MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka Dretzka@moviecitynews.com

The DVD Wrapup: Final Portrait, Overboard, Dark Crimes, Iron Brothers, Streets of Vengeance, Piranha II, Star Wars Rebels, Myanmar … More

Final Portrait
At approximately the same time as the celebrity press began swooning over Antonio Banderas’ portrayal of the 20th Century’s most recognized artist, in National Geographic’s docudrama, “Genius: Picasso,” publicists for Stanley Tucci’s Final Portrait – adapted from James Lord’s memoir, “A Giacometti Portrait” — were struggling to catch a break anywhere they could find one. Of the two projects, it would be difficult to praise one presentation without at least acknowledging the other’s significance as well. At least two major retrospectives of both artists’ work have been held under the same roofs in the last two years, in Paris and Qatar. In 2015, Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)” and Giacometti’s bronze sculpture, “L’homme au doigt (Pointing Man),” sold for record sums, at a Christie’s auction, in less than a half-hour’s time. (The “Giacometti” exhibition currently at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim is the first major museum presentation dedicated to the Swiss-born artist in the United States in more than 15 years.)

Although known almost exclusively as a sculptor, Final Portrait focuses on the creation of one of Alberto Giacometti’s hauntingly distinctive paintings, “The Portrait of James Lord.”  The American journalist/critic first met Giacometti at the Café des Deux Magots in February 1952. As Lord recalled later, he was ‘instantly mesmerized’ by the artist. He became friendly with Alberto and his brother Diego, as well as their circle of friends and associates, and was a frequent visitor to Giacometti’s studio on the rue Hippolyte-Maindron in the 14th arrondissement. Lord kept a journal that was to become the basis of a definitive biography of the artist, on which he worked for 15 years. A couple of years later, Giacometti drew several pencil portraits of Lord, two of which are in the collections of the Musée Picasso in Paris and the Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny. Final Portrait picks up on their relationship in 1964, when they run into each other in a Paris restaurant and Giacometti asks him to sit for a portrait in his studio “for a couple of days.” Lord complies, not knowing that two days would turn into nearly three weeks and require several expensive cancellations of flights home.  At one point, Lord recalled in his book, “A Giacometti Portrait,” published in 1965, “He looked at me for a minute before beginning to paint, then said, ‘You have the head of a brute.’ Surprised and amused, I replied, ‘Do you really think so?’ ‘And how!’” he exclaimed. “‘You look like a real thug. If I could paint you as I see you and a policeman saw the picture, he’d arrest you immediately!” If Armie Hammer, who plays Lord in the film, doesn’t fit that description, the author certainly did. The portrait was exhibited in 1965 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In 2015, it sold at Christie’s for a sliver under $21 million.

If Final Portrait had been released in December here, instead of April, Geoffrey Rush’s name might have been included among the favorites for a Best Actor nomination. (He might qualify for 2019, but, unlike elephants, academy members always forget.) Not only does Rush bear an uncanny resemblance to the artist, but the tantrums and other idiosyncrasies on display appear to have been lifted directly from Lord’s book. He recalled: “As each sitting started, Giacometti always said, ‘It’s helpless! I don’t know why I’m even trying,’ or ‘It’s impossible! I can’t make portraits … no one can.’” Although Lord was driven almost to despair by the length of the process and thought the artist, who died on January 11, 1966, at 64, was neurotic and a bit mad, he also surmised that Giacometti “is trying to grapple with pure sensation. He’s trying to capture something that actually precedes perception, and that takes you into a very strange place.” From my vantage point, I’d say that Tucci and Rush nailed it. At the 2017 British Independent Film Awards, James Merifield’s production design took home top honors. (Because of production costs, the artist’s studio had to be re-created in London, with CGI used to make it look like Paris.) The Giacometti Foundation, in Paris, assisted the production, on the condition that any artworks created for the film would be destroyed after it was completed. Also crucial to Tucci’s cinematic portrait are carefully drawn depictions of the three persons closest to the artist: Diego Giacometti (Tony Shalhoub), who shared his older brother’s passion for designer and sculpture; his wife and frequent model, Annette (Sylvie Testud); and his mistress, Caroline (Clémence Poésy), a prostitute and sometimes model. (In “Genius: Picasso,” Poésy played Françoise Gilot, the artist’s lover and artistic muse, from 1943 to 1953, and mother of two of his children, Claude and Paloma.) It should go without saying, by now, that Final Portrait isn’t for people whose favorite paintings hang on the walls of the hotel rooms in which they’ve stayed. An appreciation of the inner-workings of the artistic mind and methodology is essential. In an interview that accompanies the DVD, Tucci says that he’s especially attracted to men and women who make great sacrifices for their art, whether they’re chefs (Big Night), writers (Joe Gould’s Secret) or struggling actors (Imposters).

