MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

Dretzka By Gary DretzkaDretzka@moviecitynews.com

A colonial dandy gets more than he bargained for in ‘Ambassador’

At first glance, you’d think that making a film documenting crime and corruption in central Africa, and exposing the underground trade in passports and other official documents, would be as difficult as fishing with hand grenades. It pretty much is, but no one told Mads Brügger that the hard part would be staying alive long enough to see it finished.

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The DVD Wrapup: Battleship, Lonesome, Monsieur Lazhar, Penumbra … More

Those fans of the movie “Battleship” born after Nintendo and Sega were introduced to American consumers might find it difficult to believe that one of Hollywood’s most expensive movies was inspired by one of the least costly pastimes of all. Back in the day, all it took to play the Battleship guessing game was a pencil; illegally mimeographed sheets of papers replicating the grids on the Milton Bradley board; and a folded-over checker board to prevent cheating. Players used their pencil to indicate where various sized warships are located and guess the location of their opponent’s fleet, using a bingo-like alphanumeric system. It provided simple, time-consuming and free fun on a rainy day.

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The DVD Wrapup: Porno Gang, A Separation, Dictator, Chimpanzee, Bernie … More

Even before the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and subsequent wars for self-determination, the country’s filmmakers could be counted on to deliver closely observed tales of a society driven insane by Cold War politics and the realization that any freedoms they’ve enjoyed could disappear overnight. Now that an uneasy truce appears to have taken hold in Bosnia, Kosovo and once-disputed parts of Croatia, the savagery that marked those struggles continues to haunt the cinemas of the newly independent states.

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‘Compliance’ stirs emotions by putting viewers in hot seat

At a time when most mega-budget movies are forgotten 10 minutes after the final credits have rolled, it’s interesting that a no-frills indie has kept serious movie buffs talking since it was screened last January at Sundance. Based on a series of actual events, “Compliance” describes just how hideously wrong things can go when otherwise level-headed Americans think they’re doing the right thing.

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The DVD Wrapup: Jaws, Hunger Games, Dardennes, Kill List, more…

News reports of shark sightings and bitings pick up every time a new addition to the “Jaws” franchise is about to be released and, like clockwork, the critters didn’t disappoint the media last week. They’ve occurred with such frequency over the course of the last 37 years as to be attributed to the marketing stealth of Universal’s publicity team. As if.

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‘Nuit #1′ explores love, sex and despair in Montreal’s lost generation

It all happens in a flash. No sooner do Emond’s lovers kick the door of his apartment shut than they’re groping each other and striping off their clothes. The cherry is added to the sundae when Nikolai apologizes for having to ask Clara what her name is. The same thing happened in Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me,” another song about sex without love, intimacy without passion. “There’s a lot of me in ‘Nuit #1,’ of course,” the first-time writer/director allows. “I know how it feels to be 30 and lost.”

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The DVD Wrapup: Warriors of Rainbow, Full Metal Jacket, Bunny Game, Scalene, Ladda Land, High Fidelity, Zombies …

The most important thing for American audiences to know about “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” is that it comes with the imprimatur of the great Hong Kong action director, John Woo. Although his presence can’t guarantee a positive reaction, it gives us more reason for optimism than the usual stuff found on a DVD cover. I found it to be immensely entertaining, but recommend potential viewers to take a minute beforehand to read the Wikipedia entry on the history of Taiwan.

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The DVD Wrapup: Marilyn Monroe, Hatfields & McCoys, Le Havre, Waves of Lust … More

As we approach the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s untimely death, at 36, expect the media to peel away from the Olympics and Aurora massacre long enough to celebrate the life and career of one of Hollywood’s brightest and most misunderstood stars. Sadly, one of the central mysteries of the 20th Century – did she jump or was she pushed – isn’t likely to be solved anytime soon.

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Dretzka

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook