MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: Annihilation, Kaurismäki, Borzage, Sweet Sweetback, Two of Us, Cold Turkey, Weinstein, Jackass and more

Annihilation: Blu-ray, 4K UHD HDR
ANNIHILATIONAlex Garland is a terrific writer-director who challenges the imagination and rewards viewers, for whom patience a virtue. Garland received sole screenwriter credit on 28 Days Later … (2002), Sunshine (2007), Never Let Me Go (2010) and Dredd (2012), while sharing the writing credit with Tameem Antoniades on the video games and “DmC: Devil May Cry” and “Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.” He also wrote the novels from which The Beach (2000) and The Tesseract (2003), were adapted. None of them enjoyed an easy stroll to the big screen. Those difficulties were a walk in the park compared to the difficulties the London-born author and filmmaker faced getting Ex Machina (2014) and Annihilation into theaters. Together, they represent two of the finest examples of Earth-bound science fiction — or, if you prefer, speculative fiction or cutting-edge fiction – to be produced sequentially, in memory. The former lost its U. S. distributor, Universal-Focus, after it was screened on December 16, 2014, as part of the BFI’s blockbuster “Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder” exhibit. A24, its new distributor, introduced Ex Machina three months later, at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Fearing the movie wouldn’t reach the desired demographic, the company elected to using the dating app, Tinder, as a marketing tool. A profile was created for the gynoid, Ava (Alicia Vikander), and matched with other Tinder users. It generated a text conversation that lead users to the Instagram handle promoting the film. It’s hard to say if the gimmick encouraged even a single user to check out Ex Machina. It wasn’t until the Comic-Con crowd and other sci-fi buffs launched a successful word-of-mouth campaign that carried Ex Machina into its DVD/Blu-ray afterlife and awards season.

Annihilation’s American release was threatened when, after a test screening, a financier and producer at Paramount voiced concerns that the film was – wait for it — “too intellectual” and “too complicated.” He reportedly demanded changes, including making the female protagonist’s character more sympathetic and changing the ending, to appeal to a wider audience. Producer Scott Rudin, who had final-cut privilege, shared Garland’s lack of interest in altering the film. On December 7, 2017, it was announced that a deal was struck allowing Netflix to distribute the film internationally. Paramount, then under new leadership, agreed to handle the American, Canadian and Chinese release, freeing Netflix to begin streaming the film in other territories about a month later. Despite all the hubbub and the imperfect arrangement, Annihilation stands a fair chance of reaping something resembling a profit in the DVD/Blu-ray/UHD/VOD marketplace. It certainly deserves to attract the same viewers who enjoyed Ex Machina.

Annihilation, based on Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach Trilogy,” isn’t the easiest movie to summarize. One way for potential viewers to get a fix on it would be to imagine how scientists and military leaders might react if the skies over the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone suddenly began to resemble the contents of a lava lamp. All post-meltdown research and what limited tourism that exists would be halted immediately, but, after a while, the Ukrainian government probably would want to know what’s up with the Shimmer, as the hallucinatory electromagnetic field is referred to in the movie. Annihilation follows a group of carefully chosen scientists – portrayed by Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Tuva Novotny – as they enter the quarantined zone, Area X, which is distinguished by mutating landscapes, transmogrifying creatures and an ability to manipulate time. One ill-fated expedition has already ended in failure, so the “volunteers” are aware of the danger. Strangely enough, a year after the participants of the doomed mission had been given up for dead, one of them shows up at the home he shared with his biologist wife, Lena (Portman). In terrible shape physically and his memory wiped clean, Kane (Oscar Isaac) might very well be a mutated clone of his former self. When he and Lena are hauled into headquarters by military authorities, he’s put into an intensive-care ward and she’s quarantined with the team of women chosen to search for the Shimmer’s source. All that needs to be revealed about what they find inside Area X is that it’s brilliantly rendered, completely illogical from a scientific point of view and occasionally quite disturbing. (OK, one scary tidbit: a gigantic irradiated alligator ambushes the women as they approach a ruined swamp-side house … but that’s all.) One reviewer characterized the story as “Under the Dome meets Event Horizon” and I wouldn’t disagree. The film’s production values are second to none, especially on the 4K UHD edition, which captures the Shimmer in all its glory. The special effects and CGI are spectacular, but they never detract from the human story being told or its mysteries. Admirers of the movie will want to check out the three-part making-of package, which is more than an hour long and covers all the bases.

