MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: I Tonya, Serpico, Assistant, Pastor Paul, Children of Corn, Starlight Ends, Birdboy, Sensitivity Training and more

I, Tonya Blu-ray
If Nancy Kerrigan hadn’t been assaulted by members of Jeff Gillooly’s posse before the 1994 U.S. figure-skating championships, it’s likely the tabloid press would have invented a rivalry between Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, leading into the Lillehammer Winter Games. The perceived difference in their economic backgrounds would have been too tempting to avoid. With Ukrainian hopeful Oksana Baiul waiting in the wings to steal their thunder, the Olympics showdown would have been something special. Instead, the competition devolved into a combined media circus and pity party. Kerrigan (a.k.a. America’s Sweetheart) suddenly was perceived as being a wounded swan struggling to regain her ability to fly, while Harding’s continued pursuit of gold was deemed unseemly, at best. When her free-skate program was interrupted by a shoelace problem – causing her to place 8th, behind Baiul and Kerrigan — her shame was complete. In fact, it was only beginning. Analysts couldn’t mention Harding’s accomplishments – she was the first American woman to successfully execute a triple axel in competition – without also mentioning the scandal. While I, Tonya doesn’t purport to provide a definitive answer to the lingering question of her culpability in the assault, it demands that viewers add much-needed context to Harding’s ordeal. Thanks to an Academy Award-winning portrayal of her harridan mother by Allison Janney, alongside razor-sharp takedowns of her former husband and his meathead pals, Tonya gets the fair shake she probably deserved when she was deprived of her ability to compete in the sport she loved, 22 years ago. This isn’t to imply, however, that director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers whitewash Harding’s deficiencies. In her Oscar-nominated performance, Margot Robbie reveals how such a naturally gifted athlete could become her own worst enemy.

Rogers says that he was inspired to write I, Tonya after watching a documentary about ice skating. In his interviews with Harding and ex-husband, they both recalled the events leading to the 1994 attack differently. He concluded, “That’s my way in: to put everyone’s point of view out there, and then let the audience decide.” Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) demands that we consider the possibility that Harding’s fate was predetermined at birth, as were the choices that led to disaster. Her mother, LaVona, noticed Tonya’s natural athletic ability at an early age. By the time her daughter was 4, she was spending every penny available to her from waitressing for skating lessons from a pro (Julianne Nicholson). Considering how expensive a coach and choreographer can be, it seems impossible that LaVona would have had enough money left from her cigarette budget to afford such a luxury. (By contrast, Kerrigan’s father was a welder who worked three jobs to finance his daughter’s training. Nancy didn’t start private lessons until she was 8.) Instead of allowing Tonya’s coaches the space to mold her into a polished competitor, LaVona assumed the role of skating mom from hell. In an extreme fit of pique, she’s even shown putting her cigarette out on the ice. Janney’s portrayal of LaVona is a diabolical work of art. She’s physically, verbally and emotionally abusive to her cute and talented daughter, and a bitter shrew to everyone else in their lives. By the time Tonya reaches puberty, she’s already absorbed too many of her mom’s self-centered traits.

In 1990, the 19-year-old skater sought relief from her fractured home life by marrying the 23-year-old Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), who, like LaVona, hoped to exploit Tonya’s success. They would divorce in the leadup to the 1994 championships, while remaining in close contact. The attack was concocted after Tonya shared with Gillooly her perception that Kerrigan had an unfair advantage on her, based on her clean-cut image and other prejudices held by hidebound, politically motivated judges. Harding’s argument is that he took it from there. I found Gillespie’s portrayal of LaVona, Gillooly and Harding’s buffoonish bodyguard (Paul Walter Hauser) to be, at once, hilarious and offensive. The portrayal of Harding as a white-trash goddess also feels exaggerated, at times. Maybe, maybe not. Absent the opportunity to redeem herself on ice, Harding’s misery would be compounded – off-screen — by a leaked wedding-night sex tape, taking work as a professional boxer, wrestling manager, reality-show regular, mechanic, welder, painter and sales clerk. Kerrigan’s life hasn’t turned out to be a bed of roses, either. In a post-Olympic appearance at Disney World, Kerrigan made the mistake of dissing Mickey Mouse while on a “hot mic.” She lost endorsements and television deals, before her star was finally  eclipsed by a new, untainted generation of skaters and commentators. The Blu-ray adds commentary with Gillespie, deleted scenes and some short featurettes that explain how CGI was used to make Robbie look like an Olympics-quality skater.

