MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka Dretzka@moviecitynews.com

The DVD Wrapup: Beatriz at Dinner, The Mummy, Soul on a String, The Resurrected, Spider, The Apology, Glen Campbell and more

Beatriz at Dinner
Although Miguel Arteta and Mike White have proven perfectly capable of creating edgy dramedies of their own — HBO’s “Enlightened,” The Good Girl, Chuck and Buck – I can’t help but see Neil LaBute’s darkly comic influence in their latest collaboration. The confrontational, emotionally claustrophobic and occasionally cruel Beatriz at Dinner stars Salma Hayek as a legal Mexican immigrant, who has built a career in Los Angeles as a spiritual health practitioner and massage therapist. Although she reveals her rural roots by maintaining a small collection of farm animal at her East Side home, Beatriz’ has begun to make professional inroads among the ladies who lunch on the other side of the city. They include Kathy (Connie Britton), whose daughter Beatriz helped during her treatment for cancer. The Malibu doyenne repays her by scheduling massage treatments at her palatial estate overlooking the ocean. When her car breaks down in Kathy’s driveway, her developer husband invites Beatriz to stay for dinner, which, tonight, will be shared by two other fashionable couples. The guest of honor is Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), an ethically challenged real-estate developer who would make a perfect fit in President Trump’s Cabinet. Strutt’s true colors come out early in Beatriz at Dinner, when he asks the casually dressed masseuse to freshen his drink, as if she were a hired hand. He apologizes for the mistake, but can’t help but continue his racist barrage at the dinner table, by asking her where she crossed the border and if she was legally employed. It gets worse. When Strutt begins pulling out photos from his big-game hunt in Africa and describing the rush he felt before killing the wild beasts, Beatriz counterpunches by throwing his cellphone at his head. While this embarrasses her hosts, it emboldens Strutt. After being advised to take a break from the proceedings, Beatriz uses the daughter’s computer to Google Strutt’s name and learn just how he’s managed to become a tycoon. It causes her to believe that his company may have been responsible for razing her pristine hometown and replacing it with condos and a golf course. He wasn’t, but, in Beatriz’ eyes, he might as well have dug the first shovelful of dirt himself. By the time the tow truck arrives to pull the car from the driveway, things have already gotten way out of hand. Arteta delivers White’s dialogue with the same fearful intensity as a boxer with a grudge against his opponent. The laughs arrive in shades usually reserved for plums and bruises. The other members of the dinner party are Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, Chloë Sevigny and David Warshofsky. If they aren’t afforded the juiciest lines, their reactions to the swirling storm are perfect.

The Mummy: Blu-ray, 4K UHD
Studio executives can whine all they want about the Curse of the Rotten Tomatoes, which supposedly accords critics the power to kill must-see pictures before they can prove themselves at the box office, but, in doing so, they negate previous theories about movies that succeed with or without the support of critics … once referred to as critic-proof? Moreover, such complaints also minimize the ability of niche websites, including onetime lapdog Ain’t It Cool News, to rescue a potential blockbuster from the steely grip of mainstream critics. In fact, Harry Knowles said of The Mummy, “Ultimately this is totally my kind of fun film, it sets up a playground for monsters that I find irresistible.” The review ran on June 8, a full day before the $125-million movie opened here on 4,035 U.S. screens, leaving plenty of time for his loyal readers to flock to their local megaplex. Knowles opened his review by acknowledging his predisposition not to like The Mummy, based largely on preview trailers that left him less than “giddy.” I suspect that he wasn’t alone in this regard. Instead of blaming Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic for underperforming movies, the unnamed executives in a recent New York Times article might have studied the efficacy of trailers and teasers that sometimes are shown a year prior to a movie’s release – in theaters and during major TV events – and are updated to the point where potential viewers know exactly how it’s going to unspool … or, worse, assume they’ve already seen all the good stuff.

Is it worth pointing out, as well, that MPAA ratings designed to warn parents of objectional material also alert older teens and adults of the likelihood of an absence of nudity and hard-core violence? In The Mummy, Annabelle Wallis and Sofia Boutella were cast as much for their world-class beauty as their ability to make Tom Cruise long younger in their company. The PG-13 rating certification, when combined with the parents’ guide published on IMDB.com, tells viewers as much, if not always more, about what to expect from a movie than a trailer, commercial or review on Rotten Tomatoes. If a studio is going to insist on delivery of a movie certain to receive a PG-13, it must live with the consequences. It explains why, long ago, distributors of DVD and Blu-ray products began pushing “director’s cut” or unrated editions of movies, giving viewers the benefit of a doubt, at least, when it comes to weighing their value to them. More often than not, the “unrated” versions are every bit as sanitized as the PG-13 original.