The Other Side of Hope: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray
Moonrise: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray
Just because a filmmaker has won important awards at every festival worth attending and his pictures are universally praised by critics who didn’t wake up one morning and decide they wanted to write a column on the Internet, doesn’t mean his latest gem will automatically be shown in more than 11 theaters here. The latest of many such cases in point is The Other Side of Hope, by Finnish writer/director Aki Kaurismäki, which has been rescued from obscurity by Criterion Collection. Kaurismäki may not be the most accessible in the world, but lovers of arthouse cinema deserve an opportunity to see it on a screen larger than the one on their phone. His wildly offbeat road movie, Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989), can be enjoyed as much today as This Is Spinal Tap continues to be with fans of mockumentaries and heavy metal, and there’s no reason it can’t be enjoyed by the same audiences. If The Other Side of Hope demands more in the way of a viewer’s attention, patience and an awareness of current events, the payoff is well worth the effort. His characters tend to fit the stereotype established for them by the European neighbors: melancholy, unambitious, unkempt, often rude and prone to alcoholism. You’d probably be surly, as well, if you lived within shouting distance of the Arctic Circle and in constant fear that some mad Russian could decide to invade your beautiful country at the drop of a reindeer’s turd … again. The same can be said about Alaskans, I suppose. Kaurismäki’s characters are entirely recognizable as living, breathing human beings, just like people we knew growing up or see every day on our way to work. They are not comic-book superheroes or wannabes. Even so, Kaurismäki makes us care about these every-day jamokes in ways that Hollywood movies never do.

With the exceptions of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, there may not be another filmmaker in the world whose stories are founded on basic humanistic ideals; feature unexceptional, yet endearing characters; and grab viewers with their droll, minimalistic and entirely organic compassion and humor … and do so for so little commercial gain. Like La Havre (2011), which describes the friendship that develops between an elderly bootblack and an illegal underage immigrant from Africa, The Other Side of Hope concerns people in desperate need of a fresh start in life. This includes refugees from Syria and Iraq, and a middle-age Helsinki shirt salesman whose path they cross. After a quarrel with his wife, Waldemar (Sakari Kuosmanen) decides to sell his inventory to a shopkeeper and risk the money in a high-stakes poker game. After cleaning out the other players, he buys a non-descript strip-mall restaurant, whose customers drink more than they eat. He keeps its three employees on the payroll after they were stiffed by the previous owner. At the same time, Khaled (Sherwan Haji) shows up in Helsinki after an arduous journey from the ruined city of Aleppo, where most of his family perished. After entering the city illegally, buried in a pile of coal on a cargo ship, Khaled turns himself in to the police, who will process his application for asylum. At the refugee processing facility, he’s quartered alongside several other men and women who’ve just risked their lives to find work in a new home. On Khaled’s trek north, he lost track of his only living relative, a teenage sister, who disappeared in one of several border skirmishes. When the Finnish government denies Khaled’s application – somehow, it considers Aleppo to be a habitable city — he escapes from the facility, just ahead of the immigration agents assigned to transport him to the airport. After claiming a spot of his own to call home – behind the dumpster outside Waldemar’s restaurant –he impresses the owner with his willingness to fight for his right to stay there. Rather than call the police, Waldemar absorbs Khaled into the fabric of the struggling business, which is in the process of changing themes and cuisines to find one that fits the local clientele.

