MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: Facets, Eliana, Moullet, Pet Sematary, The Loveless, Transit, Kanarie, Escape Plan 3, Island Earth, Tough Ones, Pretenders, Broad City … More

Remembering Milos
Eliana, Eliana
The Films of Luc Moullet
I had just moved to Chicago, from Los Angeles, in 1980, when I became acquainted with Milos Stehlik and his bouncing baby, Facets Multi-Media and Cinematheque. Two years earlier, the non-profit organization moved to permanent facilities on West Fullerton Avenue, which, at the time, was still waiting to be gentrified. Even so, it was already was filling a void being experienced by buffs, students and lovers of international cinema. A few of the city’s glorious North Loop movie palaces were still hanging on by a thread, neighborhood theaters struggled to book first-run Hollywood fare, and still pay the rent. AMC and GCC had conquered the suburbs, with multiplexes that had no difficulty landing hit titles, if only because they cut sweetheart deals with distributers and soft-drink companies. Their uniformly rectangular auditoriums defined the term, “shoebox” and came complete with paper-thin walls, sticky floors and pre-packaged popcorn. Traditional arthouses were scattered around Chicago’s North Side, but audiences were often forced to wait weeks for the movies promoted in the trailers to dislodge a popular incumbent. In the late 1970s. the theater complex inside the newly completed Water Tower Place promised something new and different: a place to watch first-run pictures in theaters built for comfort and ideal viewing conditions. Neither were concessions an afterthought. As I recall, it was an instant success, and not at all unlike the now-popular ArcLight Cinemas, in Los Angeles. The opposite was true at Facets, where movies were the whole show and comfort was an afterthought. There were other things there to keep minds’ occupied, including being able to browse through the video collection. It reminded me of visits to San Francisco’s famously cluttered City Lights Bookstore, where the browsing also took place in the basement, and, besides being a cultural landmark, offered novels, non-fiction titles and poetry difficult to find anywhere else. Even so, the odds of Facets succeeding against the Goliaths were roughly the same as the Cubs making the World Series. Both persevered, however.

Stehlik, who had lung cancer, died Saturday at his home in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. He was 70. Milos and I struck up a friendship based on the fact that our surnames indicated the possibility of a shared Czech background, somewhere in the country’s deep, dark past. I hadn’t started reviewing movies, led alone videos, yet, but valued the presence of a business that so directly catered to my tastes. As I moved up the ladder in the Tribune’s features department, Facets became an even more valuable resource. My bosses sometimes would voice their concern over why our critics were paying so much attention to such cinematic exotica as Eastern European film festivals and movies that weren’t buying advertising space in the Sunday paper. The non-issue would slip their minds soon enough. Meanwhile, learning that my wife is of the Serbian persuasion, we were always given a heads-up when a  new Yugoslavian export had arrived, or a noteworthy director was in town. Milos got a kick out of introducing Donna to Dušan Makavejev, the irrepressible bad boy director of such frequently banned films as WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) and Sweet Movie (1974), as well as the uproariously dark comedy, Montenegro (1981), whose characters shared traits with people we knew. In it, the uptight American wife (Susan Ansbach) of a deceptively straitlaced Swedish bourgeois (Erland Josephson) is abducted at the airport by a motley group of Yugoslavian immigrants connected to the raucous Zanzi Bar nightclub. (She’s forced to share a station wagon with a man with a knife in his forehead, a goat and a naïve stripper who’d just flown in for New Year’s Eve festivities. Her act includes a toy tank with a dildo attached to its cannon.) Montenegro had taken over the large screen at the historic Biograph Theater for weeks. Not many of Dušan’s pictures could attract such crowds, even at an arthouse, but they always found a home at Facets … and, in a sense, so did all lovers of foreign films. Even when we moved back to Los Angeles, in 1995, we kept in touch by subscribing to Facets’ catalog and newsletters. (A few free rentals were thrown in, as well.) I always found Milos to be a ready source for information about the movies about which I was writing or reviewing in their DVD iteration. Before Netflix was founded, in 1997, Facets had created a distribution network and rental business that connected cineastes around the country to the Fullerton Avenue store, screening room, classrooms and annual children’s festival. Lately, it’s begun streaming movies of significance to subscribers, especially those in the boonies.

Titles that Facets first made available in the U.S., or released on its private label, included Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Decalogue, Bela Tarr’s Satantango, Milos Forman’s Black Peter, Forough Farrokhzad’s The House Is Black, Frantisek Vlácil’s Adelheid” and collections of experimentalists, such as James Broughton, Heinz Emigholz and the UK architect-turned-filmmaker, Patrick Keiller. Over the years, devoted Facets customers included such bold-face names as Martin Scorsese, Stephen Sondheim and Cher, as well as hundreds of university and public libraries. In a 1998 New York Times article, Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert opined, “If you can’t find it at Facets, chances are you can’t find it. (Stehlik’s) really making a difference, on a national, even a worldwide, level.” When the Iron Curtain was brought down in the early 1990s, Facets benefited from his already established access to Eastern European artists and distributors, whose movies had been denied western audiences during the Cold War. Stehlik’s accomplishments include teaching at Columbia College Chicago and lecturing at Wayne State University, DePaul University and the University of Illinois. He served on the juries of several film festivals and on review panels for the Illinois Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was a board member of the Illinois Arts Alliance, the program committee of the Chicago Humanities Festival, and Chicago Latino Cultural Center. He provided film commentaries on Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ-FM, and received the Associated Press Broadcasters Award. In 1997, he was also awarded the Telluride Film Festival Silver Medallion for “creating a virtual Cinematheque on video,” and named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Communication.

I wonder if he was ever asked to throw out the first ball or sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at Wrigley Field. How about an honorary street sign? At the recent Facets Master Class with Werner Herzog, on May 11, 2019, the filmmaker said: “There are some human beings that were named national treasures of the United States. They haven’t named Milos yet, but I do. I hope and wish there’s a great future for Facets.” To commemorate its founder and continue his work, Facets has established the Milos Stehlik Legacy Fund. Tax-deductible contributions to the fund can be made online at or by contacting Ann Kopec at It’s a credit to Milos’ foresight and commitment to the cinematic art – and Chicago, for that matter — that Facets’ concrete foundation isn’t likely to crack in his absence.

To that point, it’s worth recognizing the most recent additions to Facets’ video catalogue. Riri Riza’s Eliana, Eliana is exactly the kind of small, intensely realized urban drama that keeps slipping between the cracks of international distribution networks. It’s gone largely unseen since it began to make the rounds of niche festivals in 2002. only lists one review. Set in the teeming streets of Jakarta– at all hours of a single day — Eliana, Eliana’s handheld camera follows an estranged mother and daughter, as they struggle to make amends, while dodging pimps, slimy landlords and other threats to the young woman’s safety. Eliana’s day from hell already included being fired from her job for kicking a grabby supervisor in the nuts and coming home to find her older roommate, Heni, missing and presumably in hiding. Apparently Heni’s been covering the rent by sleeping with the thuggish landlord. She’s also being chased by her pimp, who, as the birth father of her daughter, attempts to maintain sole custody. Her mother, Bunda, wants to talk Eliana into returning home to Sumatra, which she left, at 15, to escape a pre-arranged marriage to an older man. It’s taken Bunda five years to follow her trail to the Indonesian capital. The last thing Eliana wants to do is relinquish her freedom, by returning home stripped of any semblance of dignity.

Once mother and daughter are reunited, the hostility between them becomes palpable. It’s interrupted when the men chasing Heni make their presence known outside the apartment building and Eliana orders Bunda to follow her to a secret exit. When the mother spots a taxi in an alley, she demands of the recalcitrant driver that he chauffer them around Jakarta, until the smokes clears. In turn, the driver demands that she cough up enough money to cover a day’s fare. Because neither of the women can decide how hungry they are, the driver is instructed to drop them off in front of all sorts restaurants and purveyors of street food. In the meantime, he agrees to cools his heels in the cab or complete crossword puzzles in a corner bar. As Bunda acclimates herself to the city at night and, in turn, comes to respect Eliana’s ability to survive there, it becomes abundantly clear the two women are cut from the same cloth. (They both know how to bring a male assailant to his knees, with a swift kick.) While I realize that any comparison to Mean Streets will sound like a copout, it’s inevitable and warranted. Riza’s ability to capture the sights, sounds, colors and textures of Jakarta at night – while also leaving room for the driver’s story – suggests that Martin Scorsese’s down-and-dirty depiction of Little Italy made an impression on him.