Overboard: Blu-ray
Although Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez’ performances in Overboard won’t make anyone forget Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn in the 1987 original, they were good enough to attract a record audience to the Pantelion Films release. If a domestic haul of $50.3 million, with foreign receipts adding another $40.9 million, doesn’t make the remake sound like a blockbuster, it’s worth recalling the Pantelion bills itself as Hollywood’s first major Latino studio and the “new face of Hispanic Entertainment.” The “synergistic partnership” between Pantelion, Lionsgate and Grupo Televisa has been churning out new releases at an increasingly rapid rate, since 2011’s From Prada to Nada. Derbez also starred in its previous domestic champ, Instructions Not Included, which, in 2013, raked in $44.4 million in the United States and $99 million more worldwide. A year later, Derbez was recognized by Variety as the most influential Hispanic male in the entertainment industry. Here, co-stars Eva Longoria, Josh Segarra, Mel Rodriguez, Cecilia Suárez, Adrian Uribe, Mariana Treviño and Fernando Luján helped draw Hispanic audiences to theaters, even though Overboard is set in the Pacific Northwest, with British Columbia standing in for Washington and Oregon. As directed by Rob Greenberg (“Frasier”), and co-written by Bob Fisher (“Sirens) and Leslie Dixon, who received sole writing credit on Garry Marshall’s original, Overboard does a reasonably good job of reversing the roles originally handled by Hawn and Russell. Derbez plays Leonardo, a selfish, spoiled and wealthy playboy from Mexico’s richest family, with Faris as Kate, a working-class single mom of three, who’s hired to clean Leonardo’s luxury yacht. After unjustly firing Kate and refusing to pay her, Leonardo accidentally falls overboard while partying on the deck of the yacht. He wakes up on a beach on the Oregon coast, suffering from a hangover and amnesia. Kate reconnects with Lorenzo while he’s recuperating in a local hospital. To get revenge for being stiffed, she convinces Leonardo that he is her husband and, after taking him to her home, immediately puts him to work. At first, Lorenzo’s about as useful as a lawnmower with Popsicle sticks for blades. Eventually, though, he finds the kind of work usually reserved for Mexican immigrants – legally or illegally – and discovers a far different side of life than the one to which he’d become accustomed. Lorenzo also becomes a valuable part of Kate’s household. Naturally, the billionaire’s family will find their lost sheep and his memory will return to him as if it had never been lost. Overboard can’t end, however, until Lorenzo is forced to choose between his greedy father — who wants him to take the reins of the family business — and his newfound family, which simply wants him to come home and play a normal, everyday dad. Rated PG-13, Overboard is only as good as it had to be to attract a general audience, not limited to Hispanics drawn to Derbez and other actors familiar from roles in telenovelas. If Farris isn’t nearly as adorably quirky as Hawn in her prime, she wisely avoids trying to fill her shoes by being her cute, blond self. The Blu-ray adds commentary with co-writer/director Greenberg, co-writer/producer Fisher and producer Benjamin Odell, and the featurettes “Chemistry Is Comedy,” “Culture Clash” and “Captains of the Ship: Bob & Rob.”