But, I digress. Apart from the very noticeable fact that Cruise doesn’t look anything like an ancient Egyptian boogeyman or a tomb raider – in this regard, neither does Wallis – The Mummy can be enjoyed as an old-fashioned matinee attraction. There’s plenty of action and some scary makeup effects, but nothing that would frighten a 13-year-old. The idea of an evil princess being allowed to return to life as a monster on a mission from hell isn’t bad, either. Maybe, if director Alex Kurtzman had insisted on make Boutella look less like Cleopatra and more like a female version of Boris Karloff, Princess Ahmanet might have been a tad more credible. In another missed opportunity, the long-entombed Knights Templar might as well be re-animated chess pieces. Neither does the casting of Russell Crowe, as Dr. Henry Jekyll, make much sense … financially or otherwise. But, like I said, as weekend-matinee or drive-in fare, the entertainment value of The Mummy is easily defensible. As long as foreign audiences compensate for the perceived lack of interest here with outpourings of pounds, pesos, francs and yen, Universal isn’t likely to sour on plans for its Dark Universe franchise, of which The Mummy represents the first reboot. The prospect for strong overseas revenues bodes well for Bill Condon’s “Bride of Frankenstein,” starring Javier Bardem as Victor Frankenstein’s monster; Johnny Depp’s take on “The Invisible Man”; and retreads of “Dracula,” “The Wolf Man,” “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame and “The Phantom of the Opera,” all of which are as familiar to American audiences as reruns of “Seinfeld” and “M*A*S*H.” Apart from that, the splendidly mounted Blu-ray and 4K UHD editions won’t disappoint home-theater enthusiasts. They include a few deleted and extended scenes; “Cruise & Kurtzman: A Conversation,” in which the actor and director (People Like Us) pat each other’s backs for 21 minutes; the featurettes, “Rooted in Reality,” “Life in Zero-G: Creating the Plane Crash,” “Meet Ahmanet” (a.k.a., Sofia Boutella), “Cruise in Action,” “Becoming Jekyll and Hyde,” “Choreographed Chaos” and “Nick Morton: In Search of a Soul,” a deeper look at Cruise’s character; “Ahmanet Reborn,” an animated graphic novel; and commentary with Kurtzman, Boutella, Wallis and Jake Johnson.

Soul on a String
I can only imagine how John Ford or Akira Kurosawa might have exploited the visually spectacular deserts, mountains, rivers, lakes and forests of northwestern China and Tibet, which offer landscapes and horizons that make Monument Valley look cramped. (Terrence Malick, of course, still could.) The sparsely populated regions benefit from not being over-utilized by filmmakers, the best of whom have only recently been accorded the kinds of budgets and equipment capable of capturing the grandeur. Ruins and other historical markers date back to the Silk Road and great wars before the country’s dynastic unification. Zhang Yimou’s epic fantasy/adventure The Great Wall (2016) — it bombed here, but did OK elsewhere – might have been able to introduce western audiences to historical China, but producers were denied the use of the wall, itself, and barbarian monsters were a hard sell to jaded viewers outside the PRC. The director’s terrific re-imagining of the Coen brothers’ Blood SimpleA Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop – makes far better use of the rugged terrain in northwestern China’s Gansu Province. Soul on a String, Zhang Yang’s story of one bedraggled loner’s epic spiritual journey, is greatly enhanced by Tibet’s wildly diverse topography and the hard-scrabble peasants’ ability to adapt to the taxing environs. Beyond the movie’s Buddhist underpinnings, however, lie classic Western conceits that rival those of any director of genre fare, including Sergio Leone. In this sense, Soul on a String is very much an eastern oater. Yang’s protagonist is Tabei, a slightly slow-witted Tibetan hunter and degenerate gambler, who, after tracking and killing a deer, discovers a sacred stone stuck in its mouth. While raising the gem over his head, Tabei is struck by lightning. A wandering lama pulls him back from Bardo – the Buddhist equivalent of purgatory – and assigns him an important task. Tabei is to carry the stone to the holy snow-capped mountains of Kelong, far above the tree line, and a patch of forbidding terrain known as Buddha’s Handprint. It should remind viewers of Zabriskie Point. Before he can get there, however, Tabei will be tested by the vengeful sons of a man he killed in a disagreement over money, and contend with robbers on horseback who know what the stone could bring in the black market.