Facets has consistently demonstrated a particular fondness for the French writer/director/documentarian/actor Luc Moullet, who began contributing to Les Cahiers du Cinéma at 18 and is still associated with the Nouvelle Vague. It wasn’t until I received the new two-disc package from Facets that I recognized any of his work. “The Films of Luc Moullet” includes Gérard Courant’s The Man of the Badlands (2000), in which Moullet returns to the rugged landscapes and remote mountaintop villages that served as backdrops for his first color film, A Girl Is a Gun” (a.k.a., “Une aventure de Billy le Kid”). Released in 1971, only a month after El Topo put Alejandro Jodorowsky on the map, it’s a self-described “psychedelic Western.” Even though it starred French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud (The 400 Blows), it reportedly has never been shown theatrically in France. A laughably bad English dubbing held it back here, in the land of the genres Moullet embraced. In The Man of the Badlands, he gives viewers a first-hand description of what it feels like to push actors beyond their limits in the service of a story, which, even at the time, had been told dozens of times. What’s interesting, though, are the side-by-side comparisons of the settings … then and now. Moullet and Courant also revisit the remote villages that provided settings for the movie. In 1971, the houses, churches and other buildings were already beginning to decay, primarily because so few residents were left to care about them. That’s changed only a slight bit since the paving of roads and introduction of electricity. The presentation also allows for demonstrations, by Moullet, of how he was able to shoot the characters in such extreme conditions. They include escaping over a mountaintop covered with slippery and noisy scraps of shale. “Badlands” is a lot of fun, especially when we’re shown how dangerous and beautiful the settings actually were.

The Sieges of the Alcazar largely takes place inside a neighborhood movie theater, the Alcazar, circa 1955. It’s a place where critics gather to review movies and form opinions they’ll defend to the death. For Moullet, the film recalls a time, 30 years earlier, when he was a young writer and shared some of the same characteristics with the pompous critics we meet here. (Milos surely recognized some of them.) The proprietors appear to be openly hostile to their customers, who pay a premium to sit on chairs that don’t have springs sticking through the fabric or want to be left alone to neck in peace. Guy Moscardo, the idiosyncratic critic who serves as Moullet’s stand-in, is constantly surrounded by children, who couldn’t care less about the movie that was playing in front of them. Then, too, there are the townsfolks who straggle into the theater for reasons of their own and are badgered by the woman who takes tickets, escorts customers to their seats, sells candy and mops up after the show. (The projectionist and co-owner occasionally skips reel, in order to shorten his workday and see if anyone’s paying attention.) She’s a constant irritant, as well, to Guy, who writes for Cahiers du Cinéma. He demands ideal conditions to study the films of Italian writer/director Vittorio Cottafavi, but rarely gets them. Equally irritating are fellow critics, who he accuses of stalking him, and either disparaging his work or fawning over him. Not that the dilettante discourages fans of the magazine from admiring him. One-time actress Elizabeth Moreau plays Jeanne Cavalero, his print rival and chief deflator of his opinions on Cottafavi. The sparking, of course, could easily lead to romance or disappointment. The Sieges of the Alcazar looks as if it were inspired equally by Jacques Tati and the Marx Brothers, with Margaret Dumont thrown in to play Jeanne. I’m not sure that Moullet’s barbs will be relevant to viewers whose only knowledge of critics’ habits and peccadillos derive from watching a few episodes of “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies.” I found the movie to be hilarious, especially in the slickly choreographed movements of the Alcazar’s patrons and Guy’s devotion to film over love.

Pet Sematary: Blu-ray
Not having seen Mary Lambert’s 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel and screenplay for “Pet Sematary,” I thought I might be at a disadvantage when considering the worthiness of the 2019 remake. Despite mostly negative reviews, the original made a lot of money for Paramount. Still known primarily for her music-video collaborations with Madonna — “Material Girl,” “Borderline,” “Like a Virgin” — Lambert was asked to collaborate with writer Richard Outten  (Last Rites) on the inevitable sequel, Pet Sematary Two (1992). It scored similarly unimpressive numbers at Metacritic, and, unable to capitalize on King’s name, plummeted at the box office. That said, the sequel still managed to gross $17 million, against an estimated budget of $8 million, and probably did OK in cassette. A quarter-century later, Paramount handed the reins to the remake of Pet Sematary to co-directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes) and co-writers Matt Greenberg (Mercy) and Jeff Buhler (The Midnight Meat Train). Because King’s name would be re-attached to the publicity material, Internet gossip began as soon the project was announced in the trades. When test screening began, however, anticipation would turn into kvetching over changes made to King’s text and subsequent screenplay. If the writer didn’t complain about seeing his name on marketing material, it’s safe to assume that the revisions fell short of taxing his patience and reserve. King once mentioned that the only novel he wrote that really scared him was “Pet Sematary.” Even with the revisions to characters, events and narrative twists, I found parts of the movie to be extremely scary. Because I wasn’t familiar with what happened in the book or 1989 Pet Sematary, I could only judge the new edition by what was on the screen.