It’s here that The Other Side of Hope threatens to turn into a veritable laugh fest. It stops short of that by the constant threats to Khaled’s well-being from skinhead thugs and police, as well as the ongoing search for his sister. Kaurismäki doesn’t ignore the people in Khaled and Waldemar’s orbit, who otherwise might have been relegated to the background. Their concern for the protagonists’ struggles, and willingness to help them in any way they can, is in direct contrast to the behavior of the skinheads and cops, who represent two sides of the same coin. You can also discern a blurred cultural identity in the emotionless faces of the musicians we meet on the street and in the bars, and dancers who don’t look as if they’re enjoying themselves, particularly, but really are. Don’t be surprised if the movie begins to remind you of Jim Jarmusch early work, as they’re kindred spirits. In Night on Earth (1991), Jarmusch paid homage to the Kaurismäki brothers, Aka and Mika, by naming of the Finnish taxi driver and his sleeping drunken passenger after them. At a time when the plight of refugees and undocumented immigrants couldn’t be any more pressing, The Other Side of Hope also reminded me of A Better Life (2011), The Visitor (2007), La Promesse (1996) and Dirty Pretty Things (2002). La Havre and The Other Side of Hope form the first two legs of what the writer/director/producer is calling the Refuge Trilogy. (His Proletariat Trilogy consists of Shadows in Paradise [1986], Ariel [1988] and The Match Factory Girl [1990]].) The Blu-ray adds an interview with Sherwan Haji; footage from the 2017 Berlin Film Festival press conference for the film; “Aki and Peter,” a new video essay by Daniel Raim about the friendship between Kaurismäki and film critic Peter von Bagh; music videos to songs in the movie; and an essay by critic Girish Shambu.

Also included in this month’s stack of new releases from Criterion Collection is Frank Borzage’s Moonrise (1949), a small-town fable about violence and redemption that looks, walks and talks like a noir, but has melodrama written all over it. It stars Dane Clark as Danny Hawkins, a Southerner who has been haunted by and bullied over a terrible crime committed by his father ever since his execution. After being constantly taunted by classmates, Danny grew up wondering when his father’s sins might be visited on him. It comes during a fight with one of his prime tormentors, Jerry (Lloyd Bridges), as an adult. Danny inadvertently kills Jerry in a dispute over what amounts to ownership rights to a pretty, young teacher, Gilly (Gail Russell). Believing that his next likely residence will be the same Death Row cell once occupied by his father, he drags the body into the nearby swamp. It will go undiscovered until months later, when, during an annual raccoon hunt, a dog owned by his black friend, Mose (Rex Ingram), sniffs it out. By this time, however, Danny and Gilley have begun dating and she doesn’t suspect him of the crime. After the knife used in the fight turns up in the hands of a crippled mute, Billy Scripture (Henry Morgan), his guilt catches up with him and he freaks out over his deception of Gilley. Before he can iron out his hang-ups, he visits Mose, his grandmother (Ethel Barrymore) and his father’s grave. Finally, Danny’s fate rests in his own trembling hands. John L. Russell’s stark black-and-white cinematography greatly enhances pivotal scenes in the swamp and at a small-town carnival.

Borzage’s long directorial career was in a steep decline by the time he tackled Moonrise, which was adapted from a novel by Theodore Strauss. Twenty years earlier, however, he was one of Hollywood’s most valuable commodities. Influenced visually by German director F.W. Murnau, also working at Fox at this time, he developed his own style of lushly visual romanticism in a popular series of silent or partially silent films starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, including 7th Heaven (1927), for which he won the first Academy Award for Best Director, and Street Angel (1928) and Lucky Star (1929). starring the same two actors. He won a second Oscar for the pre-code drama, Bad Girl (1931) and received critical kudos for The Mortal Storm (1940), one of the few directly anti-Nazi Hollywood films released before the American entry into World War II. Moonrise would be his next favorably received picture, after which he took a 10-year hiatus. Borzage would only be credited for two more films, China Doll (1958) and The Big Fisherman (1959), before his death on June 19, 1962, at 68. In a conversation between author Borzage biographer Hervé Dumont and film historian Peter Cowie, that’s included in the crisply restored Criterion edition, a strong case is advanced for an upgrade in the director’s legacy. Also included is an essay by critic Philip Kemp.