At the Gansu equivalent of a riverside cantina, Tabei is joined by an uninhibited young herder, Chung, who simply wants some company in life, and, perhaps, the opportunity to bear his child. A mute little boy, Pu, also tags along. In addition to playing a single song on a stringed instrument, Pu appears to have some degree of second sight. It will serve the trio well as they wander into blind canyons and arrive at junctions that require making 50/50 choices between going left or right. In lieu of six-shooters, showdowns are decided by swords and knives. Beyond the natural scenery, Yang also sets the action in ruins of ancient civilizations and a series of caves populated individually by monks who depend on the generosity of the odd passing stranger for items of sustenance. The juxtaposition of explosive human behavior and the eternal serenity of Tibet’s countryside will be familiar to fans of Ford’s Westerns, especially, or Sydney Pollack’s saga of a hunted mountain man, Jerimiah Johnson. The same viewers would enjoy Jiang Wen’s Let the Bullets Fly, He Ping’s Warriors of Heaven and Earth and Tsui Hark’s Seven Swords. Clearly, Zhang Yang isn’t a filmmaker who wants to be associated with a single genre. His previous film, Paths of the Soul, is a docu-drama that follows the journey of a group of Tibetans on a pilgrimage to Lasa, the holy capital of Tibet. They cover 1,200 kilometers on foot, in a continuous repetition of prostrating themselves on the ground. Like Soul on a String, it’s a departure from earlier urban-based comedies and dramas – Shower, Quitting, Spicy Love Soup, Sunflower, Quitting – that brought him to the attention of international audiences. The Film Movement package adds the short film “The Rifle, the Jackal, the Wolf and the Boy,” which was shortlisted for the 2017 Academy Award nominations. It was shot in Baskinta, a lofty village in the mountains northeast of Beirut.

The Resurrected: Blu-ray
The Hatred: Blu-ray
Phantasm: 5 Movie DVD Collection
One of the most revered names in the annals of sci-fi and horror is Dan O’Bannon, whose 2009 death was attributed to a 30-year battle with Crohn’s disease. His directorial credits are limited to an early short, The Return of the Living Dead (1985) and The Resurrected (1991), which has been given a dandy Blu-ray facelift by Scream Factory. It’s as the writer or co-writer of such genre faves as Dark Star, Alien, Phobia, Blue Thunder, Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars, Total Recall and Screamers that O’Bannon made his mark. Not all the titles benefitted from the kinds of budgets provided by studio backing or hands-off treatment accorded filmmakers with similar credits. The Resurrected (a.k.a., “Shatterbrain”) is a perfect example of a movie denied a theatrical release by intrusive and underfinanced producers. The story, like that of Roger Corman’s The Haunted Palace (1963), is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.” (Edgar Allan Poe also is credited in the AIP release.) Brent V. Friedman, who penned the screenplay for the Lovecraft-inspired anthology film, Necronomicon: Book of the Dead, helped O’Bannon update the narrative to the present time. The movie opens in the cheaply appointed office of archetypal 1940s-era P.I. John March (John Terry), where the sultry Claire Ward (Jane Sibbett), is seeking his help in the emotional absence of her husband, a chemical engineer. Here, the hard-bitten dialogue recalls any number of movies inspired by the novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. The exchanges are cute — for a while, at least — but don’t outwear their welcome. For various reasons, Mrs. Ward is worried that Charles (Chris Sarandon) has become so obsessed with his latest experiment that he’s moved out of their rural home and taken up residence in a cabin with a mysterious Asian assistant. Neighbors have complained to police about a putrid smell surrounding the building, possibly related to the amount of raw meat being delivered there in trucks. Once he’s able to survey the interior, March, Mrs. Ward and his investigator, Lonnie (Robert Romanus) discover a network of caverns, catacombs and laboratories that date back to colonial times. They’re also greeted by a host of creepy-crawly beings that resemble – no exaggeration — the photos of aborted fetuses that pro-life advocates enjoy shoving in the faces of pregnant women entering clinics. They truly are among the most grotesque and frightening monsters created for the purposes of a low-budget chiller. Genre buffs have cited The Resurrection for its attention to Lovecraftian detail and story-telling acumen. The film, which benefits from a 2K upgrade from the vaulted inter-positive element, has never looked or sounded better. The generous bonus package adds commentary with producers Mark Borde and Kenneth Raich, screenwriter Friedman, Romanus and make-up effects artist Todd Masters; individual interviews with Sibbett, Sarandon, Friedman, Masters, composer Richard Band, production designer Brent Thomas and S.T. Joshi, author of “I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft”; deleted and extended scenes from the workprint; a photo gallery; and trailers for the original home-video and Japanese release.