Frank Serpico
Too often, the subjects of popular, fact-based movies find their images tarnished in documentaries that question the poetic license taken by Hollywood screenwriters. When, in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, reporter Maxwell Scott concludes, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” he knew that his stories wouldn’t undergo the indignity of fact-checking by editors or wise-ass filmmakers. Forty-five years after Al Pacino turned whistle-blowing New York cop Frank Serpico into an exemplar of virtue, Antonino D’Ambrosio’s entertaining bio-doc demonstrates how close Sidney Lumet and co-writers Waldo Salto and Norman Wexler came to capturing the true essence of the man. As such, Frank Serpico neither diminishes Serpico’s immense entertainment value nor questions Pacino’s Oscar-nominated portrayal. Turns out, Pacino and Serpico were two peas in a pod. In the documentary, the real-life Serpico tells his story in his own street-hardened words: from his Italian-American roots in Brooklyn to his disillusionment with the NYPD’s culture of corruption, to his riveting account of a dramatic drug bust and possible set-up that ended with him being shot in the face. Indeed, D’Ambrosio follows Serpico as he revisits places he hadn’t seen in decades, including former residences and the tenement hallway in which he was shot and left for dead by fellow cops. Again, Serpico’s tour confirms Lumet’s skill in utilizing New York’s nooks and crannies to tell a great story. D’Ambrosio also takes us to places Serpico has lived in the last 45 years, avoiding possible attempts on his life. He interviews former cops, not all of whom consider him to be a hero; a woman he lived with in Greenwich Village; his lawyer, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark; reporters; and friends from the film industry, including Luc Sante and John Avildsen. The doc features music by Jack White and a reading from Brecht, by John Turturro. The best anecdote recalls Serpico on the set of Serpico, yelling “cut” when he thought a scene being shot was inauthentic. Lumet kicked him off the set and never let him return.

The Assistant
A few months ago, Film Movement released the French thriller Moka, in which Emmanuelle Devos and Nathalie Baye matched wits as mothers on opposites of an investigation of a fatal hit-and-run. Critics, myself included, compared its twisty plot to those in movies by Claude Chabrol and Alfred Hitchcock, whose names are often mentioned in the same breath. A year earlier, Baye starred in The Assistant (“La volante”) – only now being released here on DVD, by Distrib Films – another thriller in which an aggrieved mother sets a trap to avenge the death of her son in a traffic accident. It, too, bears easy comparison to the maestros of suspense. Even so, neither film was distributed widely in the U.S. Americans who complain, “they don’t make pictures like they used to,” could do a lot worse than checking out these two fully realized thrillers, made by and for adults. Like Helen Mirren, Charlotte Rampling, Catherine Deneuve and only a very few American actresses past a certain age, Baye continues to be cast in roles of substance, sometimes playing characters younger than her 69 years. And, unlike peers Meryl Streep and Glenn Close, her best work isn’t held for release until the holiday season. Moreover, in Moka and The Assistant, Baye’s characters employ what used to be referred to as “feminine wiles” to attain their goals … and, by “wiles,” I mean sexuality.

Christophe Ali and Nicolas Bonilauri’s first collaboration since 2005’s Wild Camp opens with the accident that sets up the dominoes for everything else that happens in the film. With his wife in labor and rain testing the limits of his car’s windshield wipers, Thomas Lemans (Malik Zidi) accidentally strikes a pedestrian he was too distracted to see. While nothing can be done to save the young man’s life, Thomas and his wife, Audrey (Sabrina Seyvecou) make it to the hospital in time for the baby’s safe delivery. At this early point in the story, sharp eyes might notice that Thomas crosses paths with Baye’s Marie-France Ducret in a hallway outside the recovery room. They’ll meet again nine years later, when the newly divorced Thomas is formally introduced to Marie-France, who’s been hired for the position of substitute secretary/assistant. Although Thomas is too preoccupied to see the method in her madness, it takes very little guesswork for viewers to understand how their working relationship – as professional as it might be — could end badly. It doesn’t happen overnight, however. First, Marie-France must ingratiate herself with Thomas’ fellow architects and family members, especially his son, who, you’ll recall, was born on the same night as her son was killed. Fortunately, The Assistant doesn’t play out nearly as predictably as it might sound from that introduction, mostly because of Baye’s ability to grease the plot’s machinations.