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song: Blu-ray
Even five years ago, Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) might have been considered little more than an interesting, if largely irrelevant reminder of a time when Hollywood began to understand the commercial value of African-American audiences and filmmakers. It wouldn’t last, of course, leaving dozens of black actors scrambling for work and viewers bereft of movies that spoke directly to them. Even so, Melvin Van Peebles’ angry action thriller influenced a soon-to-emerge generation of independent African-American writers and directors that included Spike Lee. “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song gave us all the answers we needed,” Lee observed. “This was an example of how to make a film (a real movie), distribute it yourself, and most important, get paid. Without ‘Sweetback,’ who knows if there could have been a […] She’s Gotta Have It, Hollywood Shuffle or House Party?” Even so, without a $50,000 loan from Bill Cosby and an agreement with two theaters in Detroit, it may not have not have seen the light of day. Despite receiving an X-rating from the MPAA and facing other roadblocks, “Sweetback” grossed $15 million at the box office, which translates into about $90 million today. That’s the number that caught the eye of studio executives.

Although some critics and historians have credited “Sweetback” with initiating the blaxploitation trend, it really doesn’t conform to the working definition of the subgenre. It’s certainly no more representative of blaxploitation than Van Peebles’ nearly concurrent 1970 comedy, Watermelon Man, Gordon Parks’ Shaft, Ossie Davis’s Cotton Comes to Harlem or Gordon Douglas’ They Call Me Mister Tibbs! More frequently than not, the blaxploitation titles that followed were made by white directors and writers, who cardboard depictions of white gangsters and crooked cops made it easy to cheer for and validate the violence dished out by black anti-heroes, including vigilante pimps, pushers, prostitutes and fed-up cops. Audiences ate it up, until the lack of nourishing content and evolving storylines killed the goose who laid all the golden eggs. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, continued video evidence of unfettered police brutality and retaliatory attacks on police, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song hasn’t lost any of the urgency that fueled its popularity in 1971. After all this time, it remains one of the most iconic, notorious, and influential American films of the Black Power and Vietnam War period. Unlike the blaxploitation films to come, there was no “kill whitey” subtext and the behavior of the cops would be reprehensible in any context. Apart from being made “required viewing” for members of Black Panther Party, “Sweetback” neatly fit in alongside other period anti-establishment pictures, including Zabriskie Point (1970), Easy Rider (1969), Billy Jack (1971), Medium Cool (1969) and Punishment Park (1971). Its graphic nudity and unsparing sexuality did differentiate it from most other movies being exhibited at the time, however.

In it, Van Peebles plays the title character, Sweetback, a homeless boy raised by the proprietor of a Los Angeles brothel in the 1940s. Years after the 10-year-old orphan (Mario Van Peebles) is raped by one of the prostitutes, he earns his keep by entertaining customers in a sex show. One night, a pair of white LAPD officers come in to speak to his boss, Beetle (Simon Chuckster). A black man has been murdered, and there is pressure from the black community to bring in a suspect. The police ask permission to arrest Sweetback, blame him for the crime, but release him a few days later for lack of evidence. On the way to the police station, however, the officers arrest a young Black Panther named Mu-Mu (Hubert Scales). When Mu-Mu insults the cops, they take both men out of the car, undo the handcuff that connects them, and kick the crap out of him. In response, Sweetback uses the handcuffs, still hanging from his wrist, to beat the officers into unconsciousness. It sets off a manhunt that turns into a picaresque chase from L.A. to Mexico. A pair of cops are killed at a Hells Angels’ hangout, where the size of Sweetback’s penis causes a white biker chick to trade a roll in the hay for the assistance they need to escape police. Filmed from every possible angle and position, the chase reminds me of Franka Potente’s 80-minute race against time in Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run (1998). “Sweetback” features a rousing score from a then-unknown Earth, Wind & Fire, as well as unorthodox visuals from cinematographer Robert Maxwell. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray edition has been newly restored in 4K from its original 35mm camera negative, and includes commentary with film historian Sergio Mims; a 10-page booklet, with an essay by Travis Crawford; a “career interview” with the 85-year-old filmmaker; a half-hour interview with actress Niva Ruschell, who plays the prostitute who deflowers Sweetback and gives him his new name; a 36-minute Q&A with Van Peebles, taped at the 2013 Black Panther Film Festival; an undated making-of featurette; a “still gallery,” with vintage newspaper ads, reviews and stories that chart the “Sweet Sweetback” phenomenon; and original marketing material.