A perusal of writer/director Michael G. Kehoe’s IMDB.com resume suggests that the quickest way to Hollywood’s heart may be through its collective stomach. Apart from some early work as a PA (Rocky IV), a bunch of shorts and a couple of forgettable features from the 1990s, his primary claim to fame is as a veteran provider of meals, snacks and beverages to people making films on sets or location. Craft services isn’t a typical route to the big leagues, but what better way to make connections and, between servings, study how movies are made?  In 2015, his horror short, “Hush,” was shown at several film festivals, winning or being nominated for awards at many of them. It caught the attention of producer Malek Akkad (Halloween), who elected to back the feature it inspired, The Hatred. At its core, The Hatred is a sorority-house slaughter flick, relocated to a farmhouse in the boonies, once inhabited by the family of a former Nazi commandant. He either escaped capture by Allied authorities and assumed a false identity or, God forbid, was accorded citizenship for his cooperation with American intelligence agencies. It’s unclear. Sam Sears (Andrew Divoff) treats his wife and daughter as if they’reprisoners in their own home, as well as potential traitors. One day, a package containing a letter, photograph and wartime artifact is delivered to the house. In the photo, Sears is standing alongside Der Fuhrer, who’s looking over some sort of document. The cross-shaped amulet sent to him, stolen from a French church, is said to feed the hatred and fear of anyone in its possession. In short order, the fiend is inspired to kill his daughter and attempt to murder his wife, who beats him to the punch. It happens early in the narrative, so no spoiler alert is necessary. Flash ahead a couple of decades, at least, and the house has, with a couple of prominent exceptions, been renovated by a college professor. He allows four female students to spend the weekend there, in return for babysitting his daughter. Do I have to point out that the unsettled spirits of two ghosts have decided to make the girls’ getaway a living hell? If The Hatred telegraphs most of its jump-scares, Kehoe has added a couple of narrative devices to keep viewers guessing as to the identity of “final girl” and what’s eating the spirits. The attractive cast of potential victims includes Sarah Davenport, Darby Walker, Gabrielle Bourne, Bayley Corman, Alisha Wainwright and Shae Smolik. The DVD adds a behind-the-scenes featurette and commentary with Akkad and Kehoe.

As near as I can tell, Well Go USA’s “Phantasm: 5 Movie DVD Collection” is a stripped-down, but significantly less expensive version of the distribution company’s “The Phantasm Collection,” which offered Blu-ray versions of all five Phantasm volumes and quite a few more bonus features. If that sounds odd, consider that the hi-def package, which, last April, sold for around $80, now is fetching as much as $199.95, new, at Amazon. The DVD compilation lists at $29.98, but can easily be found with a smaller price tag. The five-part series began, in 1979, almost as a DIY lark. Made at an estimated cost of $300,000, Phantasm returned $12 million in its initial go-round. The credit for that largely belongs to the malevolent undertaker, Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), his posse of dwarf zombies and an arsenal of lethal silver orbs, which can be psychically directed at his tormenters. Tall Man is opposed by a young boy, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), who tries to convince his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) and family friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) of the threat. Much of the film takes place in a surrealistic dream world, in which characters pass through portals of time and space. Remarkably, almost all the primary actors reprised their characters throughout the franchise’s 36-year arc. Bonus material include commentaries on all five editions; deleted and extended scenes; interviews; and making-of featurettes.

Spider: Blu-ray
The Fox With a Velvet Tail: Blu-ray
Mondo Macabro, a distribution company whose catalogue is almost unimaginably eclectic, deserves kudos for locating and releasing Vasili Mass and Vladimir Kaijaks’ psycho-sexual drama, Spider (“Zirneklis”), as surreal a cinematic experience as I’ve ever encountered. I say that knowing full well that “surreal” is one of the most misused words in the critical and popular lexicon. The Latvian-shot, Russian-language film was produced in the post-Glasnost years of the former Soviet Union, when the barriers were down and previously unacceptable material was being explored for the first time. Spider is one of the very few horror films to come out of that period and still stands today as a daring and unique production, packed with astonishing visual sequences. Eighteen-year-old Aurelija Anuzhite plays Vita, a vivacious young woman who’s asked by her priest to pose as the Virgin Mary for a lascivious painter. On her first visit to his studio, Vita finds herself swept up in the bizarre world of the artist and his bohemian friends. Through her eyes, we watch the paintings come to life, with the characters writhing on quasi-religious objects. Soon, the model comes to believe she’s being pursued by strange shadowy figures, including a giant tarantula that haunts her dreams. In the morning, she’ll find bite marks on her body. Her mother, thinking that a change in scenery is in order, sends Vita off to stay with relatives in the countryside, where such legends and superstitions come with the territory. Considering the impoverished state of the Latvian and post-Soviet cinema, Spider qualifies as an amazing achievement. The Mondo Macabro edition represents its first U.S. release, as well as the world premiere of the Blu-ray presentation. In addition to an essential interview with Mass, the set includes rare on-set footage and cover art from Belgian illustrator Gilles Vranckx.

By comparison, the 1971 Italian/Spanish giallo, The Fox With a Velvet Tail, might as well be a Spanish-language episode of “Columbo.” The most obvious difference between the two crime stories is the setting, with Peter Falk having full run of Los Angeles and environs, and José María Forqué’s mystery, which was largely shot inside and around a villa on the sunny Côte d’Azur. Based on a story by the prolific novelist and screenwriter Rafael Azcona (“Belle Epoque”), The Fox With a Velvet Tail describes what happens when one of the players in a love quadrangle loses the brakes on his sports car on the windy road to town and it tips the balance of power with it. Argentine export Analía Gadé plays the wealthy and beautiful owner of the villa, Ruth – all women in giallos are gorgeous – who’s had enough of her husband (Tony Kendall) and has begun an affair with an opportunistic lover (Jean Sorel). Unbeknownst to Ruth, both men are being manipulated by a tarty dame, Danielle (Rosanna Yanni), with designs on the splendid seaside estate of her own. If Ruth dies before her time, the scheme could work. None of the players is aware of the presence of a fifth party (Maurizio Bonuglia), who, in time, will act as Ruth’s guardian angel. The plot sounds more complicated than it is. In a bit of a departure for giallo, The Fox With a Velvet Tail the criminality is understated and, while sexy, there isn’t much nudity. Oh, well, you can’t have everything. The Mondo Macabro Blu-ray features a new 4k transfer from the negative; fully restored commentary by giallo historian Troy Howarth; the documentary, “So Sweet”; alternate scenes; and new artwork from Justin Coffee. As is the case with all Mondo Macabro titles, be sure to stay tuned for the coming attractions, which take up the better part of 45 minutes and promote many of the company’s more lurid DVD/Blu-rays. They truly are a hoot.