Pastor Paul
At 67 minutes, Jules David Bartkowski’s no-budget dramedy, Pastor Paul, feels more like a fable about life in contemporary Africa than a fully realized feature film. Promoted as an example of New African Cinema – as opposed to the more genre-favoring Nollywood output – it uses Christianity and witchcraft to “conjure up and distort colonialist narratives of Hollywood films set in Africa.” Bartkowski plays Benjamin, an American tourist in West Africa studying the relationship between math and the rhythms of native drummers. As he’s watching the street musicians, local guerrilla filmmakers are watching him. They ask him to portray a white missionary priest, Pastor Paul, who gets so involved with his parishioners’ culture that he goes native … in a spiritual transference of religious traditions. After the production wraps, Benjamin comes to believe that’s possessed by a ghost. It causes him to seek the guidance of witch doctors and other traditional healers, whose treatments are accompanied by drums and dance. The ending comes a bit too abruptly for my taste, but the film’s portrayal of urban life, culture and living conditions in coastal Ghana and parts of Nigeria is compelling. TheDVD adds footage from Afropop concerts and interviews.

When the Starlight Ends
Adam Sigal’s directorial debut is the kind of romantic dramedy that not only strains credulity, but also forces viewers to care about a relationship we know is doomed from Day One. Still, there was something in the casting of When the Starlight Ends that gnawed on me for several days after I put the disc back in its jacket. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where I’d seen the male protagonist before his assignment here, playing Jacob, a novelist so blocked creatively that you wonder what possessed him to choose writing as a profession, in the first place. Then there’s the impossibly cute and supportive woman, Cassandra, he married and continues to support him, until his churlish disposition convinces her to cut him loose. The rest of the movie is spent watching Jacob relive points in their marriage that caused the greatest strain on it and fantasize about how a recasting of characters might have resulted in a different conclusion. Whether these revised scenarios are stimulating enough to break his writer’s block and recover Cassandra’s love is the mystery that sustains the narrative. The only thing that’s clear is that she’s better off without Jacob.

It wasn’t until I made a quick pitstop at that I learned that the tortured hipster novelist was played by Scottish actor Sam Heughan, now widely recognized as the hunky Highland warrior, Jamie Fraser, in “Outlander.” Because When the Starlight Ends was probably completed before the show’s debut, in August 2014, it’s possible that Sigal underestimated the appeal of Heughan’s masculinity, including the muscular 6-foot-2½-inch physique that was fully revealed and exploited in “Outlander.” Instead, he resembles the late Anton Yelchin, who’s several inches shorter than Heughan and quite a bit less shaggy. Yelchin’s introspective personality would have made a better fit opposite Cassandra, played by Arabella Oz, who looks as if she just stepped out of an ad for organic hair-care products. In Hollywood, the surname, Oz, carries such weight that the perky newcomer likely is related to either Frank, Mehmet or the Wizard of Oz. It isn’t a name that most aspiring actresses would consider adopting as a career move. Even though Cassandra doesn’t look like the kind of woman who would put up with Jacob’s shit for five years – it must have seemed longer to her – I can see how Sigal might have been drawn to her innocence and charm. Also lending a bit of heft to the story are David Arquette and Sean Patrick Flanery. (Oh, yeah, the answer is, Doctor Mehmet Oz.)