Dark Crimes: Blu-ray
A while ago, people began wondering about the relative lack of visibility surrounding Jim Carrey, an entertainer whose prolonged absence causes a vacuum large enough to draw attention to itself. Then, several months ago, the madcap comic started turning up on talk shows, again, as if he’d never disappeared, and in such made-for-TV tributes as “The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special” and “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.” In fact, Carrey’s plate was overflowing with predatory lawsuits, personal issues and anti-vaccination controversies unrelated to his show-business career. Then, last fall, Carrey began drawing a series of political cartoons, attacking such Republican targets as President Donald Trump, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. His name also appeared on Showtime’s dramedy mini-series, “I’m Dying Up Here,” as creator, executive producer and occasional writer. It recalls the standup-comedy scene in 1970-80s’ Los Angeles, as dictated by a club owner whose resemblance to Mitzi Shore was undeniable, and contains barely fictionalized depictions of comedians who would kill to be acknowledged by Johnny Carson. The premium-cable network also began plugging “Kidding,” in which he portrays an icon of children’s television, Jeff (a.k.a., Mr. Pickles), who became a beacon of kindness and wisdom to America’s impressionable young minds and their parents. Unlike Fred Rogers, who likely inspired the character, Jeff’s world began to collapse around him when his family’s dysfunctions begin to interfere with the success of his branding empire. The show, created by Dave Holstein (“Weeds”), is being directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), with co-stars Catherine Keener, Frank Langella and Judy Greer. It looks like the kind of role that Carrey was born to play.

Last month, without a decibel of fanfare, Lionsgate released into DVD/Blu-ray Dark Crimes, which is curious only because it stars Carrey as a Polish detective, Jacek, from the Wroclaw police department. Shot in Krakow, the film is based on the article “True Crimes: A Postmodern Murder Mystery,” by David Grann, published in the New Yorker, in February 2008. It follows the investigation and conviction of Krystian Bala, a writer implicated in the murder of a Polish businessman, whose body was found floating in a lake. For three years, all leads to police came up dry. Then, while reading Bala’s first novel, “Amok,” Jacek discovers clues linking the writer directly to the murder, and they aren’t very well disguised. In Alexandros Avranas’ adaptation of the story, Dark Crimes, the name of the narcissistic author has been changed to Kozlov (Marton Csokas), a Michael Shannon look-alike who beats his wife, Kasia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and is implicated in an underground sex club frequented by VIPs, military and police officials. Aki Kaurismäki’s longtime muse, Kati Outinen, plays a stern police official, who sees beyond Jacek’s idiosyncrasies. The rest of the cast is filled out by a couple dozen fine Polish actors. This isn’t the first time that Carrey’s played a character with decidedly dark and dangerous features. (The Number 23 comes immediately to mind.) Here, though, a passable Polish accent, a brush haircut, graying beard and good intentions can’t save Jacek from looking more than a tad out of place. Avranas’ deliberate pacing, combined with a lack of surprises, didn’t help the movie’s chances with North American critics, either. Carrey’s performance didn’t bother me all that much, considering the small-screen context, and the brooding skies of Krakow that add quite a sense of dread to the narrative. Viewers should know that Dark Crimes contains video footage of women, in S&M gear, who may or may not be sex slaves. It’s pretty rough stuff. The Blu-ray adds a 20-minute making-of featurette.