The Apology
Tiffany Hsiung’s heartbreaking documentary, The Apology, follows the personal journeys of three former “comfort women,” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women from several occupied countries – estimates range from 20,000 to 400,000 — who were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army, before and during World War II. The few survivors of the mass atrocity, now in their 80s and 90s, are still waiting for their apology from current leaders of the Japan, along with compensation they not only deserve, but also were promised in earlier negotiations on the subject. Some historians believe that as many as half the comfort women committed suicide after the end of the war, while others developed serious health and psychological problems from the beatings and rapes administered by their captors. Coincidentally, in China, director Guo Ke’s documentary on the same subject, 22, was recently released there, to great public support. It takes its title from the number of former Chinese comfort women still alive in 2014. (It’s since been reduced to 8.) Hsiung’s film follows her subjects to speaking engagements around the Asian Rim countries, where awareness campaigns are being held on an almost weekly basis, and on to the United Nations. (Even on Wikipedia, the term, “comfort women,” is used synonymously with “prostitute women for soldiers.”) Among the roadblocks facing the survivors is a belief on the part of many Japanese leaders, historians and citizens that the comfort women already were prostitutes and volunteered for the job. The military allegedly recruited the women to keep the soldiers from raping local women, catching or spreading VD, and pacifying their sexual urges. This likely was the case before the recognized start of World War II and Japanese military officials ran out of women willing to service the growing number of occupying forces in Korea and China for food or money. When the war spread beyond those countries, however, tens of thousands of women and girls – some who’d yet to have their first period – were kidnaped, enslaved, beaten and routinely raped for the remainder of the conflict. The so-called Islamic fundamentalists in ISIS are doing the same thing in Syria and Iraq. Among the bonus features included in the package is a tour of existing “comfort station” sites, from Japan to the Philippines.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City
As late as the mid-1960s, the heartbeat of most American cities could be traced to their then-thriving centers — downtowns, if you will — where the transit lines converged and shopping, commerce and entertainment venues attracted pedestrians at all hours of the day. By the 1980s, those same boulevards, theaters and office buildings had emptied. Criminals moved in and shopping malls served as a magnet for moviegoers, shoppers and idle teens. That, too, would begin to change in the new century, with financially lucrative revitalization projects prompting baby boomers, especially, to rediscover the joys of city life. Oversimplistic? To be sure, but well in keeping with the portrait of mid-century New York City activism in Matt Tyranuer’s Citizen Jane: Battle for the City. For more than 40 years, urban planner Robert Moses was as powerful as any elected official, when it came to finding money and pushing through civic projects that forever changed the look, feel and spirit of the city and its boroughs. Many of his greatest achievements still stand, as do the memories of his failures. Again, oversimplistic, but not by much. Like the transportation moguls who killed L.A.’s Red Car trolley system, in Robert Zemeckis’ fact-based Who Framed Roger Rabbit – and in real life — Moses believed that the future of New York was in automobiles, and neighborhoods would be the sacrificial lambs of progress. No better example of the lack of foresight in Moses’ plans was the hugely destructive and incalculably expensive Cross Bronx Expressway, which tore through a vibrant community, leaving slums, crime and displaced families in its wake. Even before it was completed, Moses advanced plans to build a Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have tore through Greenwich Village and what is now SoHo. It was here that urban activist Jane Jacobs, author of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” drew her line in the sand, rallying like-minded citizens around her flag and convincing sheepish politicians to follow the lead of their constituencies. “Citizen Jane” remains timely, if only as a reminder of what can happen when engaged citizens fight the power for the sake of a better world … or, whatever. If Tyranuer’s delineation of Moses’ monopolistic, racist and antisocial instincts were intended to remind us of our current President, it’s worth remembering that “Citizen Jane” was introduced at last year’s TIFF and thoroughly researched at a time when the White House was merely a glint in Donald Trump’s eyes. Now that we’ve seen his Cabinet choices and heard the grandiose plans for a subdivided America, however, “Citizen Jane” should be considered essential viewing for Americans in harm’s way.

The Ghoul: Special Edition: Blu-ray
Writer/director Gareth Tunley may not be a known quantity outside of England, but anyone’s who’s followed the ascendency of Ben Wheatley, through such edgy entertainments as Down Terrace, Sightseers, Kill List and Free Fire, might recognize him as an actor. Wheatley’s stamp of approval as executive producer of The Ghoul probably caught the attention of festival planners on its way to a limited release in England. A dandy psychological thriller, The Ghoul probably will remind indie buffs of early works by Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell (Performance), David Lynch (Lost Highway) and Christopher Nolan (Following). Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corrider also may have influenced Tunley. In other words, pay as close attention to what happens in the opening scenes as the climax. A second viewing may be in order.  London homicide detective, Chris (Tom Meeten), has been called to a crime scene where two gunshot victims evidently kept walking toward their assailant, even after they had been fatally shot. At the scene, there’s a clue that points to someone named Coulson (Rufus Jones), who is bi-polar and undergoing psychotherapy with Fisher (Niamh Cusack), who seems to be somehow linked to the case. To track the suspect down, Chris decides to go undercover as a patient, and he’s very convincing. After a convenient emergency, Fisher transfers Chris to the care of a curiously outgoing colleague, Morland (Geoffrey McGivern), whose office is stuffed with arcane objects and symbols of the occult. Morland shows him a Mobius strip, a Klein bottle and drawing of an ourobouros (a serpent eating its own tail), all things where the inside becomes the outside until they come full circle. Could they provide clues to the mystery or are they presented to Chris as brain-teasers, capable of leading him to obsessive behavior and, possibly, true madness? Stay tuned. The Arrow Video package contains commentary, interviews, Tunley’s short film, “The Baron,” and a booklet featuring writing on the film by Adam Scovell, author of “Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange.”

Glen Campbell: Live Anthology, 1972-2001
When Glen Campbell finally succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, on August 8, 2017, the 81-year-old entertainer had already said goodbye to his peers, at the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony and during a “Goodbye Tour,” with three of his children joining him in the backup band. After that, Campbell entered a Nashville studio to record what would be his last album, “Adiós,” which would not be released for another five years. A final song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” which is featured in the 2014 documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, was released on September 30, 2014, with a limited release of the film following on October 24. Tim McGraw performed “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” at the 87th Academy Awards, where it was nominated for Best Original Song. On February 15, 2016, at the 58th Grammy Awards, the soundtrack was honored as Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media. By then, the onetime Arkansas farm boy had logged 50 years in the music business, releasing more than 70 studio albums and selling 45 million records worldwide. He accumulated 12 gold albums, 4 platinum albums and a double-platinum album. Oh, and by the way, Campbell also was nominated for Golden Globes as Most Promising Newcomer (Male), for his performance in True Grit, and Best TV Actor, Comedy or Musical, for “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” Not bad, for a sharecropper’s son. From Cleopatra Entertainment comes “Glen Campbell: Live Anthology, 1972-2001,” an extensive DVD/CD anthology of live recordings capturing the Rhinestone Cowboy at the height of his popularity. The 70-minute concert compilation features performances of the major hits – “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “Gentle on My Mind,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” – and then some. The singles all made Top 40 radio – country, pop, easy-listening — sound good. There are special duet appearances by Wayne Newton, Jimmy Webb, Anne Murray, Seals & Croft and Helen Reddy, medleys and instrumentals. The visual quality is what you might expect from the pre-digital era, but the vocals are strong.

Drone Wars
If I were to guess, I’d say that the producers of Drone Wars were hoping for a pick-up by the Syfy Channel, which is known for showing pre- and post-apocalyptic movies for non-discerning genre fans, in between series and mini-series into which more care, thought and money has been invested. Seemingly, Jack Perez’ Drone Wars didn’t even meet those standards. Once again, mankind is threatened by outer-space boogeymen, whose battlewagons hover over major cities promising instant annihilation to any survivors who dare poke their heads out from their shelters. The killing is done by easily maneuverable drones, which can peer into nooks and crannies invisible to the larger craft. The survivors represent a motley collection of medical professionals, soldiers, scientists and street thugs. Needless to say, there’s nothing new or unusual here. The weaponry on display is laughable and the characters are half-baked. The best that can be said for Drone Wars is that the action is pretty much non-stop and adolescents might like it. Among the director’s credits are Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (as Ace Hannah), Destruction: Las Vegas and Unauthorized: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story. According to the movie’s IMDB.com page, no one has come forth to take credit for the screenplay. I don’t blame them. For the record, its stars Corin Nemec, Whitney Moore and Nathin Butler.

TV-to-DVD
Lifetime: Scary Movie Set
PBS: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark
Nickelodeon: Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Wanted: Bebop & Rocksteady
PBS Kids: It’s Potty Time
God knows, Lifetime takes more than its fair share of abuse from wiseass critics, myself included, for original movies easily compartmentalized as chick flicks, disease-of-the-week weepers, lurid mysteries and celebrity biographies. Because there are so many of them, it’s easy to overlook the ones that transcend the Lifetime-movie sub-genre and can stand on their own as legitimate entertainments. The four titles included in the “Lifetime Scary Movie Set” may not be nail-biters in the traditional sense of the term, but they all managed to hold my interest and keep me guessing. Mikael Salomon’s adaptation of the Stephen King story, “Big Driver” (2014), stars Maria Bello as an author of mystery “cozies,” who’s forced to deal with mixed feelings about how to exact revenge on a hulking rapist; Leslie Libman’s “Manson’s Lost Girls” (2016) is a surprisingly involving and reasonably non-exploitative imagining of how Linda Kasabian fell under Charles Manson’s spell, but ultimately turned state’s evidence against fellow Family members; Holly Dale’s truly creepy “Hush Little Baby”   (2007) features Victoria Pratt as a mother who comes to believe her newborn son is punishing her for the death of her first child; and Farhad Mann’s “Devil’s Diary” (2007), in which a pair of outcast teens discover a book that gives them supernatural power over the cool kids who bully them … temporarily, at least. Several cast members come from famous families. Besides Olympia Dukasis, Eden Brolin is the daughter of Josh Brolin and the granddaughter of James Brolin; Christian Madsen is the son of Michael Madsen and the nephew of Virginia Madsen; and Greer Grammer is the daughter of Kelsey Grammer.