Children of the Corn: Runaway: Blu-ray
As venerable genre brand names go, “Children of the Corn” is about as familiar as they get. If the sequels to the extremely profitable 1984 original haven’t lived up to its promise, well, that’s pretty much par for the course for horror sequels. Children of the Corn: Runaway is the 10th entry in a franchise whose previous eight either went direct-to-video or to Syfy. Usually, the best thing to be said about such movies is that they give jobs to young actors willing to work cheap, in exchange for a credit on their resume. Here, Ruth (Marci Miller) and her 13-year-old son, Aaron (Jake Ryan Scott), are drifting through the Midwest, trying to find someplace to settle, where the cornfields aren’t populated with feral children. Unfortunately, the one they choose is just another pancake-flat suburb of Gatlin, Nebraska, where the whole mishigas began. The gag here comes down to the fact that Ruth, one of the original Gatlin children, has been attempting to escape the influence of He Who Walks Behind the Rows ever since she left the cult. She probably would have had better luck in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah or Nevada, where cacti outnumber corn stalks. Sure enough, Ruth finds lodging in a haunted house and work in a garage owned by the only African-American mechanic between Omaha and Oklahoma City. He seems like a decent guy, but the locals still hate him for being black. It goes with the territory. As directed by John Gulager (Feast) and written by Joel Soisson (Piranha 3DD), Children of the Corn: Runaway is gory, without being particularly scary, and of primary interest to franchise completists. Miller is reasonably convincing as the single mom haunted by her nightmare past and determined not to lose her son to the same fiends. Anyone looking for fingerprints left behind by Stephen King will be disappointed. Gulagher’s dad, Clu, plays an old fart named Crusty. The Blu-ray set adds a deleted scene.

Sensitivity Training
Anna Lise Phillips is a seasoned Australian actress, who, in Sensitivity Training, immediately reminded me of Amy Madigan. With her barely combed blond hair and seeming lack of makeup, Phillips’ misanthropic microbiologist, Serena, is a woman who doesn’t let other peoples’ feelings get in the way of her professional goals. Like Madigan, she’s bulldog tough. Because Melissa Finell’s debut feature is more comedy than dramedy, forced therapy will dull Serena’s sharp edge, bring her in line with the rest of the movie’s world. It’s to Phillips’ credit that the transition feel forced or phony. If Sensitivity Training also recalls Peter Segal’s Anger Management (2003), it’s only in the initial conceit. Because Serena’s abrasive personality has begun to alienate co-workers and administrators, she’s been ordered to undergo sensitivity-training sessions. Instead of sitting in a circle, exchanging anecdotes with other rage-impacted professionals, Serena is assigned a full-time coach/therapist. With her blazing red hair, flashy clothes and sunny personality, Caroline (Jill E. Alexander) could hardly be any more different than Serena. With that much information, alone, most savvy viewers should be able to predict what’s going to happen to their relationship over the course of the next 80 minutes, or so. Finell’s decision to integrate a LGBT twist – and a cameo by Madigan — about halfway into the proceedings allowed her to kick-start the sagging narrative and save it from becoming too cliché-ridden. The evolving chemistry between Phillips (Animal Kingdom) and Alexander (“Silicon Valley”) also helps.

Chokeslam: Blu-ray
“GLOW,” the Netflix mini-series about a women’s professional wrestling league, didn’t debut until June 2017, several months later than the similarly themed Chokeslam opened in Canadian festivals. It’s unlikely that the films’ producers were aware of the concurrent projects. If they had been, however, it’s possible that the casting director of “GLOW” would have considered adding Amanda Crew to that production. The primary female component of “Silicon Valley” is every bit as credible as Alison Brie was in the Netflix series and more than six inches taller. Neither actress would be the obvious choice to play a “lady” wrestler – even as a WWE Diva — but, somehow, they manage to pull it off. Crew’s hardest job involves convincing us that in the 10 years since her character graduated from high school, she’s evolved into one of the planet’s most feared wrestlers: Sheena DeWilde. Even if Sheena’s bad temper is fueled by serious anger-control issues, a suspension of disbelief is necessary to validate the intersecting throughlines. The last time mousey deli clerk Corey Swanson (Chris Marquette) saw Sheena, she was turning down his proposal of marriage in front of the entire senior class. She wanted to conquer the world, while Corey only sought to build a nest for them in Regina, Saskatchewan. He’s spent the last decade in virtual seclusion, mourning the missed opportunity.

