VideoReport #345

Volume CCCXLV- Kickpuncher 4: The Punchkickinator

For the Week of 3/27/12

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. If you can find a better deal than that, marry it. We hope you will be very happy…

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental!

>>> Videoport customer Meghan C. suggests Happy Accidents (in Incredibly Strange.) If you’re not shopping for your romantic comedies in the Incredibly Strange section, you’re doing it wrong. Because “romcom”s, as the kids call them, are terrible. And the Incredibly Strange section is great. And in that section there’s a romantic comedy called “Happy Accidents” that’s sweetly rom and kind of quirky-not-ha-ha com and except for some unfortunate 90’s floating-images-montage nonsense, pretty perfect. Ruby (Marisa (meh) Tomei) and Sam (Vincent (so-much-better-than-Noth) D’Onofrio, a commitment-phobic realist and a childlike romantic respectively, meet in a park and fall in love despite Ruby’s skepticism that like every other knucklehead she’s dated, Sam might not be as sweet and wonderful as he seems. When Sam reveals that he’s actually a time traveler from the future, Ruby thinks he’s crackers, and so do you…or do you? Instead of a lame “will-they-won’t-they”, this is a really well-executed “is-he-isn’t-he”, with a healthy dose of “with love like that who cares, you twit?!” mixed in. Philip K. Dick it ain’t, but the gentle sci-fi element keeps it this side of saccharin. Plus, Vinnie, you know?

Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental!

>>> Dennis suggests The Caine Mutiny(in Classics.) But, you know, with some reservations. Weirdly enough I think this was the first Humphrey Boagart movie I ever saw (my dad liked WWII movies), so my first experience of Bogey was that of an indecisive, neurotic tyrant and not the Mr. Cool Guy he’s since become in my cinematic world view. As Captain Queeg, skipper of a rundown minesweeper in the Pacific, Bogart’s all petty torments and irrational anxieties and obsessions- it’s pretty unnerving, and probably something of a change of pace at the time for him. In this adaptation of the Herman Wouk novel, the crew of the Caine eventually rebels against Queeg’s authoritarian command and the titular mutiny (led by stolid first mate Van Johnson) takes place, leading to a lengthy courtroom drama. Frankly, it’s the courtroom

Queeg, fiddling with his balls. (That'll be much less filthy when you see the movie...)

stuff that’s the real draw here, a fact that Wouk himself used to transform his novel into the long-running play The Caine Mutiny Court Martial (which was filmed to great effect by Robert Altman at one point in a tragically-out-of-print version.) In the film, which shows all the events before they’re again recounted in the later courtroom scenes, things get a little draggy (especially when it takes time out to deal with a junior officer’s romantic plot and his weirdly-jealous mom), but stick with it; when the trial gets under way, you’re in for some world-class performances from Bogart (whose gradual breakdown under cross examination is riveting, and unlike anything he’d done since The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), and both Fred MacMurray (as an intellectual, scheming mutineer) and Jose Ferrer, as defense attorney Barney Greenwald, take turns stealing scenes. MacMurray’s untrustworthy blandness is put to the best use since Double Indemnity, and, as the brilliant, conflicted Greenwald, Ferrer underplays, until he springs his trap on poor ol’ Queeg (even if his role is hamstrung by the film’s determination not to offend anyone- it leaves out the anti-Semitism subplot so central to the novel/play, and goes out of its way to let the military off the hook at every turn.) Plus, he gets one of the best last lines ever, challenging the smug MacMurray to a fight with the classic, “If you wanna do anything about it, I’ll be outside. I’m a lot drunker than you are, so it’ll be a fair fight.”

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental!

>>>Dennis suggests some intensive movie geek double featuring! One of the advantages of having Videoport in your life is the ability to plumb the depths of the Videoport shelves to engage in an eccentric course of cinematic study. Let’s watch!

1. Shadow of the Vampire and Nosferatu (both in Horror.) Whether you’re checking out the original silent vampire classic or Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake with Klaus Kinski, it’s film geek de rigueur to pair it up with 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire, a prankishly-goofy recreation of the making of the original, with John Malkovich as director F.W. Murnau and Willem Dafoe as actor Max Schreck who, in this retelling, is actually a vampire, coerced into appearing onscreen and occasionally snacking on his costars.

2. My Week With Marilyn (in Drama) and The Prince and the Showgirl (in Classics.) Michelle Williams (as Marilyn Monroe) and Kenneth Branagh (as Sir Laurence Olivier) enliven this behind-the-scenes tale of the making of the relatively-forgettable 1957 romantic comedy mismatch of two of the least-compatible movie stars of all time.

3. RKO 281 (in Drama) and Citizen Kane (in Classics.) Liev Schreiber is typically-magnetic portraying Orson Welles in this HBO movie about the making of Citizen Kane, and Welles’ antagonistic (and litigious) relationship with James Cromwell’s William Randolph Hearst.

4. Baadassss! and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song (both in Incredibly Strange.) Mario Van Peebles does his career best acting and directing in this biopic about his father Melvin’s trials in making his groundbreaking blaxploitation cult classic.

5. Ed Wood and Glen and Glenda and Plan 9 From Outer Space (all in Incredibly Strange.) I generally disdain Tim Burton’s precious, too-pleased-with-themselves quirk-fests, but I concede that his biopic of legendarily-incompetent auteur Wood is a near-masterpiece. Recounting the making of Wood’s two most-infamously-awful flicks, Burton and star Johnny Depp (and a brilliant Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi) craft a heartbreakingly-funny portrait of the least-talented, most-optimistic filmmaker ever.

6. CQ (in Feature Drama) and Barbarella (in Sci Fi.) While aspiring director Jeremy Davies in CQ isn’t making the psychedelic sci fi sex opera Barbarella per se, his 1960s spacy sex romp Dragonfly is clearly meant to stand in, and CQ is a lovingly-satirical look at the Jane Fonda semi-classic.

Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store!

>>>Dennis suggests Bucktown (in Incredibly Strange.) The blaxpliotation era in American film was a good news/bad news type of deal. As the independent/low budget/grindhouse genres flourished in the 1970s, suddelny there was a market for black actors and filmmakers on the big screen. Of course, for the most part, that market was largely for fairly stereotypical roles in films that emphasized sex, violence, and, well sex and violence, really. Still, some performers survived and thrived in this new wild west of American film and overcame its limitations, becoming legends in the process. Bucktown, a fairly-typical 1975 blaxploitation product features two of the genre’s icons, Pam Grier and Fred Williamson, along with perennial blaxploit all-star the awesomely-named Thalmus Rasulala, in a typically-entertaining action drama about a righteous brother stickin’ it to the man. A lot of blaxploitation movies follow the form of a Clint Eastwood western, and Bucktown is no exception. Williamson is the stylin’ outsider who rides into the cartoonishly-awful (and racist) town (on a train) to attend his brother’s funeral, only to get caught up in the town’s hellish ugliness. Like Clint, Fred initially scores a victory, beating up some honky deputies, only to suffer some setbacks when the man strikes back. Also like Clint, Fred rises from his seeming grave to exact his revenge against whitey. There’s some marginally-interesting subtext when Fred calls in his big city pals to help out, only to see them succumb to the temptations of power, but that’s the basic idea. As ever, the main attraction of a blaxploitation flick is the opportunity it affords its stars to do their thing, and Bucktown‘s basically notable for Williamson and Grier. For those in the know, Pam Grier needs no introduction; statuesque, formidable, and uniquely-sexy, Pam remains the blaxploitation era’s prime icon for a reason, even if she’s shunted off into girlfriend mode for most of the movie. Williamson was an interesting second-tier hero of the genre, a former NFL-er-turned-actor whose impressive physicality and charisma made up for a rather more limited skill set. He’s a formidable action guy, and is more than capable with his customary bevy of buxom babes (see especially his increasingly-kooky duo Hell Up in Harlem and Black Caesar), and he and Pam, in blaxploitation world, make the perfect couple. Seriously, watching them together in Bucktown, you know that whitey doesn’t stand a chance.

Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!

>>>Videoport reminds us all that touching the shiny side of a DVD indicates one was, perhaps, not taught proper behavior in one’s childhood. Just sayin’…

Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggest you take the ‘most movie for your buck’ Videoport challenge! Sure, there’s an amazing free rental deal every day at Videoport. You know it. But why not work the system to try and pack as much entertainment as possible into your weekend. Some ideas:

1. A tough guy triple feature with the Clint Eastwood triple feature disc of Every Which Way But Loose/ Any Which Way You Can/ Honkytonk Man (in Comedy), and a couple of Charles Bronson double features Death Wish 2/Death Wish 3 and Death Wish 4/The Ambassador (in Action.) That’s seven movies for the price of only two!!