The Two of Us: Blu-ray
After 50 years, I don’t think I’d be spoiling anyone’s enjoyment of this wonderful film by calling it one of the very few feel-good movies set in Occupied France during World War II. Nor would I be giving much away by saying that The Two of Us’ curmudgeonly co-protagonist, zestfully portrayed by Michel could have served as the model for Archie Bunker, both being lovable bigots whose bark is considerably worse than their bite. Claude Berri, for whom The Two of Us is semi-autobiographical, at least, set the story at a time when everyone in France, including the Nazis, assumes the Allied invasion is imminent and, if it succeeds, freedom will once again be at hand. In Paris, this also means that the Gestapo is rushing to find, arrest and deport every surviving Jew to an extermination camp. The parents of 8-year-old Claude (Alain Cohen) decide they no longer can keep their true identities secret and arrange for refuge away from the city. To further protect their son, they send him to live in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France with the elderly parents of Catholic friends, while they hide elsewhere. (Berri was similarly separated from other family members during the war.) Knowing Claude has an unpredictable streak and could easily say something to tip off authorities, they teach him the basics of Catholicism. Before he’s handed off to Pépé (Simon) and Mémé (Luce Fabiole), Claude is given a new last name, taught a few things about Catholic rituals and forced to memorize the Lord’s Prayer. Most importantly, he’s told to never let anyone see his circumcised “birdie.” The last one is more difficult than it sounds.

Because of Claude’s smallish stature and obvious city ways, he’s an easy target for school bullies, at least until he learns to stand up for himself. He goes to church, befriends a friendly farmgirl and protects his penis from being seen by Mémé at bath time. The only other problem facing Claude is Pépé’s outspoken anti-Semitism and loyalty to his former comrades-in-arms in the Vichy government. Grandfather listens to government-controlled radio broadcasts after dinner, while also explaining why the roundup of Jews isn’t such a bad thing. (There’s no evidence Pépé is aware of Hitler’s Final Solution or that he would betray the confidence of a Resistance fighter.) Claude is clever enough not to challenge his beliefs.

Instead of dwelling on the bigotry, however, The Two of Us becomes a bromance between an old man with a soft heart and a precocious child, who, despite, Grandpa’s flaws, worships him … and his beloved German shepherd. I kept waiting for something horrifying to happen, but, aside from the bullying, Berri allows his characters the dignity that comes with survival. The Two of Us paved the way for numerous other French movies about Jewish children during the Holocaust years, including Les violons du bal (1974), Les guichets du Louvre (1974), Au revoir les enfants (1987), The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008), Europa Europa (1990) and Hope and Glory (1987). René Clément’s Forbidden Games preceded The Two of Us by 15 years. If the name Michel Simon sounds familiar, it’s because he starred or co-starred in such classics as The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932), L’Atalante (1934), Port of Shadows (1938), La fin du jour (1939) and Beauty and the Devil (1950), frequently playing characters made to look as old and unkempt as Pépé. The crisp Cohen Media Blu-ray adds commentary with critic Wade Major; a brief archival piece with Simon reminiscing about coming out of an unwanted screen retirement to tackle the role; and a six-minute conversation between Simon and Jean Renoir.