When an armed bandito in a luchadur mask attempts to rob the deli, Corey instantly recognizes him as a former star athlete at his high school. (The doofus tattooed the letters of name on his fingers, as well.) After Luke (Michael Eklund) is coldcocked by an elderly woman wielding a sausage, and Corey refuses to call police, they reminisce about the good old days, before their worlds turned to shit. Luke sparks Corey’s curiosity with news of Sheena’s plans to attend a 10th anniversary celebration at the school. Maybe, just maybe, she’s changed her mind about his proposal. Unfortunately, Sheena’s in the company of her manager/boyfriend, who’s always on the lookout for an angle to exploit. With Luke’s lamebrained help, Corey devises a scheme to keep Sheena in Regina long enough to rekindle her feelings for him. It’s every bit as unfeasible as it sounds. Even so, director Robert Cuffley (Ferocious) coaxes lively performances from a cast that includes real-life wrestlers Harry Smith (son of David “Davey Boy” Smith and Diana Hart); TNA/Impact’s Laurel Van Ness (a.k.a., Chelsea Green); former Canadian champion Lance Storm; and an extremely likeable Mick Foley. That Corey and Sheena will get together again is, of course, a foregone conclusion. How it happens is anything but predictable. Chokeslam may be a tad too sweet for the tastes of hard-core wrestling fans, but audiences in the Great White North probably wouldn’t want it any other way.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children: Blu-ray
Monsters at Large
For a long time, it was easy to parse the difference between cartoons and animated features made in Europe, Japan and the United States. The first Japanese anime to reach our shores combined fantasy with science-fiction in portions easily digested by children. The most visible difference between European and American animation was in the angularity of the art, the misshapen characters and overtly surrealistic backgrounds. In 1990, with “Rugrats,” Klasky Csupo and Nickelodeon Network changed the way American kids watched cartoons. They dug the way the show’s infant characters dealt with their day-to-day lives – turning seemingly mundane occurrences into adventures – and the cluelessness of their parents. The collaboration would also produce “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters,” “Santo Bugito,” “The Wild Thornberrys,” “Rocket Power,” “As Told by Ginger” and “All Grown Up!” The transformation of graphic novels, Eurocomics and manga from print to film, facilitated by computer graphics, gave teens and adult buffs something new and darkly sinister to savor. Judging by the cover art alone, Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vázquez’ Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (a.k.a., “Psychonauts, The Forgotten Children”) would appear to have been influenced by Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant (1999) and the stop-motion features of Tim Burton and Aardman Animations.

Adapted from Vazquez’s graphic novel, “Psiconautas,” and the Goya-winning short, “Birdboy,” (2011), the hand-drawn Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is as dark and disturbing as any dystopian tale told in a live-action feature. My immediate confusion over the target audience derived from early appearances by anthropomorphic animals, sentient objects and magical golden acorns. In fact, the title character, Birdboy, is a drug-dealing orphan, sporting black wings and a black suit. His head is shaped like a ping-pong ball, with pupil-less abysses for eyes. His teenage friends, who were introduced as children in the short film, include his former girlfriend, Dinky, a mouse; Zorrito, a bullied fox; and Sandra, a rabbit who ignores the voices in her head telling her to do terrible things. Blocking their exit from the island and plans to rob a talking piggy bank are canine cops, a randy lapdog in a luchador mask, drug-addicted religious hysterics and a robotic alarm clock whose mechanical heart aches at the sight of his abused and discarded “brothers” (rusting cans in a landfill). A giant avian monster rises from the horizon like a harbinger of doom. By contrast to this hellish vision, glowing acorns provide buoyant bits of light to brighten the darkness, and flowers bloom from spilled blood. Although “Birdboy” is being distributed by Shout! Factory and GKids, it’s suited for teens and adults able to parse the difference between real and imagined horror and possessing an appreciation for sophisticated animation. The Blu-ray adds an interview with the filmmakers; the original “Birdboy” short film; and “Decorado,” another short film by Alberto Vázquez.