Iron Brothers
It’s been said that no city can consider itself great, unless it has a film festival to call its own. (Don’t ask me who said it and when, however.) Near as I can tell, the Famous Potatoes state has three film festivals, one is dedicated to horror, another to extreme sports and the third is curiously named, Twin Falls Sandwiches Film Festival, which specializes in independently made movies. The name derives from the organizers’ belief that, “Making films is a lot like making sandwiches. (Because) when all the right ingredients come together, the result is delicious.” The only reason I know that such an event exists in a state famous not only for its Russets, but also as a mecca for retired LAPD cops, white supremacists and anglers, is because Iron Brothers took home several top awards from the 2017 festival. They included the Audience Choice Award for Best Picture; Best Director, to Josh and Tate Smith; and the Ginny Award for Inspiration, Creativity & Imagination, to Smith Brothers Films. These honors notwithstanding, however, the old-fashioned Western from Random Media isn’t all that easy to find, outside such streaming services as iTunes and Amazon. In it, newcomers Tate and Porter Smith play brothers Abel and Henry Irons, flatlanders who somehow convinced themselves that they were cut out to be fur trappers in the wilds of Idaho and Wyoming. It probably would have made more sense for them to keep heading west, to California, where gold had just been discovered and winters weren’t nearly as ferocious. They share a small wooden shack, located in a valley carved out by a river, not unlike the mighty Snake, where fur-bearing animals aren’t nearly as plentiful as they expected them to be. When one of the brothers feels as if he’s being cheated by one of their regular customers, he takes out his anger on one of the men by shooting him with his flintlock rifle. His partners retaliate by killing the trapper’s horse, Lilly, and chasing him into a forbidding gully. He also makes the mistake of shooting a Shoshone hunter, who, he thinks, is about to attack him. When the brothers are reunited, with nothing to show for their efforts, it becomes immediately clear that they need to pack up and return home, without being scalped or lynched. With Shoshone warriors and traders on their trail, the Iron Brothers are forced to endure terrible weather, near-fatal wounds and hunger pangs, if they’re going to make it out of the mountains alive. Fortunately, Josh Smith’s cinematography fills in the blanks in a story that mistakes being attacked by Indians every 10 minutes with plot development, and expressions of brotherly love for scintillating dialogue. Still, as a freshman effort by sibling filmmakers on a tight budget, Iron Brothers has its fair share of commendable moments and, as they say, it could have been a lot worse. Just ask the folks in Twin Falls.

Streets of Vengeance: Blu-ray
After watching this pitch-perfect throwback to such sexy revenge-thrillers of the 1980s as Angel, Vice Squad and Ms. 45, I began to wonder why it had been sent to me by Olive Films, which has been releasing vintage classics through its Signature label, as well as interesting cult and genre pictures carrying its primary brand. Its recent titles include Bound, Cold Turkey, Odds Against Tomorrow, Mermaids, Joe and Birdman of Alcatraz, all nicely restored and packaged. Streets of Vengeance is the kind of movie that John Waters might have directed if he’d gone to UCLA — instead of staying in Baltimore — and made his bones in Roger Corman’s exploitation factory. Indeed, it’s difficult to watch Paul Ragsdale and Angelica De Alba’s follow-up to their Chicano-themed slasher debut, Cinco De Mayo (2013), without wondering how Divine might have added a certain je ne sais quoi to the production. The film’s protagonist Mila Lynn is played by Modesto-based model Delawna McKinney, who, on her Model Mayhem page, doesn’t look at all like Divine. In “SOV,” though, her super-slutty makeup and outfits turn her into a dead-ringer for the star of Female Trouble and Pink Flamingos … minus 200 pounds, give or take. Apparently, though, the initial concept of the film began as a question, “What if New Wave Hookers was an erotic thriller directed by Brian De Palma?” Gregory Dark’s hard-to-find porn classic was pulled from release – in the U.S., anyway — after the FBI figured out that co-star Traci Lords was underage at the time of its production. It wasn’t easy. And, yes, one or two of the characters in “SOV” appear to have been influenced by Lords, although, to be fair, so did hundreds of porn actresses in the 1980s. Here, Mila is a recently retired adult actress, whose plan to leave the industry is interrupted when she’s kidnapped by a militant misogynist sect that’s intent on ridding the world of women who they believe are using their sexual powers to destroy men. The group’s plans are thwarted when Mila kills her captor and, with the help of a tubby admirer (Anthony To’omata ), manages to escape. Emboldened, Mila recruits friends from the adult-entertainment community to form a ragtag militia and destroy remaining cult members, who’ve already murdered several strippers and sex workers. The fight scenes are pretty much what genre buffs would expect in a movie reportedly made on a budget in the mid-four figures. I would question that number, if only because co-stars Ginger Lynn Allen, Joanna Angel, Sophie Dee, Alexis Amore and Krystal Shay (a.k.a., KushBunny) could probably make that much money, each, dancing for tips on a weekend night in any club more upscale than Modesto’s Crocodiles Nightclub, where much of “SOV” was shot. Even so, they add quite a bit of spice to what could have been merely a bloody mess with tits. The Blu-ray extras add commentary with co-writer/directors Ragsdale and De Alba, and cinematographer Dan Zampa; and a separate disc with a making-of featurette, cast & crew interviews, outtakes, bloopers, photo galleries, music videos and trailers for “Slashlorette Party” and “Tough Guys.”

