Volume CDLXXIX- Under The Portland Sun
For the Week of 10/21/14
Videoport gives you a free movie every day. You don’t have to take it, but we really want you to because we really want you to be happy. And movies make people happy. Especially Captain Ron.
Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Popular Music, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for $7.99!
>>> Dennis suggests Rick & Morty (in Animation). Anyone who has read the VideoReport for any length of time has been subjected to my multiple, glowing reviews of the TV show Community. So those people might be shocked when I say this: this animated series is the best comedy currently on television. Sure, that may sound like I’m turning by back on Community, but I’m not. Community is still fresh and weird and beautifully hilarious. Also, since Rick & Morty is co-created by Community’s Dan Harmon, so it’s not like I’m really cheating. Essentially a dark, psychotic take on Back To The Future, the show follows the realities-hopping adventures of (very) mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his nebbishy 13 year old nephew Morty. Rick, undeniably brilliant, is also rude, crude, sardonic, and ethically suspect, especially when it comes to the various inventions he unleashes, seemingly on a whim. Morty’s a typical, put-upon teen who loves but wisely doesn’t trust his weirdo uncle and follows/gets roped into Rick’s capers, whether they involve creating Morty a love potion, getting kidnapped by intergalactic scammers, or winding up on any number of lunatic, insanely-dangerous planets. Co-creator Justin Roilland voices both Rich and Morty and he’s a wonder—each character is broad (Morty’s the quintessential squeaky-voiced nerd, Rick is a gravelly, belching, farting loudmouth), but, like the show itself, each reveals surprising (and surprisingly affecting) levels as the show goes on. The same goes for Morty’s perpetually bewildered family, with Rick’s daughter Beth (Sarah Chalke), neice Summer (Spencer Grammer), and, especially the great Chris Parnell as son-in-law Jerry slipping hidden depths into their could-be stock supporting characters, even as they are whipped into tizzies by Rick’s machinations. Take for example, “Rixty Minutes,” where a bored Rick (horrified that the family enjoys a Bachelor-style reality show), busts open their cable box and rejiggers it so the TV can pick up shows from an infinite number of dimensions. (He also tosses off some goggles that allow the family to see alternate timelines of their own lives when they start talking too much and interrupting his watching.) The episode manages to throw in some of the most insanely inspired TV parodies of all time (my favorite being the movie trailer from a dimension where no one can say things in any sort of straightforward way) alongside Summer’s realization that her parents’ lives would be better off if she’d never been born. The stories come together, improbably, perfectly—this show is brilliant at whipping some stealth heart at you, even when the most ludicrous, dark weirdness is exploding all around. The vocal performances really sell the chaos as well, with a loose, naturalistic style animated shows doesn’t get right very often. Bursting with inventiveness, ingenious plotting, and often jaw-dropping boldness, this is, I’m saying it, the best comedy on TV right now. Trust me.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for $7.99!
>>> April suggests a Vincent Price classic. The original House On Haunted Hill is one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s not in the least bit scary but that’s what makes it so charming. A wealthy man (Price) invites five strangers to a party for his wife (Carol Ohmart) in a haunted house. If they survive the night, Price will give them $10,000. Price and Ohmart are fantastic and I wish they’d done more films together. Price: “Do you remember the fun we had when you poisoned me?” Ohmart: “Something you ate, the doctor said.” Price: “Yes, arsenic on the rocks.” Producer and director William Castle was a master of cheesy gimmicks, so when HOHH was shown in theaters, he arranged for a skeleton on a wire to swoop over the heads of the audience. This movie is currently on my “Original vs. Remake” shelf (in the staff picks section) and, if you’re feeling bold, you can rent the 1999 remake with Famke Janssen and Geoffrey Rush. It’s not terrible, but it’s not quite as entertaining as the original.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for $7.99!
>>> $20 gets you $25 in store credit! And $30 gets you $40! Yeah!
Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for $7.99!