Check out Ray Pride’s review of Steve James’ penetrating documentary, “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” which is still making the rounds of PBS affiliates. It describes how the investigators looking into the white-collars criminals whose greed and hubris caused the 2008 Depression managed to net only one small fish in the shark-infested waters of Wall Street. The prosecutors still managed to lose the case, but not before ruining the reputation of the Chinese immigrant Sung family. The five-year legal battle appeared to be tethered to a belief that the accusations, combined with legal fees, would cause the Sungs to wilt, before the case even reached a courtroom. That, and a reluctance by immigrant Chinese to avoid controversy and “save face,” rather than be grilled in public. The feds didn’t count on the patriarch’s belief in the American Dream and the crazy notion that honesty will prevail. Racism seeps from every frame in the film.

Yi Chun-Wei’s “Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark” follows National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore on his quest to photograph at-risk and rare species from around the world. The only qualification is that each of them could be become extinct within the next 20 or 30 years. In fact, the odds are that most of them will be gone. The critters Sartore couldn’t track down in the wild, he found in zoos and in nature preserves. His creative conceit involved getting them to pose against a stark white or black background – or, at least, sit still for a moment – so they can be captured in portrait form. This includes high-definition shots that capture every hair, scale and feather in amazing detail. The eyes, which generally are staring into Sartore’s lens, practically demand of viewers that they be allowed to exist as long as cockroaches and rats … the ultimate survivors. The three-part series explores his extremely ambitious Photo Ark initiative, focusing on the search for species and their frequently amusing unwillingness to cooperate. And, of course, it’s perfect for family viewing.

Nickelodeon’s latest compilation of “Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” episodes includes the still-to-air “Wanted: Bebop & Rocksteady,” “The Foot Walk Again!” and “The Big Blow Out,” and last month’s “Lone Rat and Cubs.” In the title episode, the 1987 Shredder and Krang recruit the 2012 Bebop and Rocksteady, finding them better than their own incompetent counterparts.

Yes, PBS Kids goes there. “It’s Potty Time!” is a DVD compilation designed to help parents and kids tackle potty training with some of the programming block’s favorite friends. Let me put it a different way: “Come along as Daniel Tiger’s friend Prince Wednesday learns how important it is to stop and go potty right away, Peg and Cat show Big Mouth the six steps of going potty, and Buddy and Tiny discover that all creatures poop, even really.” As crazy as it may sound, the chapters might help parents take some of the mystery out of one of their kids’ early giants steps.

Leave a Reply

Dretzka

Quote Unquotesee all »

“Most of these women were in their early twenties. Most of them refused to go any further with him, but a few went to dinner, or to some sort of casting situation, or to someplace private… if the stories were just about some crazed sex addict who approaches thousands of women on the street trying to get laid, I wouldn’t be posting this now. I don’t want to be attacking every Hollywood douchebag who hits on countless women. That type of behavior isn’t cool, but I think it’s important to separate douchebaggery from any kind of sexual coercion. But the women I talked to who DID go someplace private with Toback, told stories that were worse than the women only accosted on the street… So I did what I could do in my impotent state – for over twenty years now, I’ve been bringing up James Toback every chance I could in groups of people. I couldn’t stop him, but I could warn people about him… I’ve been hoping the Weinstein/O’Reilly stuff would bring this vampire into the light (him and a couple others, frankly). So I was happy today to wake up to this story in the L. A. Times.”
~ James Gunn

“BATTLE OF THE SEXES: Politics and queerness as spectacle/spectacle as politics and queerness. Pretty delightful, lovely, erotic. A-

“Not since EASY A and CABARET have I seen Emma Stone give a real sense of her range. Here, she has pathos and interiority and desire. I love the cinematography and the ways in which the images of the tennis icons are refracted and manipulated via various surfaces/mediators. Also, wild how a haircut is one of the most erotic scenes in cinema this year. Spine tinglingly tactile that feels refreshing. Proof that *cough* you don’t need to be ~graphic/explicit~ to be erotic *cough*. Also, it made me want to get into tennis. Watching it, at least.

“There are interesting touches and intimations as to the cinematic nature of sports, & unpacking the formal approach of broadcasting sports.Also, I was here for Sarah Silverman smoking. And also, hi Mickey Sumner!! It’s a really interesting film about the ways in which public spectacle is never apolitical, and how spectacle is prone to assignation.

“There’s this one other scene from BATTLE OF THE SEXES that I love, and it’s the one in the bar. You see Billie looking after Marilyn as she dances. Through a crowd. There’s a paradoxical closeness and distance between them. In the purple light, and the kitschy decor, everything is distorted. But Billie catches a glance and you can feel the nervous swell inside.”
~ Kyle Turner