The horror in Jason Murphy and writer Anthony Steven Giordano’s Monsters at Large is perfectly suited for pre-teens just getting their toes wet in shallow genre waters. Alex (Matthew Kosto) is a high school student just trying to navigate everyday life, crushes, schoolwork, teachers, bullies and looking out for his little brother, Gavin (Trevor Dolden). After Alex’s best friend, Dylan (Auggie Pulliam), tells the boy a scary story, he begins having nightmares and visions of a shadowy creature. His inability to sleep is affecting Alex’s sleep, which in turn lands him in hot water with his science teacher (Stephen Tobolowsky). Fed up, Alex turns decides to confront Dylan’s monster and put his fears to rest. After successfully helping Gavin, Alex’s crew becomes known as ”Monster Busters,” now famous for their ability to extinguish imaginary monsters. When the real thing shows up in familiar CGI form, it tests the courage of the kids and patience of the adults, one of whom is played by Mischa Barton (“The O.C.”). Monsters at Large is a vast improvement over Murphy and Giordano’s previous kids’ flick, Robo-Dog. It carries the Dove Seal of Approval for All Ages and adds a behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Smithsonian: Bible Hunters
Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Third Season
The Wonder Years: The Complete Series
WE tv: Kendra on Top: Season 6
Nick Jr.: Regal Academy: The Grand Ball
With Easter just around the proverbial corner, the release of the Smithsonian/BBC investigation, “Bible Hunters,” is both appropriate and welcome. Released in the U.K. in 2014, the two-hour presentation wasn’t created to debunk New Testament beliefs or offer alternate theories. Typically, archeologist and historian Jeff Rose travels throughout the Arabian Peninsula in search of evidence about early humans and their migratory paths outside of Africa. As host of the mini-series, Rose follows the trail of academics, explorers and very wealthy collectors who uncovered ancient texts related to the bible. He prefaces the documentary by explaining how, in the 19th Century, literal interpretations of Holy Scripture began to give way to secular reinterpretations, based on scientific and historical discoveries that didn’t always coincide with Old Testament accounts. Revisionist theories prompted a rush to private libraries, museums, monasteries and souks throughout the Middle East and northern Africa, where biblical treasures might be found. Typically, what they found were collections of books, manuscripts and scriptures in disarray and complete disrepair. At one monastery, located deep in the Egyptian desert, ancient texts were used to heat the building. Others were scattered without regard for continuation or context. Even so, important writings were found in unlikely places, usually for sale to the highest bidder. While they weren’t easy to translate, important discoveries were made. The mini-series ends with the 1945 discovery of Gnostic texts and Gospel of Thomas. “Bible Hunters” is compelling both as history and as a mystery waiting to be solved.

This month’s selection of archival titles from Time Life/WEA is highlighted by “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Third Season” and 30th anniversary reissues of “The Wonder Years: Complete Series.” The a la carte release from last year’s complete-series collection is noteworthy for the mid-season arrival of Lily Tomlin and addition of lesser lights Teresa Graves, Jeremy Lloyd, Pamela Rodgers and Byron Gilliam. Regulars Jo Anne Worley, Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne left after the third stanza. The show’s turnstile of guest stars continued apace with visits from Michael Caine, Peter Sellers, Debbie Reynolds, Zero Mostel and Don Ho. Both versions of the “Wonder Years” re-release – the locker edition and slipcase box — contain all 115 compete episodes from the series’ six-year run, remastered and engineered “for optimal viewing.” They include show notes, with episode synopses; cast member reflections; “Current Events”; and the soundtrack of over 300 classic period songs as they were featured in the original broadcasts. Among the artists represented are Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, the Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor and Joe Cocker.

The sixth season of WE tv’s “Kendra on Top” begs the question, “Who died and made the star’s mom, Patti, a celebrity?” That’s because almost everything that happened last year revolved around Mommy Dearest’s threat of writing a tell-all book about her daughter’s career, personal crises and her marriage to Hank Baskett, the Stedman Graham of reality TV. I haven’t heard about anyone lining up to purchase of said book, so, I assume, it’s yet to written and will continue to be a plot point in Season Seven, which begins in June. Also making appearances are Kendra’s useless brother, Colin, and their long-lost father. The loser shows up in Las Vegas, with his new wife, ahead of Kendra’s debut in the show, “Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man,” It’s interesting that the DVD no longer carries the word, “Uncensored,” on the cover. The truth-in-advertising police must have paid the distributor a visit.

Regal Academy” follows Rose Cinderella, a teenage girl from Earth who discovers a key that leads to a land where fairy tales come to life. After enrolling at the prestigious Regal Academy, she discovers that she is the granddaughter of headmistress Cinderella. At the school, five famous fairytale families come together to teach the next generation of princes and princesses how to become heroes. Among other things, Rose also learns how to use magic, while having adventures with her friends Astoria Rapunzel, Joy LeFrog, Travis Beast and Hawk SnowWhite. At “The Grand Ball,” Joy and Rose apply curse-breaking lipstick to kiss Esquire Frog and turn him back into a prince.

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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