Piranha II: The Spawning: Collector’s Edition: Blu-ray
It’s funny how, after nearly 37 years in the video marketplace, James Cameron and Ovidio G. Assonitis’ sequel to Joe Dante and John Sayles’ Piranha (1978) has gotten significantly more watchable, if no less cheesy, threadbare and exploitative. Before considering Scream Factory’s “Piranha II: The Spawning: Collector’s Edition,” it’s worth remembering that Piranha was a classic of its kind, in that the spoof was given high marks by serious critics and executive producer Roger Corman went to so far as to admit that it was “my homage to Jaws.” Moreover, when Universal Studios considered suing New World for daring to tweak its blockbuster hit, director Steven Spielberg screened the movie and loved it. After the studio dropped the lawsuit, Spielberg described it as “the best of the Jaws rip-offs.” About Piranha II: The Spawning, the best Cameron could say was “this movie gets better halfway through, when seen at the drive-in with a six pack of beer.” He also commented, “I believe ‘The Spawning’ was the finest flying-piranha movie ever made.” Although Cameron’s first directorial effort would end rather abruptly, it’s said that he recycled the flying-piranha effects, in 1986, for the “face-huggers” in Aliens. H.R. Giger and Dan O’Bannon might have disputed the claim, but who knows? The flying piranha do look as if they might have been spawned in Giger’s aquarium, though. Cameron moved the setting from somewhere in mid-America, possibly Texas, to Jamaica. After a series of mysterious attacks on divers – including a pair of lovebirds, making out in a sunken ship — a savvy scuba instructor (Tricia O’Neil) determines almost immediately that bite marks on a swollen corpse don’t match those of any predatory fish in the area. Anne’s fears are downplayed by everyone on the tourist-dependent island, including her cop ex-husband, Steve (Lance Henriksen), and their son, Chris (Ricky G. Paull). The flying-fish reveal doesn’t come until the midpoint, when it’s determined – as was the case with the original – that the mutants were part of a military experiment gone bad. Once they start flying, however, no one is safe on land or on the water … or, in the audience, for that matter. By this time in the production, apparently, the Italian/American production team had decided that the reveal would be a good time to drastically cut the budget, to something closer to $145,000.  Next, executive producer Ovidio G. Assonitis felt it necessary to eliminate Cameron’s participation in the project. As much of an unholy mess as Piranha II became, it probably wouldn’t make anyone’s top-10 list of the worst movies they’ve ever seen. The new Blu-ray benefits from a 2K scan from the original camera negative; new interviews with actor Goldin and special-effects artist Brian Wade.