>>> Emily S. Customer suggests Mad Men (in Drama). Mad Men. “Are you ready? Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something.” Mad Men S7 part 2, “The End of an Era,” doesn’t premiere until spring 2015, but Videoport has your Mad Men fix right now: S7 part 1, “The Beginning,” came out this week. Starting in January, 1969, the first half of S7 delivers all the giddy spectacle that the last gasp of the ‘60s deserves. Everything here is in flux: the characters, the culture, the clothing. (On Mad Men, the clothing is never unimportant. Costume designer Janie Bryant tells whole stories in fabric and fit: Joan’s sorrows in purple, Peggy’s schoolgirl and military styles, Harry’s evolution from shirt-sleeves dork to gadding peacock, the quiet resonances and repetitions in patterns and colors that connect or distance characters. Everything in this show rewards close viewing.) The counter-culture has been creeping in around the edges for most of the decade, but the first half of S7 is a full-on collision of the slicked-back gray-flannel conservatism that cloaks Don Draper’s guilty insecurity with the decade’s flashy flamboyance. It’s a heady, it’s noisy, it’s a little bit ugly and a little bit gorgeous, and I love it. Keep in mind, this brand-new season doesn’t qualify for a free rental yet, so rent S7 and take an earlier season as your free pick — or order S7 from Videoport and get a free rental credited to your account!
Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary! OR get any three non-new releases for a week for $7.99!
>>> You get a free kids movie every Friday, no other rental necessary. And Videoport just put a few hundred new movies in there—try it out. You don’t have to be a kid, even!
Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section! OR get any three non-new releases for a week for $7.99!
>>> For Saturday, Emily S. Customer suggests An Elizabeth Peña memorial double feature. Lone Star (in Mystery/Thriller). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate when The VideoReport is easy to write; it usually means someone I admire has died. Elizabeth Peña, who died at the age of 55 this week, stars in John Sayles’ Lone Star, a bittersweet, character-driven mystery of a sheriff (Chris Cooper) of a small Texas border town unravelling the myth and the misdeeds of the father (played in flashbacks by Matthew McConaughey) whose boots he’s filling. Pilar Mercedes (Peña) plays the woman who was once his high-school sweetheart with a no-nonsense naturalism and easy appeal that steals the show in a film packed with heartfelt performances. Jacob’s Ladder (in Mystery/Thriller). Director Adrian Lyne’s psychological horror film is an eerie little period piece with nods to everything from the Bible to Ambrose Bierce to The Manchurian Candidate. Jacob (Tim Robbins) is a former grad student and Vietnam vet now whiling away his days and months at the post office, losing sleep and sanity to hallucinations that seem to be the echos of PTSD and some unclear incident from his last tour. Playing Jacob’s long-suffering lover, Elizabeth Peña brings everything she’s got to an underdeveloped character, imbuing Jezzie with a potent mix of patience, frustration, and (of course — this is an Adrian Lyne movie) a long-smoldering sexiness that is equal parts seductive and sinister. It’s a glimpse of a criminally underused talent: Peña could turn on a dime, giving even the most cardboard caricature a depth and breadth — and breath — that makes them feel undeniable.
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Under The Skin (in Sci-Fi). From the director of the great, bonkers British crime comedy Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer), this unclassifiable film is best if you go in knowing absolutely nothing about it. So, if you haven’t seen it already—stop reading this right now and rent it first. There, now that only those of us who’ve seen it are here, let’s talk about how astonishingly great it is. Scarlett Johansson stars as a beautiful, blank-faced woman driving a white van around Scotland. She meets men (which isn’t hard), seduces them back to her unassuming-looking flat (even easier), and then—stuff happens. On one level, the film is as simple as Invasion Of The Body Snatchers—it’s alien invasion time. What sets Under The Skin apart is Glazer’s stunningly stark vision of the story. What the woman does to those poor, tumescent dopes in her apartment lair is as mysteriously beautiful as it is shocking. (An alternate title for the film could be House Of The Horrified Boners.) Everything about this film—from the sound design to the visuals, to the sparse but mesmerizing storytelling—kept me riveted. And Johanssen’s perpetual blankness is used to chilling effect here—it’s less than she’s ever done onscreen, and as good as she’s ever been. The whole film is suffused with her blank gaze—cruising the streets of Edinburgh, the faces of the people (you know, us) look as strange and small as they do to this mysterious, impassive observer. There are shocks here and there—and they are more powerful emerging from this distanced, clinical perspective. As strange and stunning a piece of genre filmmaking as I’ve seen in years.