2. A classic comedy laugh-fest consisting of some Marx Brothers double feature discs Room Service/At the Circus and Go West/The Big Store (in Classics) alongside the W.C. Fields Short Film Collection (in the Criterion section.) Four features, six shorts, all for the price of two. Not bad…

Those are just a few suggestions- try to beat the record!

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Warrior (in Feature Drama.) While on some level, a boxing or wrestling fan should consider MMA (mixed martial arts) as the best of both worlds, in reality, I’ve always found the actual MMA/UFC scene to be a bastion of sloppy thuggery, excessive macho posturing, and Joe Rogan. So, along with most of the world, I initially passed on this MMA-themed action drama- it just had that douche-y bro-stink all over it. But, perhaps persuaded by Nick Nolte’s best supporting actor nomination (he lost), I finally checked Warrior out and I gotta say…much better than I’d anticipated. Sure, the whole MMA thing still seems a decidedly lunkheaded milieu, but the movie is never less than watchable (bordering on riveting) due to its two stars, Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy. Apart from the fact that they both have clearly spent insane, animalistic hours at the gym, both of these guys are accomplished, charismatic actors in their own rights. Edgerton (an Aussie) and Hardy (a Brit) convincingly portray two Pittsburgh brothers whose lifelong rivalry, exacerbated by their alcoholic father (Nolte), culminates in a movie-friendly final confrontation at the traditional big MMA tournament. Like Rocky, et al, Warrior‘s pretty formula, but, for all that, it’s at least as affecting. Edgerton and Hardy (soon to be a megastar as Bane in the new Batman movie) are both pretty damned affecting, and convincing as brothers; both have a soft spoken, averted eyes torment thing going on (and their accents are spot-on.) And Nolte, as the remorseful, aging old trainer/father deserved his nomination; his scenes with his understandably-estranged sons walk a wrenching balance of recrimination and empathy. Sure, the film’s style might be a bit glib (is it really that easy to get into the big tournament?), but the final third of the film is nothing but solid gripping fight action (nicely bonded to character motivation), and the big showdown of brother against brother (was there any doubt?) will produce a veritable waterfall of manly, manly man-tears.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (this exists; we’re all to blame in some way…), Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, this drama about a mute li’l guy running around NYC trying to find a lock that fits the key his dad left him before dying on 9/11 stars the likes of Tom Hanks, Max Von Sydow, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Jeffrey Wright, Viola Davis and more), A Dangerous Method (based on a book written by Portland resident [and Videoporter] John Kerr, this drama centers on the contentious relationship among psychoanalytical pioneers Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, and their patient Sabina Spielrein; directed by David Cronenberg and starring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Machael Fassbender- that ain’t bad… ), ‘Eureka’- season 4.5 (small town, all the maddest scientists in the world; what could possibly go wrong?), ‘South Park’- season 15 (by season 15, you know whether or not you like this show…), The Broken Tower (James Franco takes on another famous gay American poet biopic after playing Allen Ginsberg in Howl; this time he writes and directs himself as Hart Crane, alongside the always-riveting Michael Shannon [Take Shelter]), In the Land of Blood and Honey (Angelina Jolie writes and directs this foreign language drama bout the presumably-doomed love of two people on opposite sides of the Bosnian War ), Hop (the animated version of Russell Brand is the new Easter Bunny!), The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch (Kristin Scott Thomas continues her lucrative bi-lingual film career costarring in this French thriller about the secret adoptive son of a murdered billionaire attempting to prove his legitimacy without being murdered his own self), Korkoro (Videoport-beloved French director Tony Gatlif [Latcho Drom, The Crazy Stranger, Vengo] continues his exploration of Gypsy life with this post-WWII drama about a Gypsy family traveling the French countryside alongside a little orphaned boy), The Zombie Diaries (with London overrun by the ravenous undead, whatcha gonna do? Why, capture it all on shaky handheld cameras and post it on Youtube, if you’re the plucky survivors in this British entry in the zombie sweepstakes), Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, season 6, part 1(everyone’s favorite grumpy chef continues to travel the world and eat weird stuff), and four, count ‘em four new DVDs of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’! This time around, Mike, Joel and the ‘bots lob snark-bombs at the cinematic stinkburgers King Dinosaur, The Castle of Fu Manchu, Code Name: Diamond Head, Last of the Wild Horses.

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Tokyo Drifter (check Videoport’s Criterion section for this super-snazzy new edition of Seijun Suzuki’s oddball yakuza hitman classic.)

New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

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