave,” as something other than an easy-on-the-eyes character study, however, are the many scenes in which he’s shown taking extraordinary chances on big waves and the grandeur of sport, itself. Alice Gu and Don King’s cinematography – some images were collected for previous projects – are nothing short of breathtaking. I only wish that MPI had made it available in Blu-ray or 4K.

Victor Crowley: Return to His Swamp: Blu-ray
Day of the Dead: Bloodline: Blu-ray
The Aftermath: Blu-ray
It’s difficult to say why the producers of the Hatchet franchise elected to make a midcourse correction, by naming No. 4 after its antagonist. Perhaps, Kane Hodder demanded top billing for his ax-wielding sadist, Victor Crowley, this time around, or they felt finally decided that Hatchet is too generic for a series with plenty of steam left in it. (Last year’s Leatherface was the first of seven Texas Chainsaw Massacre installments to rely solely on the name of its primary character.) In the 10 years since the series kicked off, creator/writer/director Adam Green has been an extremely busy fellow. In addition to adding three chapters to the saga, Green has acted in a couple dozen pictures and television shows, including his own horror sitcom, “Holliston,” for FEARnet; created biographical talk-shows “Adam Green’s Scary Sleepover” and “Horrified”; launched the “Movie Crypt” podcast, with Joe Lynch; added the films, Grace, Frozen, “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” segment for Chillerama, Digging Up the Marrow and Tales of Halloween; formed the metal band Haddonfield; appeared at numerous conventions and signings; and wrote “The Jarvis Tapes” for “Friday the 13th: The Game.” With that many items on his plate, it would have been a safe bet that Victor Crowley: Return to His Swamp, if not sucked, exactly, then turned out to be an underwhelming addition to the franchise. Instead, as most sequels go, it’s a reasonably entertaining and often quite funny parody of genre clichés, with enough gore thrown in to keep fanboys happy. After a 10-year hiatus, swamp-thing Crowley is accidently resurrected by the recitation of a voodoo chant played on an iPhone that drops from the heavens after a plane crashes into Louisiana’s Honey Island Swamp. Among its passengers are Andrew (Parry Shen), lone survivor of Victor’s last massacre; the media and publicity crew supporting him on the publicity tour for his new book; and always-welcome scream queen Tiffany Shepis. Already on the ground is a movie crew, hoping to convince Andrew to join their production. If anyone steals the show here, it is the super-cute pixie, Laura Ortiz (The Hills Have Eyes), whose kooky voice will keep her employed in Hollywood far longer than her acting. The Blu-ray adds commentary with Green, Shen, Ortiz and Dave Sheridan; a technical commentary with Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham and makeup FX Artist Robert Pendergraft; “Raising the Dead … Again,” an interview with Green; and a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette.

Reflecting on the possibility of life after death, the late, great George A. Romero once said, “I’m like my zombies. I won’t stay dead!” If that turns out to be the case – and I hope it does – let’s hope he’s allowed to return in a movie several times more imaginative than the most recent remake of his 1985 undead thriller, Day of the Dead. It isn’t a bad movie, as straight-to-VOD genre flicks go, but it doesn’t do much more with the original conceit than update the characters’ hair styles, clothes and the models of the cars they drive. As was the case the first time around, a small group of military personnel and survivalists dwell in an underground bunker, as they seek to find a cure for the “rotters” virus. A double-row of fences lines the perimeter –why aren’t they electrified? – effectively keeping the local zombie population from overrunning the facility. Inside, a drop-dead gorgeous scientist – aren’t they all? — is working on an anti-zombie vaccine, while quickly running out of the pharmaceuticals necessary to keep a patient alive and her research going. It means leaving the encampment and venturing forth into the world dominated by hungry brain-eaters. Somehow, they’re able to complete their mission, but without noticing that an old friend, Max, has hitched a ride on the undercarriage of the armored truck. Several years earlier, while still alive, Max (Johnathon Schaech) had developed a serious crush on the scientist, Zoe Parker (Sophie Skelton), even going so far as to carve her name into his forearm. During a party in the lab, Max follows Zoe into the morgue, where a keg of beer is being kept on ice. Before he’s able to rape her, however, a zombie raises himself from the slab on which he’s being stored and kills Max before he can do any damage to her. The incident does serve to ruin the party, though. Max, who’s supposed to remind us of Bub, from the original, is unique among the zombie horde, in that he still carries a torch for Zoe, thinks for himself and is nimble enough to climb into air ducts and pursue his prey on his hands and knees. Once he’s caught and caged, however, Zoe hopes to study the plasma of her would-be rapist to discover what makes him tick at a different frequency than that of his peers. Unfortunately, director Hèctor Hernández Vicens (The Corpse of Anna Fritz) and writers Mark Tonderai (Hush) and Lars Jacobson (Baby Blues) fail to develop their concept any further without resorting to clichés. The Blu-ray adds the featurette, “Day of the Dead Bloodline: Reviving the Horror,” with interviews and making-of material.

Shot in 1978 and released in 1982, The Aftermath looks very much like the kind of movie a high school AV club might make if they could afford the services of Sid Haig – a founding member of the Hollywood Heavy Hall of Fame – and Z-list star Lynn Margulies, noteworthy for being Adam Kaufman’s girlfriend when he died of lung cancer in 1984. The props and costumes might as well have been manufactured by students taking classes in home economics, woodshop and theater arts, and the weaponry could have been purchased at Toys“R”Us. Apparently, Steve Barkett’s DIY spectacular has achieved cult status among science fiction and horror buffs who favor exploitation films that are so bad they’re good. The Aftermath easily fits that bill. It opens on board a spacecraft that could have served as the model for the Satellite of Love on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” The astronauts no longer receive communications from Earth and, upon their return, learn that the U.S., at least, has been largely destroyed by an apocalyptic nuclear catastrophe and subsequent zombie apocalypse. It must have happened quickly, because the first humans they meet who don’t want to eat their brains are lying on deck chairs along a SoCal beach, deteriorating from exposure to the sun’s radioactive rays. Almost immediately, the astronauts learn that the few surviving humans are being rounded up by a Manson-like cult leader, Cutter (Haig), who kills the male prisoners, rapes the women and enslaves the children. After rescuing Sarah (Margulies) and her son, Captain Newman knows the world can’t heal unless Cutter is destroyed, which is easier said than done. Along the way, writer/director/star Barkett breaks all sorts of genre rules, including depictions of children being killed. The Aftermath does reward exploitation geeks with enough unintended humor to keep their chatrooms buzzing for days, however. I can’t imagine anyone else finding much here to warrant anything but a brief look. Even so, the folks at VCI Entertainment have given the Blu-ray release an upgrade worthy of a Criterion Collection title, with featurettes ported over from the laserdisc edition, other short films of the same caliber and discussions with Barkett, who’s since acted in such gems as Dinosaur Island and Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold, for which he also supervised special effects.

Zombies could exist for a good long time on the blood and viscera expended during Christopher Lawrence Chapman’s twisty, if confounding thriller,Inoperable. Genre star Danielle Harris (Stakeland) stars as Amy Barrett, a young woman who one minute is stuck in traffic leaving Tampa ahead of a killer hurricane, and the next is lying on a bed in a hospital that, upon closer inspection, appears to be abandoned. As Amy attempts to find a doctor or nurse who might be able to explain why she’s in the hospital, the ones she encounters act as if she doesn’t exist. This adds a ghostly element to the proceedings, which is OK, as far as it goes. Soon, however, she’s being chased through the labyrinthine hallways, by monsters posing as doctors looking for a cheap meal. Amy then comes across another woman, JenArdsen (Katie Keene), and a guard, who do prove to be human, and are chased by the same demons, wielding scalpels, surgical saws and drills. (The difference in their heights and physical stature make them look like Mutt & Jeff.) As was the case in Day of the Dead, Chapman makes good use of the hospital’s heating ducts, and watching the leggy Keene wriggle her way through them in her super-tight mini-dress and heels is almost worth the price of a rental. The other angle exploited by Chapman involves the time loops that keep Amy guessing as to whether the storm has yet to arrive, and she’s in her car imagining things, or if it’s already passed and she’s doomed to remain in a hospital populated by ghosts and ghouls. The premise isn’t bad, but, after a while, the effort it takes to figure out what’s going on inside Amy’s head isn’t worth it.

Woody Woodpecker
A few years ago, the media were awash with stories about the possible re-emergence of a woodpecker believed to have gone extinct many decades ago. Sightings of ivory-billed woodpeckers are so rarely reported that birders refer to them as “The Grail Bird” or “The Lazarus Bird.” Even when an ivory-bill sighting is reported, experts assume locals have staged the appearance to lure birders to the Mississippi-fed bayous of eastern Arkansas to spend money. Evidence caught on film and tape recorders has been inclusive, at best. The reports reminded me of Woody Woodpecker, an anthropomorphic cartoon character I dearly loved as a kid. Woody was created in 1940 by Walter Lantz and storyboard artist Ben “Bugs” Hardaway, who had previously laid the groundwork for two other screwball characters, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, at Warner Bros. Woody’s personality and design evolved over the years, but his cackling laugh was an original. Among the actors who’ve voiced the character are Mel Blanc and Lantz’ wife, Grace Stafford. Woody was put out to pasture in the 1970s, but has since been resurrected on television, video-game platforms, cassette collections and even a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. His eponymous first feature is a live-action/CGI comedy that surprised me by not completely playing down to the kiddie audience or attempting to get away with a bargain-basement script, as has been the case with other cartoon-character revivals. In Woody Woodpecker, Lance Walters (Timothy Omundson) is a high-powered lawyer from Seattle, but, due to some ill-advised words about the environment, loses his job. He used this an opportunity to check out some land in B.C., which he inherited and wants to develop for a quick-flip. He asks his snooty fiancée, Brittany (Thaila Ayala), to join him on the wilderness excursion.

They will be joined unexpectedly by Lance’s son, Tommy (Graham Verchere), from his first marriage. Without access to the Internet or a television, Tommy is fully prepared to have a miserable time. It isn’t until he becomes fast friends with an anarchic acorn woodpecker, Woody (voiced by Eric Bauza), does he start to enjoy his lakeside sojourn. Then, he meets a local girl who lends him a guitar and invites him to join her band. The conflict comes when Woody objects to Lance’s plans for the garish house and does his best to pre-empt its completion, and Lance hires a pair of poachers to capture the annoying bird. Sensing that acorn woodpeckers are as rare as his ivory-billed cousins – they aren’t – the poachers hope to make a killing by selling him to a rich collector. Mayhem, as usual, ensues. Watching a CGI Woody navigate his way through a live-action world won’t be easy for older viewers and the bird-poop gags wear thin pretty quickly. It shouldn’t matter to kids, though. While Woody Woodpecker is opening on video here, a theatrical release is anticipated in South America, where the character and bombshell actress Ayala are extremely popular. The DVD contains three extra features and bonus cartoon. “Guess Who? The Evolution of Woody,” traces the history of the character, looking at how the design changed and how the character’s tone morphed from his earliest incarnation; “The Making of Woody Woodpecker,” provides comments from the cast and creative team; and “Working with Woody,” which focuses on the design of the character for the film, taking into account how the animated version looked, while thinking about how to bring him into a 3D world.

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno: Special Edition: Blu-ray
The Gruesome Twosome: Special Edition: Blu-ray
The annals of Hollywood history are replete with stories about movies taken away from their directors and re-edited – a.k.a., “butchered” – by producers anxious to get something back from their investments or simply to say “basta” to recalcitrant artistes. Erich von Stroheim’s Greed and Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil are textbook cases of the dubious practice. And, while we’re never likely to see the former two titles as intended, the 1998 restored cut of Touch of Evil demonstrates just how misguided those heavily edited versions can be. There’s reason to hope that Welles’ famously unfinished The Other Side of the Wind (1970) finally will see the light of day later this year, on Netflix, thanks to the persistent efforts of, among others, producers Frank Marshall and Filip Jan Rymsza, and executive producer Peter Bogdanovich. It recalls the fate of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s unfinished L’Enfer (“Inferno”), which still stands as one of the most ambitious and experimental projects of its time. In 1964, the acclaimed French director of Les Diaboliques and Wages of Fear began work on an impressionistic thriller designed to plumb the dark depths of unreasonable jealousy and its consequences. Set at a swank lakeside resort in Auvergne region, L’Enfer would have starred Romy Schneider, then 26, as the harassed wife of a controlling hotel manager (Serge Reggiani). Despite huge expectations, major studio backing (Columbia Pictures) and an unlimited budget, the production collapsed after three weeks under the weight of arguments, technical complications and illness.

In Arrow Academy’s new edition of “Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno” — Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea’s 2009 documentary and partial reconstruction – we’re made privy to a large, long-hidden cache of original rushes, screen tests and on-location footage. It sheds light on Clouzot’s original vision through interviews, dramatizations of un-filmed scenes and the director’s own notes. The experimental psychedelic imagery – in black-and-white and color – predates the visuals in Roger Corman and Jack Nicholson’s The Trip by three years. Clearly the doc’s primary appeal is to Francophiles and film nerds, which is OK. In 1994, Claude Chabrol adapted Clouzot’s screenplay for his own version of L’Enfer, starring Emmanuelle Béart and François Cluzet. The Arrow Blu-ray includes a discussion with French cinema expert Lucy Mazdon on Clouzot and the troubled production; “They Saw Inferno,” a featurette including unseen material, providing further insight into the production; a filmed introduction by and interview with Bromberg; a stills gallery; reversible sleeve, featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil; and, first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet, with new writing by Ginette Vincendeau.

It doesn’t take long for Arrow to go from the sublime to the ridiculous, in “The Gruesome Twosome: Special Edition: Blu-ray,” an early exercise in splatter, slasher and grindhouse tomfoolery from ”Godfather of Gore,” Herschell Gordon Lewis. Despite its questionable historical value, Gruesome Twosome – it could have been re-titled, “The Little Wig Shop of Horrors” – the restoration begs the question as to how bad a movie must be to be eliminated from consideration for such benevolent treatment. Even after restoration, Gruesome Twosome looks as if it had been left spinning on a loop, for days, before the drive-in’s projectionist returned from his days off. Before the movie begins in earnest, two Styrofoam heads, adorned with wigs, are shown discussing what’s about to unfold on screen. Lewis added this completely unnecessary preface to bring the running time to the minimum 70-minute length. As the story goes, the owner of a wig shop cons coeds – as women students were then referred – into inquiring about a room for rent. While taking the tour, the unsuspecting visitor is pushed into the basement, where the owner’s demented son scalps her. The pelt then will be processed into another wig in Mrs. Pringle’s inventory. It continues until a wily amateur sleuth (Gretchen Welles) risks her own blond tresses to discover the horrible truth. But, wait, there’s more! The package includes the bonus feature, A Taste of Blood (1967), which is essentially a cheesy updating of the Dracula legend. The Blu-ray, which can be enjoyed as low-camp, also adds introductions and archival commentaries by Lewis; the funny featurette, “Peaches Christ Flips Her Wig!,” in which the San Francisco drag performer and filmmaker discusses “Gruesome Twosome”; “It Came from Florida,” with filmmaker Fred Olen Ray discussing the state of Florida filmmaking; “H.G. Lewis vs. the Censors,” on the pitfalls of being a pioneer in the blood-and-guts business; and a reversible sleeve, featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil.

Just Charlie
Like so many other films targeted for consumption by audiences already conditioned to accepting LGBT-themed entertainments on their own terms and merits, Just Charlie presents something of a litmus test to straight viewers. Director Rebekah Fortune (Deadly Intent) and writer Peter Machen, in his feature debut, ask them to consider how they might react to the same predicament faced by the perfectly normal family in the movie. It’s nothing terribly out of the ordinary, in the prevailing scheme of things, anyway, but some parents might treat their child’s coming-out as Chicken Little did when an acorn fell and hit him on the head. Not long after teenage soccer star Charlie Lyndsay (Harry Gilby) receives a note from a pro team expressing its interest in his future, he decides that it’s become too difficult for him to disguise his long-held belief that he’s a girl trapped in the body of a boy. It isn’t until his parents came home unexpectedly one night and catch him dressed up in his older sister’s clothes, that his secret is revealed to them. After doctors and teachers affirm Charlie’s dilemma, his father decides that he’s undergoing a manifestation of puberty and can be bullied into getting back to normal. His mother and sister have far less trouble accepting his decision. Knowing Charlie’s devotion to soccer, his atypically compassionate coach invites him to join a girl’s squad, but not before he proves his value and determination to them. The more comfortable Charlie becomes in his new role, the harder it is for his father to adjust to it. He’s thrown out of the house by his wife, just weeks before their daughter’s wedding. The filmmakers then decide to throw another rather sizable monkey wrench in the proceedings, leading to a climax designed to pull the rug out from under unsuspecting viewers. Just Charlie took home the Audience Award at 2017’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. Anyone who thinks the story might be a stretch out to check out the revelatory story of 10-year-old Desmond Napoles (a.k.a., “Desmond is Amazing”) on the Internet.

Also from Wolfe Releasing, Sebastian is an appealing, if undemanding romantic drama written, directed and produced by James Fanizza, who also plays one of the two lead roles. The story, while tailored for gay audiences, is flexible enough to fit any combination of straight or LBGT dynamics. Fanizza plays a standard-issue Toronto yuppie, Alex, whose Argentinian/Canadian boyfriend, Nelson (Guifré Bantjes-Rafols), asks him to show his visiting cousin, Sebastian (Alex House), the town, while he’s away on business. Nelson is either unrealistically trusting or very stupid, because Sebastian bears a passing resemblance to Javier Bardem and exudes testosterone like cheap cologne. Although Alex momentarily fights the urge not to cheat on Nelson, he isn’t strong enough to resist Sebastian for any longer than a couple of hours. Knowing that Sebastian, who’s been studying in the U.S., plans to return to Argentina at approximately the same moment as Nelson’s plane will touch down in Toronto, imagines getting away with the affair. What he doesn’t count on is Nelson arriving a day early and forcing his hand on deciding where his intentions lie. Sebastian wouldn’t be the first Argentinian to rearrange his travel plans for love. The only real complicating factor comes when Sebastian announces that no Argentinian worth his salt would dream of stealing a cousin’s lover or allow lust to tarnish a relationship with a close aunt (Leah Doz). Even so, we’ve all seen enough of these kinds of movies to know in which direction the characters are likely to go.

Reset: Blu-ray
Extraordinary Mission: Blu-ray
Supervising executive producer Jackie Chan’s name is featured prominently on the jacket of Reset, a frequently bewildering sci-fi thriller directed Korean helmer Yoon Hong-seung (a.k.a., Chang), who may have bitten off more than he could chew, even with Chan holding the spoon. By playing fast and loose with such standard genre conceits as time-travel and parallel universes, Yoon hopes that audiences won’t be savvy enough to see where the wrinkles in time turn into gaps big enough to navigate a truck. Reset unfolds in a near-future, where time travel and the transfer of living tissue through time is becoming a reality. Here, the sci-fi concepts are facilitated by the discovery and use of wormhole portals to parallel universes, if only for two hours at a time. So far, it’s worked on chimpanzees unable to verbalize what happens when they make the temporal leap. Single mother Xia Tian (Yang Mi) leads a research team on the verge of a major breakthrough, when her son Doudou is kidnapped and held for ransom by the mysterious Cui Ho (Wallace Huo), who demands she turn over her research, which is contained in a glowing blue capsule. Why so soon? Who knows? Anyway, even though Xia Tian complies with the demand – barely — the fiend finds a reason to kill the boy. Stealing an idea from Back to the Future, perhaps, she pushes aside the chimp and leaps into the portal to see what she can do to alter the outcome. With every failed attempt to rescue Doudou, Xia Tian returns to the present and starts the process over again. In doing so, she creates multiple versions of herself in the parallel universe, and they’re all obsessed with saving the boy. If that weren’t confusing enough, the kidnaper sets off a bomb in the research tower that threatens to destroy the research and the scientists in residence there. In the nick of time, Xia Tian recovers the capsule. In attempt to avoid first-responding police, however, she climbs to the roof and jumps into a sky-high refuse chute. When she momentarily lets go, the capsule becomes lodged on a surface upon which loose garbage is raked into a bottomless pit by giant metal claws. It’s a cool scene, no matter how contrived the tick-tock drama may be. No reason to go much further here, except to say the five Xia Tians do come together at one point to combine their resources to save Doudou. Fans of insane Chinese action flicks – as opposed to normal-crazy specimens – might have an easier time deciphering Reset than I did.

As dramatized in Dante Lam’s Operation Mekong (2016), the war for control of the drug trade along the border shared by China and Myanmar has escalated to the point where Chinese filmmakers are able to point to it as a serious domestic problem, instead of one merely affecting countries traditionally supplied by cartels operating in the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent. When Mao Zedong led the Communist Party, drug use and other vices were strictly prohibited and punishable by death. At the time, Americans stationed in Vietnam kept operators in the Triangle busy enough to ignore China’s highly exploitable market. That changed, of course, after Mao opened the borders to international trade and capitalism provided young people with money to spend on luxuries and vices. Today, the number of addicts has skyrocketed, at the same time as Chinese factories have become major suppliers of chemicals that fuel the crystal-meth trade in North America. Lam was inspired by the actual Mekong Massacre, which occurred in 2011. Two Chinese commercial vessels were ambushed while traveling down the river, near the borders of China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. Thirteen sailors are executed at gunpoint, and 900,000 methamphetamine pills were recovered at the scene. It’s believed that the pills were planted on the victims’ ships to confuse authorities.

While several of the culprits were executed and a joint regional task forces was formed, the attack pointed to China’s growing appetite for heroin and cartels’ need to control the trade routes. The movie made it seem as if the problem was solved by patriotic Chinese law-enforcement agencies, but no such luck. Alan Mak, Anthony Pun and writer Felix Chong’s less jingoistic Extraordinary Mission takes a different tack in approaching the same issue. A drug-related crime causes a big-city police chief to assign his crack undercover cop, Lin Kai (Huang Xuan), to infiltrate a cartel whose tentacles reach into the Golden Triangle. He cleverly works his way through the ranks, finally reaching the top tier in Thailand. In a business in which no one really trusts anyone else, the Big Boss  (Duan Yihong) naturally tests Lin with a hot dose of top-shelf heroin. He also gains the trust of Eagle’s daughter, who is every bit as dubious as her father. Before attempting to take down the cartel, Lin discovers a one-time associate being held in chains in a filthy cell. Lin’s quest will take him back to China, where corruption threatens to reverse any gains he made in Thailand. The final half-hour is highlighted by a extended Hong Kong-style chase scene that has to be seen to be believed. It’s worth recalling that Chong, Mak and Pun collaborated on Infernal Affairs, one of the best HK police thrillers.