Here, Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) relocates with his family from loud and messy Boston to the sylvan paradise he expects to find in rural Maine. His practice is small, but not without occasional outbursts of hysteria or an epidemic of bloody noses. At home, it doesn’t take long for the ghosts of New England past to make their presence known. On a hike through the woods, Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz) and their precocious daughter, Ellie (Jeté Laurence), cross paths with a short procession of mourners on their way to the pet cemetery. On a solo visit to the Halloween-ready cemetery – misspelled “sematary” on a makeshift sign — Ellie steps on a hornet’s nest that’s lodged in the deadfall of rocks, logs and sticks that forms a border to the boneyard. Their spooky neighbor, Jud (John Lithgow), pops up in the nick of time to remove the stinger and explain how the truly creepy cemetery ended up there, in the first place. Louis objects to Jud giving his impressionable young daughter a lesson in the hereafter. When confronted by the doctor, Jud opens up his home to him and shares his own multigenerational family’s experiences with the place. Soon enough, Jud gives Louis a more extensive tour of the graveyard and explains what happens, at night, behind the deadfall. Let’s just say that it has something to do with reanimating the dead – according to some ancient Micmac legend – and being given an opportunity to share some borrowed time with the dearly departed. Ellie becomes distraught when her cat, Church, is found dead on the side of a road. In an effort to calm her down, Louis asks the Maine lifer to help him reanimate Church, which Jud doesn’t think is a particularly good idea. Soon enough, viewers will understand his concern. When tragedy once again strikes, as it must, Louis ignores Jud’s warning by attempting to play God, for real. It sets off a perilous chain of events that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences. King frequently pushes his characters into situations that will lead them to trip over their hubris. A medical degree can’t prevent Louis from falling into the same trap, over and over again. The Blu-ray adds an alternate ending; deleted and extended scenes; “Night Terrors,” in which three characters face their worst fears; “The Tale of Timmy Baterman,” in which Jud recalls the tale of a boy killed in war and resurrected in the Micmac burying ground; and the worthwhile “Beyond the Deadfall,” a four-part making-of featurette that lasts for about an hour.

The Loveless: Special Edition: Blu-ray
It’s difficult to imagine how a genre flick as cool as The Loveless could have escaped my attention upon its release, in 1981, and somehow has managed to avoid cult status, ever since then. But that’s what could happen to a smallish film, when it was dismissed by the New York Times as a “pathetic homage to the 1950’s.” The reviewer must have woken up that morning, oblivious to the fact that she was living in New York, the world capital of ironic gestures and mecca for the tragically hip. Astute viewers would soon learn to ignore Times’ opinions on such offbeat fare, but a negative review could still crush a fragile movie. (The old guard would change, but not for another 15-20 years.) If I were to guess, I’d say that points were deducted for the relative anonymity of its freshman directors Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery, as well as such unsung actors as Willem Dafoe, rockabilly musician Robert Gordon, scenester Tina L’Hotsky and ingenue Marin Kanter. Today, in a blind taste test, this ode to The Wild One (1953) might be credited to a young David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch. As far as I know, The Unloved didn’t even make it to the drive-in circuit and it’s only previous appearance on video was a 2006 Blue Underground pairing with Smithereens. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Arrow Video saw the value in such an unrecognized classic and gave it a first-class upgrade.;

In it, a motorcycle gang comprised of guys who met in prison roars into a small town in Georgia, en route to the races at Daytona. Vance (Dafoe) arrives first, establishing his bad-boy credentials by coming to the aid of a distressed damsel, who, after having her tire changed, is forced to fight off his crude advances. After taking over a corner booth in a period-perfect diner, he puts the moves on the waitress, Augusta (Elizabeth Gans), who moonlights as a stripper at a local roadhouse. He would have better luck with Telena (Kanter), an impossibly cute teenager, whose deplorable stepdad gave her a pink T-Bird to absorb his sexual abuse. When the rest of the gang, including L’Hotsky’s bebop bad-girl Sportster Debbie – a dead-ringer for Deborah Harry —  arrives at the diner, the attitude-ratio immediately goes from cool to frigid. One guy’s bike requires immediate attention, but the only capable mechanic in town is too lazy to rush to the rescue. Money changes his mind, but the severity of the damage will force an overnight layover. While the bike is being fixed, the gang will visit the lounge – straight out of “Twin Peaks” – to catch Augusta’s set. It’s here that Telena’s shotgun-toting stepfather confronts Vance and … well, you get the picture.