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Mad Men- season 7, Part 1 (There’s not much I can say at this point to get anyone to watch this show, but here goes anyway. Jon Hamm is back as mysterious, haunted, super-sexy 1960s advertising executive Don Draper, alongside the show’s stellar supporting cast, all playing out the period’s styles, conflicts, and rapidly-changing sensibilities in a drama as good as any that has ever been on television. Seriously, it’s that good. So fans—here you go. Non-fans—you’re weird. The uninitiated—start at the beginning. You’ll thank me later), Snowpiercer (From the great Bong Joon-Ho [The Host, Mother, Memories Of Murder] comes this epic, post-apocalyptic sci fi action thriller, his first English language film. Captain America himself Chris Evans stars as the leader of a group of survivors of an icy doom-future, where everyone is packed onto a massive train which speeds, seemingly forever, through the frozen wasteland that Earth has become. There’s class warfare, Tilda Swinton in crazy makeup, action, weirdness—everything you could have hoped for in an apocalypse), Houdini (Adrien Brody stars as the titular escape artist, magician, and legend in this TV biopic where you will believe that a guy can get out of a straitjacket while chained underwater in a locked tank—possibly swimming with angry piranhas! [I haven’t seen this yet, but that sounds like the sort of thing Houdini got up to]), Siddarth (Intense Indian drama thriller about a poor family forced to delve into the seedy human trafficking underworld when their young son never returns from his faraway factory job), The Scribbler (Coo-coo crazy adaptation of a graphic novel about a beautiful young woman with multiple personalities living in a halfway house seemingly only populated by incredibly beautiful, scantily-clad crazy women. People start getting killed—is one of her other personalities responsible? Or is at costars Gina Gershon, Sasha Grey, Garret Dillahunt, Michelle Trachtenberg, or Eliza Dushku?), The Purge: Anarchy (In this cost-effective sequel to the highly successful and marginally scary original, future America is still doing the yearly Purge, where, for one super-bloody night of national id release, you can do literally any horrible thing you want and not get in trouble. Only this time, some pesky revolutionaries decide to use the Purge as opportunity to do some stuff that even die-hard yearly Purge fans find distasteful), A Coffee In Berlin (Award-winning German comedy drama about one day in the life of a beleaguered, unstable guy just trying to take the sting out of a mountain of recent disappointments with a maddeningly elusive decent cup of coffee), Sex Tape (Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz get up to some mildly kinky fun with their home video equipment—but then dum-dum Segel accidentally uploads the resulting titular sex tape to the cloud! Cue lots of jokes about the cloud! What is the cloud?! How do you get your sex tape off the cloud?! CLOUUUUUDDDD!!!!), Earth To Echo (Three friends find an adorable little alien who just wants to go home. Sort of like E.T. Or Batteries Not Included. Kind of a Spielberg-y sort of thing. Derivative? Maaaaaybe.), Rick & Morty- season 1 (See Monday’s review. If that doesn’t convince you o rent this berserkly hilarious animated series from the creator of he equally brilliant Community, then go back and read it again.), Idiots & Angels (Animated feature from the great cult animator Bill Plympton [who just did one of the best Simpsons couch gags ever this year] about a mean jerk who wakes up one day to find two angel wings growing out of his back. Forced by them to do good things against his will, the jerk sets off on a series of bizarrely animated adventures), Ripper Street- season 2 (The continuing filthy, brutal adventures of the infamously brutal police squad tasked with keeping the peace in the aftermath of the Jack The Ripper murders), Life After Beth (Everyone’s favorite snarky, doe-eyes deadpan artist Aubrey Plaza [Parks & Recreation, The To-Do List] stars in this horror comedy about a young woman brought back to life as a zombie, much to the confused delight of her family and boyfriend, all of whom try to adjust to her new state without being eaten and stuff; With John C. Reilly), The Librarian: The Quest For The Spear (E.R. hunklet Noah Wylie returns in this made-for-TV National Treasure-type series and a globe-trotting bookish type who seeks out historical artifacts with the help of learned fuddy-duddy pal Bob Newhart), Damnationland 2014 (This year’s annual anthology of all-Maine short horror films is here at Videoport for you to rent [or purchase!], with seven local chillers from Maine-based directors Jenny Anastasoff, Corey Norman, Jason Bosch, Ranin Brown, and the infamous cinematic minds behind Tasty Dude Films and Through The Door Productions. As ever, there’s something in Damnationland for everyone—provided everyone likes great, energetic horror thrillers from Maine’s best filmmakers)