Accident Man: Blu-ray
24 Hours to Live
Based on a character conceived by Pat Mills for the short-lived UK comic book, Toxic! — created as a rival to the hyperviolent 2000AD — Accident Man is populated by a rogues’ gallery of assassins so despicable that its protagonist, Mike Fallon (Scott Adkins), becomes the default anti-hero for his clever dialogue, cool leather jacket and face that, unlike his fellow hitmen, wouldn’t stop a freight train. Not knowing how or why his victims are chosen for execution – intricately staged to look like accidents – also gives him an edge on his male and female compatriots, who hang out in the same pub and swap stories about their kills. Because each assassin has a unique modus operandi, they rarely compete for assignments carefully doled out by the sleazy middleman, Milton (David Paymer). Even though Fallon appears to be well-liked and respected, he isn’t immune to back-stabbing. When his pregnant girlfriend is raped and killed in a home-invasion, police are quick to pin the blame on a pair of junkies who are found dead before they can be arrested and tried for the crime. After surveying her apartment, Fallon comes to the inescapable conclusion that she was murdered in a manner that points to two of his business associates. What he can’t figure out is why anyone put out a contract on her. She belongs to Greenpeace, but, so what? To find the answer he must force his cronies to break the assassin’s code of silence. It won’t be easy, but all roads lead through Milton. There’s nothing remotely subtle in Jesse V. Johnson’s direction or the adaptation, to which Adkins also contributed. The gags carry the impact of a sharp jab to the nose and the fight scenes are choreographed with an eye towards giving viewers the maximum bang for their buck. Much of the fun derives from simply observing the interaction between the mugs at the bar, played by Amy Johnston, Brooks Johnston, Michael Jai White, Tim Man, Perry Benson, Ray Park, Stephen Donald, Ray Stevenson, Nick Moran and Ross O’Hennessy. After the Toxic! Folded, Accident Man ended up at Dark Horse, and was optioned to be made into a film in 1997. It finally made in 2017.

Ethan Hawke is a fine actor, who frequently appears in mediocre movies, presumably to afford taking roles in the independent films that don’t have the money to pay him what he’s worth. That appears to be the case with 24 Hours to Live, an extremely loud and confusing thriller in which he plays a mercenary ex-Marine, who accepts a lucrative gig from an old military buddy (Paul Anderson) but is killed after having sex with the Interpol agent (Qing Xu) he’s supposed to assassinate. (Not sleeping with your target may be one of the cardinal rules taught at assassins’ school, but it’s also the one most frequently broken in movies.) Travis doesn’t see it coming. Neither does he expect to be resurrected and given 24 more hours of life to complete the assignment, with a digital timer sewn into his forearm to remind him of its urgency. Much, if not all of what happens in veteran stuntman Brian Smrz’s sophomore feature takes place in and around Capetown, South Africa, which, perhaps, explains what attracted Hawke to the project. In the time he has left to him, Travis puts him in the middle of enough action to keep the Capetown police busy sorting out for the next year. Also killing time here are Rutger Hauer, Liam Cunningham and Nathalie Boltt.

Time Life: The Jackie Gleason Show: In Color
PBS: Finding Your Roots: Season 4
Nickelodeon: Jojo Siwa: My World
Nickelodeon: Shimmer and Shine: Beyond the Rainbow Falls
Nickelodeon:  Rugrats: Seasons 3 & 4
Jackie Gleason was still one of the biggest attractions on television – literally and figuratively – when, in 1964, he decided to move production of “The Jackie Gleason Show” from New York City, where it had been mounted since 1952, to Miami Beach. He said that he wanted to play golf year-around and what the Great One wanted, the Great One gets … until 1970, anyway, when CBS yanked it for skewing too old. At the time, Miami Beach was referred to as “the sun and fun capital of the world” and everything about the show looked brighter in color. (Although CBS was a pioneer in color broadcasting, it took its time adding it to its roster of programs.) Since “The Jackie Gleason Show” went off the air, it’s been difficult to find reruns or collections of the complete episodes on video cassette or DVD. Time Life has remedied that with a boxed set of 27 episodes in color, including seven “Honeymooners” sketches that haven’t been seen in nearly 50 years. The single-disc “The Jackie Gleason Show: In Color” serves as a teaser for the larger package, not yet available in retail. It contains four never-before-released episodes, featuring guest appearances by Milton Berle, Red Buttons, George Carlin, Nipsey Russell, Phil Silvers and Florence Henderson, as well as three unreleased “Honeymooners” sketches, with Gleason, Art Carney, Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean. They’re still funny. It’s also a blast watching the supersize entertainer dance around the stage as if he were in the ballet. The big drawback here is the absence of dance routines by the June Taylor Dancers and more than a few regular skits, sketches and songs.

The surprise PBS hit series, “Finding Your Roots,” entered Season Four with a full head of steam behind it, and the first episode didn’t disappoint. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Larry David, who impersonated him on “Saturday Night Live,” trace their lineage from 1940s Brooklyn to Jewish communities in Europe. Other guests whose ancestral mysteries were solved last season were Carmelo Anthony, Ava DuVernay, Téa Leoni, Ana Navarro, Questlove, Christopher Walken, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, William H. Macy, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, John Turturro and Amy Schumer. It’s kind of like a game show, in which the prizes come in the form of knowledge.

Like most American adults, I couldn’t pick JoJo Siwa out of a lineup in which Honey Boo Boo, the Olsen Twins and the ghost of JonBenét Ramsey also stood. Fortunately for the wee performer, she has a vast army of fans, who’ve followed her from her “Dance Moms” breakthrough and YouTube contributions, to the Nickelodeon special, “Jojo Siwa: My World,” which was taped last summer at Mall of America. It also contains 15 minutes of bonus content, in which the singer/dancer recounts the events in her still-young life that brought her to a such a huge performance venue and Nickelodeon stardom.

Also from Nickelodeon, “Shimmer And Shine: Beyond the Rainbow Falls” follows Shimmer, Shine and Leah as they embark on magical adventures, in which they’ll explore wondrous locales and meet exciting new friends. Whether they’re recovering a magical Genie Gem, searching for Zac in the forest or rescuing Zeta from a wild whirlpool, the animated characters are always ready to work together and lend a helping hand. The Season Three episodes include “Rainbow Zahramay,” “The Darpoppy,” “Hairdos and Don’ts,” “Flower Power,” “All That Glitters,” “Waterbent” and “Whatever Floats Your Boat.”

Paramount must have listened to the complaints of fans who were unhappy with the quality of previous releases of “Rugrats” episodes, which were available streamed or on Burn-on-Demand status, neither of which are up to standards set by DVDs. The series premiered in 1991, as the second Nicktoon after “Doug” and preceding “The Ren & Stimpy Show.” When production initially halted in 1993, after 65 episodes, popular demand forced Nickelodeon to order new episodes and feature-length movies from Klasky Csupo Animation. “Rugrats” focuses on a group of toddlers, most prominently Tommy, Chuckie, twins Phil and Lil, Angelica and Susie, and their day-to-day lives, usually involving common life experiences that become adventures in the babies’ imaginations. Their parents, of course, remain clueless. In Season Three, Phil and Lil take on new personas; Susie and Angelica head to summer camp; Chuckie is diagnosed with “Rhinoceritis”; and Stu relives a camping nightmare he had when he was 34. It also features the critically acclaimed episode, “A Rugrats Passover.” In Season Four, fans won’t want to miss the classic Rugrats family vacation, meet Spike’s babies or laugh along as Phil and Chuckie discover the joys of dresses.

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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