Cold Turkey: Blu-ray
Laws against smoking in the workplace, hotels, restaurants, parks, beaches, passenger planes, theaters, rental cars, commuter trains and at the entrances to office buildings have become so pervasive that it sometimes seems as if no one smokes anymore. Two of the places young people are almost guaranteed to find smokers today are in Nevada casinos and the movies. One of the most memorable things about the TV series, “Mad Men,” and George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck was the number of cigarettes consumed by the characters. The MPAA ratings certificate is supposed to warn parents whenever a lot of puffing takes place and add a “smoking label” to the rating, but it’s a hit-and-miss policy. Anti-tobacco activists cite movies as a major influence in the acceptance or rejection of smoking by teens. Filmmakers have argued that the blanket elimination of cigarettes, cigars, pipes and vapes from their movies not only would make them less credible in the eyes of viewers, but its eliminates a convenient narrative shortcut. (In teen movies, for example, bad boys and sluts smoke, while good girls and jocks don’t.) By now, I find it difficult to avoid being distracted by chain-smokers, post-coitus puffs and ashtrays overflowing with butts. If a character extinguishes their cigarette in a lumped of mashed potatoes or a cocktail glass, it never fails to make me cringe. (I’m no purist when it comes to smoking, but I can still remember nibbling leftover pancakes on my dad’s breakfast plate, not realizing he was using it as an ashtray. The horror.) I wonder how Norman Lear’s first and only feature film, Cold Turkey – newly released by Olive Films on Blu-ray – will play to moviegoers born before and after 1966, when the government mandated warning labels on tobacco products. Where the incessant smoking in noir and foreign classics still may add a nostalgic or quaint air to Boomer viewers, it might turn off their children and grandchildren.

Borrowing a casting conceit from It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), perhaps, Lear brought together a couple dozen A-, B- and C-list actors, mostly from the television universe, to play citizens of an Iowa hamlet who are challenged to kick the habit, yes, cold turkey. Each actor had a specific reason for being included in the ensemble cast, other than mug for the camera or lure their fans to the theater. Knitting their individual personae into the fabric of Lear’s narrative sometimes resulted in missed stitches and frayed ends, however. In an ill-conceived publicity stunt, a tobacco company offers $25 million to any American town whose citizens sign a 30-day no-smoking pledge. When residents of Eagle Rock accept the challenge, the company’s PR man (Bob Newhart) spends the next month trying to sabotage the effort. Intense media coverage is assured by the presence of various broadcast-news personalities, all of whom are played exceedingly well by the comedy team of Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding. (As famous as they were for their radio and TV routines, Bob may be better known today as the father of comedian Chris Elliott and grandfather of former “SNL” regular, Abby Elliott.) The eloquent Reverend Clayton Brooks (Dick Van Dyke) hopes to use the reward to transform the town into the “jewel of the Heartland.” To ensure victory, all tobacco products are confiscated, and volunteers organize a militia to identify potential cheaters and discourage opportunists from creating a black market. The cast also includes Pippa Scott, Vincent Gardenia, Jean Stapleton, Graham Jarvis Tom Poston, Edward Everett Horton, Bob Newhart, Barnard Hughes and M. Emmet Walsh, among other familiar faces. Working from a novel by Margaret and Neil Rau, Lear allows plenty of room for his “liberal agenda” to emerge. Randy Newman provided the musical score, his first of many to come.

Paws P.I.
If your family’s taste in live-action comedy runs to the anthropomorphic animals, whose lips don’t move when they converse with each other, Paws P.I. might be right up their alley. (Somebody must be buying these DVDs, because a new one is released every month, or two.) Paws P.I. is latest canine-centric title from Grindstone Entertainment, which also has released such direct-to-video fare as “Wiener Dog Internationals,” “Army Dog” and “Bark Ranger.” Here, Peter Williams (Neal Genys) and his dog, Jackson (voiced by Jon Lovitz), are best friends. They enjoy hanging out and skateboarding around town. When Peter’s father, Connor (Eddie Mills), a down-on-his-luck private investigator, is hired by veterinarian Katherine Worthington (Celesta Hodge) to help prove that her aunt’s will was stolen by her corrupt uncle. Peter and Jackson join forces with his pretty neighbor, Madison (Selah Atwood), and her sassy poodle, Cleo, and a stuffy British parrot, Peabody (voiced by Circus-Szalewski). Together, the cross-species squad invades the uncle’s mansion, where they battle his bumbling henchmen and find the document. Paws P.I. has been approved by the Dove Foundation for all ages. Presumably, that includes pets, as well.

PBS: Frontline: Weinstein
MTV/Paramount: Jackass: Complete TV and Movie Collection
The “Frontline” investigation, “Weinstein,” debuted on PBS affiliates in early March, when most of the information collected was reasonably fresh and the former head of Miramax and Weinstein Company was still two months away from being arrested, processed and indicted on charges of rape, committing a criminal sex act, sexual abuse and sexual misconduct. (His guest appearance in coverage of the NYPD’s “perp walk” scene was right out of “Law & Order: SVU.”) Most of what’s documented here on Harvey’s proclivities, perversions and modus operandi is all too familiar, by now. At the very least, he should be put away for being a pig, bully and serial philanderer, no matter how a jury rules on the charges. After all, Weinstein probably still has enough money available to him to pull an O.J. Among the things that are new in “Weinstein” are an on-camera interview with actress Sean Young, who had previously given her account to print media; a new accusation from Suza Maher-Wilson, who worked on his 1981 film, The Burning; the first interview with Tom Prince, who served as the Weinstein Company’s VP/production and signed off on travel expenses for Harvey’s dalliances; and interviews with former U.K. assistant Zelda Perkins and model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. Putting faces to names adds credibility to their accusations and those of other women, collectively referred to as Jane Does.

Looking for the perfect gift for any recent graduate disheartened by the slim prospects for meaningful work and substantial careers? (A tooled-leather briefcase or fancy pen-and-pencil set might be construed as being too optimistic.) Look no further than “Jackass: Complete TV and Movie Collection,” a tidy re-packaging of seasonal compilations and theatrical films already released a la carte by MTV/Paramount. If the “Jackass” gang could support themselves by shooting Roman candles out of their asses and riding shopping carts down steep hills, there’s hope for all unemployed graduates. As hilarious as some of the gags are, however, amateurs are advised not to copy them at home. The “Jackass” franchise, as represented in this 11-disc boxed set, includes seven movies and three seasons worth of TV episodes and bonus material, the theatrical release, Bad Grandpa, and its ancillary, Bad Grandpa .5, making-of featurettes, deleted scenes and interviews. It is what it is. I suggest placing wagers on how long it takes before disapproving friends and family members break down and enjoy themselves.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Ophelia, Ambition, Werewolf in Girls' Dorm, Byleth, Humble Pie, Good Omens, Yellowstone …More

rohit aggarwal on: The DVD Wrapup: Ophelia, Ambition, Werewolf in Girls' Dorm, Byleth, Humble Pie, Good Omens, Yellowstone …More on: The DVD Wrapup: Diamonds of the Night, School of Life, Red Room, Witch/Hagazussa, Tito & the Birds, Keoma, Andre’s Gospel, Noir

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Sleep With Anger, Ralph Wrecks Internet, Liz & Blue Bird, Hannah Grace, Unseen, Jupiter's Moon, Legally Blonde, Willard, Bang … More

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Bumblebee, Ginsburg, Buster, Silent Voice, Nazi Junkies, Prisoner, Golden Vampires, Highway Rat, Terra Formars, No Alternative … More

GDA on: The DVD Wrapup: Bumblebee, Ginsburg, Buster, Silent Voice, Nazi Junkies, Prisoner, Golden Vampires, Highway Rat, Terra Formars, No Alternative … More

Larry K on: The DVD Wrapup: Sleep With Anger, Ralph Wrecks Internet, Liz & Blue Bird, Hannah Grace, Unseen, Jupiter's Moon, Legally Blonde, Willard, Bang … More

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Shoplifters, Front Runner, Nobody’s Fool, Peppermint Soda, Haunted Hospital, Valentine, Possum, Mermaid, Guilty, Antonio Lopez, 4 Weddings … More

gwehan on: The DVD Wrapup: Shoplifters, Front Runner, Nobody’s Fool, Peppermint Soda, Haunted Hospital, Valentine, Possum, Mermaid, Guilty, Antonio Lopez, 4 Weddings … More

Gary J Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Peppermint, Wild Boys, Un Traductor, Await Instructions, Lizzie, Coby, Afghan Love Story, Elizabeth Harvest, Brutal, Holiday Horror, Sound & Fury … More

Quote Unquotesee all »

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