The Loveless doesn’t follow the same trajectory as The Wild One or, for that matter, Hells Angels on Wheels (1967), Easy Rider (1969) and Sons of Anarchy (2008–2014). It’s simply a surprisingly entertaining, micro-budget indie that never got a fair shot at becoming a cult classic. If nothing else, Dafoe’s fans shouldn’t miss it. The Arrow package adds a fresh 2K restoration, from the original camera negative, approved by Montgomery and director of photography Doyle Smith; new audio commentary with Montgomery, moderated by editor Elijah Drenner; the featurettes, “No Man’s Friend Today: Making The Loveless, “U.S. 17: Shooting The Loveless” and “Hot Leather: The Look of The Loveless”; new interviews with producers Grafton Nunes and A. Kitman Ho, actors Dafoe, Kanter, Gordon, Phillip Kimbrough and Lawrence Matarese, production designer Lilly Kilvert, DP Smith and musician Eddy Dixon; an extensive image gallery, including on-set photographs, storyboards and original production documentation; a reversible sleeve, featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx; and, first-pressing only, an illustrated collector s booklet, featuring new writing on the film by Peter Stanfield.

I wonder how many World War II movies, besides Casablanca (1942), have based their narratives on the acquisition of travel documents and desperate attempts to escape Europe by plane or boat. Plug the keyword, “immigration document,” into’s remarkably undependable data base and you’ll find Casablanca and Maple Palm (2006), a LGBTQ rom/dram/com that has nothing to do with the war. It doesn’t even turn up Christian Petzold’s compelling wartime melodrama, Transit (2018), which bears a passing resemblance, at least, to Casablanca. Set largely in Marseille’s zone libre, in advance of the German army’s inevitable march south, past Lyon, Transit tells the story of Georg (Franz Rogowski), a young German refugee who agrees to carry the transit papers of a communist novelist, Weidel — a recent suicide victim — to his estranged wife, in Marseille. He’s also carrying the manuscript of Weidel’s final novel. When he arrives in the port city and attempts to return the transit permits to the Mexican consulate, the authorities assume that he is Weidel, in search of his wife, Marie (Paula Beer). It’s at this point in the drama that the plot really thickens. Georg and Marie’s paths frequently cross, but without any sign of recognition on either person’s face. Marie has taken up with a doctor (Godehard Giese), who is also a refugee. They need passage out of France, as well. When she learns that her husband might be in Marseille, looking for her, Like Georg, Marie is caught in an ethical dilemma. Thousands of other desperate souls are in same boat: staying in seedy hotel rooms until their papers are approved. Georg befriends a bilingual Arab boy, whose sudden illness leads him to call on Marie’s lover. Neither man makes the connection with Weidel. When the doctor learns that Georg might be able to help escape, he admits his willingness to grab the first boat steaming out of the port and to leave Marie behind in Marseille. One thing leads to another and Georg finally connects with Marie, leaving an opening for romance or tragedy.

Transit is based on Anna Seghers’ eponymous novel, written in 1944 and set in 1942 Marseille. Petzold, one of Europe’s most exciting filmmakers, takes great liberties with the story’s space-time continuum and issues relating to people escaping war, poverty and fascism, then and now. The German filmmaker has said that Transit is the final chapter of his “Love in Times of Oppressive Systems” trilogy, which also includes Barbara (2012) and Phoenix (2014). Both of those films starred his personal muse, Nina Hoss, a terrific actress who also was featured in his Jerichow (2008), Yella (2007) and Wolfsburg (2003). They’re all extremely engrossing and well worth a rental. Special features include a making-of interview featurette with Rogowski; a separate interview and post-screening Q&A with Petzold; the featurettes “Franz Rogowski: Shooting Star” and “In Transit: Thrown Into the World,” with Petzold and actress Barbara Auer;  a press conference with the cast and crew, from the Berlin film premiere; and a collector’s booklet, featuring interviews and an essay by critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.

To get the most out of Christiaan Olwagen and co-writer Charl-Johan Lingenfelder’s completely unexpected musical rom-com, Kanarie, it’s important to understand how backwards South Africa was, even as late as 1985, when the story begins. To keep outside influences from corrupting the nation’s youth and promoting unrest, the authoritarian government strictly limited the importation of cultural stimuli and, of course, anything that could change the white population’s attitudes toward Apartheid, or the native Africans’ willingness to resist. One way to accomplish this was to block the introduction of television, until 1975, and, then, filter the content. White audiences were afforded the luxury of believing that the elimination of Apartheid would inspire a deluge of white blood on city streets, economic disaster and the importation of pagan religions. Young people were further indoctrinated by their parents, church leaders and social institutions. Upon entering Kanarie, we’re left pretty much in the dark about South Africa’s treatment of homosexuality. In fact, under the ruling National Party, from 1948 to 1994, it was a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison. The law was used to harass and outlaw South African LGBTQ events and political activists. From the 1960s to the late 1980s, the South African Defense Force forced white gay and lesbian soldiers to undergo various medical “cures” for their sexual orientation, including sex reassignment surgery. That would change dramatically in the early 1990s, with the undoing of Apartheid and other restrictive laws. Regulations prohibiting bullying and other forms of discrimination were also instituted.

It is with this in mind that viewers can better understand the mindset of Kanarie’s protagonist, Johan Niemand (Schalk Bezuidenhout), who viewers will immediately recognize as being gay, even if he can’t recognize it in himself. There are no role models close at hand and, even his beloved Boy George, has yet to exit the closet. Johan doesn’t mind being dressed up in women’s clothing by his sisters and paraded around the neighborhood in a wedding gown. His inclination is to complete his military obligation and pursue a career in fashion design, music or both. His widely known  talent for singing and playing piano prompts military authorities to assign him to duty as a member of the SADF Choir, nicknamed the Kanaries (Canaries). Johan and the other Kanaries are required to survive military training, intense rehearsals and go on a nationwide tour, using their music to fortify beliefs in the military effort and promoting the interests of church and state. They also must endure the taunts of fellow soldiers, who consider the choir to be way to avoid going to the Namibian front It will come as no surprise to viewers that the tightly knit choir is as segregated as any other platoon in the army. A ridiculously stern drill instructor and a pair of ordained ministers are there to maintain the choir’s extremely high standards, promote military discipline and prevent sexual promiscuity. When Johan and his closest friend, Wolfgang (Hannes Otto), risk caressing each other in an otherwise vacant barracks, his guilt feelings tell him that he’s crossed a line drawn long ago in the bible. That line will shift throughout the rest of Kanarie’s excessive two-hour and, when it does, Johann isn’t always ready for the next step. Things will escalate as the Kanaries are exposed to regular, everyday South African hypocrites and the temptations faced by men, especially, when they’re herded together in conditions that invite intimacy. Bezuidenhout is excellent as the young man who finally comes of age to the mash-up of a church hymn and Culture Club’s “Victims.” Too bad, no one told him that the lifting of Apartheid was already in the works and the musicians who performed at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, at London’s Wembley Stadium would pressure the government to try even harder. Naturally, the concert, which was broadcast to 67 countries around the world, was blacked out in South Africa.

Escape Plan 3: The Extractor: Blu-ray
Last week, no less an expert on crappy straight-to-DVD/Blu-ray movies than Sylvester Stallone decided that this might be a good time to trash Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018). The sequel to 2013’s moderately successful – hugely so, in China and Southeast Asia – Escape Plan couldn’t rely on the drawing power of co-stars  Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50 Cent, Jim Caviezel, Faran Tahir, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, Caitriona Balfe and dozens of ’roid-ravaged body builders. The belated sequel could only boast the part-time presence of Stallone, a return performance by 50 Cent and addition of Chinese martial-arts standout, Xiaoming Huang (Ip Man 2), and WWE favorite, Dave Bautista. Mostly, though, movie lacked a viable script. While promoting Escape Plan 3: The Extractors, Stallone called it, “truly the most horribly produced film I have ever had the misfortune to be in.” He promised better things to come in the triquel, which, if nothing else, would be targeted directly at his Asian and Russian fans and martial-arts freaks everywhere. Sly re-reprises the character, Ray Breslin, a prison-security expert who specializes in plugging leaks and capping violence in super-max and black-site facilities. Bautista, 50 Cent and Jaime King also return, although their presence qualifies for cameo status. Stallone’s face time has increased, however. This time around, Breslin is hired to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a Hong Kong tech mogul from a formidable Latvian prison, known as Devil’s station. As Breslin and his crew delve deeper, they discover the perpetrator is the deranged son of one of their former foes and his girlfriend is being held there. The team is joined by a small army of kung-fu fighters hired by the mogul to assist Breslin. At first, 50 Cent and Bautista’s feelings are hurt, but Stallone intercedes on the newcomer’s behalf. From this point on, “The Extractor” is a free-for-all. Special features include commentary with director John Herzfeld, Stallone, Devon Sawa and Daniel Bernhardt, and the background featurette, “The Making of Escape Plan: The Extractors.”

The Tough Ones: Collector s Edition: Blu-ray/CD
Four  years before Umberto Lenzi turned his attention to such police thrillers as The Tough Ones (1976), Violent Naples (1976) and The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist (1977), he almost singlehandedly created the template for a decade’s worth of filmmakers dedicated to the cannibal subgenre. Lenzi would admit that tortuous scenes in his 1972 trend-setter, Sacrifice! (a.k.a., “The Man from Deep River”), was influenced by a painful Sioux ritual in Elliot Silverstein’s then-shocking neo-Western, A Man Called Horse (1970). Ten years later, his Cannibal Ferox would pretty much cap the subgenre and zombies would fill the vacuum. In 1976, Lenzi would return the favor by borrowing from the similarly influential Dirty Harry (1971), Bullitt (1968), Serpico (1973) and Death Wish (1974), as blueprints for his primo poliziotteschi, The Tough Ones (a.k.a., “Rome Armed to the Teeth”). In it, Italian superstar Maurizio Merli stars as Inspector Tanzi, a cop with a flair for violence and getting the job done at any cost. Here, Tanzi targets a small-timer, Tony Parenzo (Ivan Rassimov), who’s trying to set up a crime network. The investigation leads to a sadistic, machine-gun-toting hunchback, Vincenzo Moretto (fellow superstar Tomas Milian). To accomplish his mission – using methods frowned upon by his superiors – Tanzi punches and shoots his way through the sleazy drug-, sex- and crime-infested streets of mid-1970s Rome. Token American Arthur Kennedy plays the chief of police forced to face the wrath of the media and politicians whenever the mad dog cop goes off the reservation. The Tough Ones is an excellent example of the poliziotteschi at its most gonzo. Besides the 4K transfer of Lenzi’s uncensored director’s cut, the new Grindhouse Releasing edition includes commentary by Mike Malloy, director of Eurocrime!; new, in-depth interviews with Lenzi, actors Milian, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Sandra Cardini, Maria Rosaria Riuzzi and Corrado Solari, screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti and composer Franco Micalizzi; a special tribute to actor Marizo Merli, with appearances by directors Enzo Castellari (1990: The Bronx Warriors) and Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust); a vintage VHS intro by cult movie superstar Sybil Danning; liner notes by Italian crime-film expert Roberto Curti; an embossed slipcover; a bonus CD, containing a newly remastered soundtrack album, by Franco Micalizzil; and a limited-edition .30-calibre bullet-pen, emblazoned with the Tough Ones logo.

This Island Earth: Blu-ray
Like many other sci-fi flicks made in the 1950s, This Island Earth (1955) is almost as difficult to summarize as it is to watch … with a straight face, anyway. For all of its cheeseball effects, dopey costumes and gobbledygook dialogue, Joseph M. Newman’s adaptation of a 1938 story by Raymond F. Jones actually did offer something new and different to the alien-invasion subgenre. Upon its release, This Island Earth received respectful reviews from mainstream critics and, even today, the Scream Factory Blu-ray is being treated with dignity by people who know a thing or two about sci-fi movie history. The average geek probably won’t take the film nearly as seriously as the cultists and historians, especially when they see nuclear scientist and jet pilot Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) put his flight suit on, over the sport coat, dress shirt and tie he wears any other day of the week. His commute to a top-secret research facility is interrupted by a cosmic ray that takes the control of his plane out of his hands. When Meacham is allowed to land safely, he soon finds himself among several other noted scientists summoned by the mysterious advanced scientist, Exeter (Jeff Morrow). Unlike everyone else watching the movie, Cal is unaware that Exeter – with his snow-white pompadour, extra-large forehead, groovy jumpsuit and booties — is an alien. Exeter sent Cal a list of unusual items he’ll need to construct a communications machine, he calls an “interociter.” Along with fellow American nuclear scientists Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) and Dr. Steve Carlson (Russell Johnson), Cal volunteers to board a pilotless space vehicle, sent by Exeter to take them to another secret research center, this one on his home planet, Metaluna. He promises Cal that they’ll be conducting humanitarian experiments designed to make his world a safer place. In fact, what Exeter and his peers really want is for the earthlings to show them how to harness atomic energy, so they can defend themselves against an attack by a rival civilization.

It’s at this point that This Island Earth goes off the rails, introducing a different sort of alien threat. This one (Regis Parton) looks as if it were put together with parts left over from other sci-fi flicks: a gigantic exposed brain, bug eyes, robotic arms, pincer claws and weighted boots. In another rare occurrence, the earthlings are sent home, with the thanks of peace-loving alien civilization and a new appreciation of the power of nuclear energy. The Blu-ray package features a 4K remaster of the film from an interpositive presentation of the film in 1.85:1 and 1.37:1 aspect ratios; the original Perspecta Stereophonic Sound, restored by 3-D Film Archive; commentary with author and Academy Award-winning visual effects artist, Robert Skotak; a new interview with film historian David Schecter, on the film’s music; an interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash); facts about Perspecta Stereophonic Sound, by Bob Furmanek; “This Island Earth: Two and a Half Years in the Making,” an extended look at the film’s creation; “War of the Planets,” a 1958 Castle Films release for the home market, including both the 50-foot silent edition and 200-foot sound edition; “Trailers from Hell: This Island Earth,” with commentary by filmmaker Joe Dante; a stills gallery; and a poster.

The Pretenders: With Friends: DVD/Blu-ray/CD
The latest edition of the Pretenders barely resembles the same Anglo-American band that was formed in 1978 and successfully bridged the punk and hard-rock movements for most of the next three decades. In 2005, Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders were inducted into the Hall of Fame. The charismatic songwriter/singer/guitarist launched a solo career in 2014, before reuniting what’s left of the Pretenders in 2016. “The Pretenders: With Friends” rocks every bit as hard as any previous video, Here, though, the band shares the stage with several prominent musicians, some of whom may have dreamed of performing alongside Hynde someday. And, her voice is in tip-top shape. Joining her on the Decades Rock Arena stage are “friends” Iggy Pop, Shirley Manson, Kings of Leon and Incubus. It adds a couple of interview sessions that didn’t work very well on my player.

Broad City: The Complete Series
Now that “Broad City” has moved to TV Heaven, it’s worth noting that Golden Globes and Emmy voters routinely failed to nominate one of the medium’s funniest and most inventive shows for awards. In 2016, the show was a finalist in the Writers Guild of America comedy category, and it also was a nominee for several off-brand awards. Those who care about such things probably saw it as a not entirely unexpected snub. I think it was a case of being too hip for the room. Based upon Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s web series of the same name, the show proved that no sacred cow was immune from satire or an occasional poke in the ribs. It also demonstrated how women could be every bit as messy, gross and politically incorrect as men … at least, in their TV incarnations. Abbi and Ilana also played fast and loose with LGBTQ archetypes. They were simultaneously sex-positive and sex-neurotic. Comedy Central’s “Broad City: The Complete Series” is comprised of five seasons worth of episodes, as well as special features, “Abbi & Ilana’s ‘Broad City’”; behind-the-scenes material; “Fan Surprise”; “The Making of Season 5”; a “NYC ‘Broad City’ Sendoff Fit for a Queen”; outtakes; deleted/extended scenes; and every episode of “Hack Into ‘Broad City’” and “Behind ‘Broad City.’” Among the many guest stars are Susie Essman, Bob Balaban, RuPaul, Clea DuVall, Rachel Dratch, Janeane Garofalo, Sandra Bernhard, Seth Green, Guillermo Díaz, Amy Ryan, Amy Sedaris, Fred Armisen, Patricia Clarkson, Kelly Ripa, Hillary Clinton, Alia Shawkat, Alan Alda, Seth Rogen and executive producer Amy Poehler.

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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