TV-to-DVD
Disney XD: Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Four: Blu-ray
PBS: Frontline: Myanmar’s Killing Fields
PBS: Nature: The World’s Most Wanted Animal
PBS: Nature: Shark Mountain
Nickelodeon: Rusty Rivets
In advance of Season Four, fans of “Star Wars Rebels” already knew that the animated Disney XD series would soon be coming to end. Disney’s “Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Four” is now available to those who’ve been keeping track of the show via these annual compilations, along with a trove of bonus features. The good news arrived last week, at ComicCon, when Lucasfilm executive Dave Filoni announced that “The Clone Wars” is going to be brought back to life for one final season, in 2019, after five years away from the franchise empire. “Rebels” is the series that succeeded “The Clone Wars” as Lucasfilm’s flagship animated product, but, Filoni said, it turns out that the former was at one point quite similar to what the latter turned out to be. “We were trying to figure out what the character makeup of (‘Clone Wars’) was going to be and how we could produce a TV series based in the time of the Clone Wars, because the Clone Wars are so vast and would require literally thousands of clones battling thousands of battle droids,” he explained. “So, we were shooting around more of an original trilogy idea of a crew … two Jedi who worked with these smugglers and the black market.” Apparently, George Lucas convinced them to take another tack. Now, fans will be able to see how “Clone Wars” might have concluded, if the original creators had stuck with original makeup for the show.

As for Season Four, the two-episode opener completes the Mandalore subplot — one of the “Clone Wars” plot threads – as the rebels work with the Mandalorian Clan Wren to free Sabine’s father from the clutches of the Empire. When she learns that the devastating weapon the Empire is using against the Mandalorians is derived from her prototype, Sabin must decide whether to destroy it or find a way to turn it around on their enemies. Eventually, Ezra and the Ghost crew are called back to Lothal when a new Imperial threat rises. Action dominates the rest of the season, along with narrative machinations that tie up the series’ loose ends, while also connecting Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. During its run, the “Rebels” was nominated for four Emmy Awards, including two consecutive nominations for “Outstanding Children’s Program.” Special features include six commentaries, featuring Filoni and other key participants; “Ghosts of Legend,” which explores the journey of the Ghost crew with members of the creative team; “Force of Rebellion,” in Filoni shares insights into the Force and its importance across the “Star Wars” saga; “Kevin Kiner: The Rebel Symphony,” with composer Kevin Kiner; and “Rebels Recon,” with cast and crew members providing entertaining and informative episode recaps.

PBS’ “Frontline: Myanmar’s Killing Fields” reminds us that, for many years, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was the primary symbol of resistance in the face of the oppressive military junta in control of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. She lived under house arrest in her Yangon (Rangoon) compound and was prohibited from communicating with the outside world. Even when the government stole elections and brutally put down peaceful protests, Suu Kyi found ways to reach out to her supporters As much as the government attempted to clamp down on information reaching the outside world, a small army of volunteers carrying hand-held cameras smuggled hard drives to clandestine broadcast agencies, which spread the word to world leaders who had put economic sanctions on the country. Then, in 2015, her party won a landslide victory, taking 86 percent of the seats in the Assembly of the Union, well more than the 67 percent supermajority needed to ensure that its preferred candidates were elected to top posts. Suu Kyi assumed the newly created role of State Counsellor, which is the equivalent to Prime Minister or a head of government. One year later, something terrible happened on the way to Suu Kyi’s beatification by a hopeful international media. Citing attacks on several border posts, allegedly by a newly formed Muslim insurgent group, Myanmar military and police renewed a major crackdown in the villages of northern Rakhine state. In the initial operation, dozens of people were killed and many more were arrested. Then came arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, gang rapes, brutality against civilians, looting and the eradication of villages. The refugee crisis continues today. As was the case during the 2007 anti-government protests, led by Buddhist monks, citizen activists used handheld cameras to document the orchestrated campaign to target civilians, with state-sanctioned violence and mass murder. “Frontline: Myanmar’s Killing Fields” is informed by secret footage, assembled over several years, documenting the atrocities and plight of Rohingyans living in the world’s largest refugee camp, across the border in Bangladesh. It also investigates the role of State Counsellor Suu Kyi, who, until she was forced to comment on the situation, remained a beacon of hope and democratic ideals around the world. She took the position that both sides were to blame for the violence and Rohingyans may not qualify as citizens. Although it’s likely that Suu Kyi is straddling the fence to prevent another military takeover, her high profile in the west would suggest that she could make a stand against oppression and genocide. But, she hasn’t. (The show doesn’t get into the tens of thousands of Kachin, Kokang, Lisu, Han Chinese and Ta’ang refugees into China’s Yunnan province, where temporary camps have been established along the border separating the two countries. They’re not only fleeing persecution by Burmese troops and police, but also the violence instigated at least in part by rebel militias.)

Last week, Japanese Customs officials seized more than 7,000 kilograms of pangolin scales, worth $450 million. It represents the second largest seizure of its kind. The containers were said to have originated in Nigeria, where poaching has nearly devastated the pangolin population. A high-ranking Nigerian government official vowed to launch an investigation, while arguing that it was unlikely his country could have been the source, because the scaly anteaters are “near extinction” there. Yeah, no shit. The “Nature” presentation, “The World’s Most Wanted Animal,” explains what distinguishes pangolins from other endangered species, while also describing how environmental activists are striving to abolish the trade and convince hunters to find other ways to make money. Some estimates claim that Pangolin sales now account for up to 20 percent of the entire wildlife black market. They are hunted and eaten in many parts of Africa as one of the more popular types of bush meat, and local healers use the scales as a source of traditional medicine. They are also in great demand in southern China and Vietnam, because their meat is considered a delicacy, and some believe that pangolin scales have medicinal qualities. As doubtful as this may sound here, the people who purchase the large, protective keratin scales are the same ones who created a market for rhinoceros horns, shark fins and bear bile. (Ivory is poached for other reasons, but by many of the same customers.) Based in Namibia, conservationist Maria Diekmann is working to save the species from extinction. On an emotional journey, Diekmann travels to Asia to better understand the global issues facing pangolins, before joining forces with a Chinese megastar, Angelababy, to bring awareness to the plight of a scaly mammal of which most people have never heard.

Between National Geographic, Discovery Channel and PBS, it’s become impossible to tell the difference between the show I just finished watching on the hammerhead sharks of Cocos Island, and the one I saw three weeks ago during Shark Week, NatGeo’s “Cocos Island Expedition,” Howard Hall’s “Nature: Shark Mountain,” which I may have seen in its first DVD iteration, in 2006, or Hall’s IMAX doc, “Island of the Sharks” (1999). They all kind of look the same. My conclusion: Cocos seems to be a swell place to visit, but you really have to have your shit together to swim, kayak or dive into the waters that surround it. Located in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 342 miles from Costa Rica, Cocos has been designated a national park. It does not allow inhabitants other than Costa Rican park rangers, who probably spend their off-hours out of the water, searching for pirate treasures said to be buried there. In 2007, Cocos Island was named one of the best 10 scuba-diving spots in the world, by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, and a “must do” according to diving experts. It’s easy to see why. Surrounded by deep waters with counter-currents, the island is well-known for its populations of scalloped hammerhead sharks, rays, dolphins and other large marine species. The title of the “Nature” DVD derives from the thousands of sharks – some harmless, others dangerous — that hunt along the volcanic reefs. At any given time, divers could feel themselves alone, looking up at the bottom of their boat with nothing to interfere with their view. The next, they could find themselves in the shadow created by a school of hammerheads that numbers in the hundreds, swirling above them. It’s an amazing sight, especially because of the sharks’ distinctive shape. Filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall make excellent guides.

A recent addition to Nickelodeon’s lineup of shows targeted at pre-schoolers, “Rusty Rivets” was created to inspire an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts. It does so by showcasing the accomplishments of two young inventors, Rusty and Ruby. Rusty uses the recurring catch phrase, “modify, customize, Rustify,” when personalizing inventions. Ruby changes the last word to “Rubify,” when she does the alterations. The first compilation begins with Episode One or Season One, but then hopscotches around the shows first 10 offerings. The set includes a “Paw Patrol” bonus episode, “Pups Save a Robo-Saurus.”

 

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch