VideoReport #349

Volume CCCXLIX- Kickpuncher 7: The Punchkickination

For the Week of 4/24/12

Videoport- a place where you can safely wander shelves full of the best movies in the history of the world, aided in your leisurely choices by a dedicated army of friendly movie nerds. Redb*x- a plastic vending machine plunked down in a convenience store parking lot where you select from a tiny selection of ill-tended DVDs like a rat pushing a feeder bar for a piece of corn. I mean, c’mon…

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! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

>>> Dennis suggests Drive (in Mystery/Thriller.) I keep thinking I shouldn’t like Ryan Gosling. He’s a former child star, and still has that sort of blondie, blank-faced blandness lurking there, but I gotta say, whenever I watch him on screen, I, almost reluctantly, concede that he’s one of this generation’s best actors. It’s a little disconcerting to tell you the truth. In movies like The Believer, Half Nelson, Blue Valentine, and Lars and the Real Girl, he continually rises above that damned scrubbed-clean face of his and blows me away. And in Drive, the decidedly-unusual sort-of action flick directed by Danish wildman Nicolas Winding Refn (The Pusher Trilogy, Valhalla Rising, Bronson, Fear X), the little bastard does it again. In Drive, Gosling plays the unnamed Driver, a Hollywood stuntman whose prowess behind the wheel makes him an expert at his real job- a getaway driver for hire. Drive is, on its most basic level, a very standard crime thriller- there’s a pretty next door neighbor with an adorable kid and a husband just getting out of jail. There’s an untrustworthy mentor whose dealings with unsavory types lead to serious trouble. There’s a chase, some (pretty shocking) violence, and unexpected plot twist or two. You know the drill. But what makes Drive decidedly different, and thrilling, is Winding Refn’s skill in springing things on you when you’re not expecting them, or not springing them on you when you do; the movie is very good at keeping you off-guard. Plus, the film, rather than going the muscleheaded Fast and the Furious route, harkens back more to the existential road pictures of the 70’s, like Two Lane Blacktop, or The Driver, movies that seem far less interested in the expected car crashes and high-speed chases, and more in creating mood. And, like those earlier films, Drive‘s protagonist is a largely-impassive cipher, a taciturn loner whose relationship with his finely-tuned car is as seemingly-blank as that with the other characters. It’s a tricky kind of role, and one that can come off as bland, boneheaded, or simply blank, but Gosling is undeniably-magnetic here; by design, he doesn’t offer a lot, but he successfully suggests a lot beneath the placid surface. Plus, the supporting cast is exceptional, with Ron Perlman and Bryan Cranston lending their particular brand of solid support, Carey Mulligan being almost painfully beautiful and vulnerable, and, in a true surprise, comic god Albert Brooks doing things he’s never done before as deceptively-genial gangster Bernie Rose, the evil engine that drives Drive‘s plot.

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 seven bucks!

>>> Former Videoporter Stockman suggests you snap up that whole ‘3 movies for a week for 7 bucks’ deal and treat yourself to an unexpectedly-wise triple feature of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (both in Comedy), and Harvey (in Classics.) To me, these movie are about more than just a bunch of idiots/stoners/flakes/potentially insane eccentrics wreaking havoc on an adventure to their High School Reunion/through time and the afterlife/to be committed to an insane asylum. Mock me if you will, I’m really quite mockable, but to me these movies are about people who live the way I wish I could. Harvey of course being the most poetic of the three, there’s really no mistaking the hero Elwood P. Dowd for an idiot. It’s harder to see with the first two since they’re so renowned for their inane dense characters. But all of the main characters in each movie have a strength of character that is rarely found. They each understand what it is to just accept life in the friendliest and most enjoyable way. I challenge you to watch all three with a different perspective. Watch them as examples of what it means to be a good, decent person and see if it doesn’t make you understand the respect I have for these three films.

“Can I tell you the truth? I never knew that we weren’t that great in High School. I mean, we always has so much fun together, I thought High School was a blast. And until you told me that our lives weren’t good enough, I thought everything since High School was a blast.”Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion

“We’ve been to the past. We’ve been to the future. We’ve been all around the afterlife. And you know, the best place to be is here. The best time to be is now.”Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’ – she always called me Elwood-  ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”Harvey.

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 seven bucks!

>>> Former Videoporter Stockman suggests taking advantage of that whole ‘3 movies for a week for 7 bucks’ deal with a comedy marathon of Galaxy Quest, Three Amigos, and The Man Who Knew Too Little(all in Comedy.) I don’t know why this very silly plot device somehow manages to land on its feet time and time again. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of it that makes it so brilliant? Whatever it may be, the tendency to fall into a series of wacky antics due to an equally wacky misunderstanding, continues to churn out solidly entertaining movies. The ever delightful Regan and April recently came to visit me in Boston! We had a splendid dinner where there was much giggling and the discussion of movies and why if you like something April is wearing you shouldn’t compliment it because then she’ll throw it out and never wear it again. Their free bus movie on the

Stockman-approved.

ride down was Galaxy Quest. Who expected that movie to be so brilliant? Not I! I grumbled all the way to the theater my siblings dragged me to, desperately trying to imagine why I was being forced to watch a Tim Allen movie. I’m pretty sure my mind imploded with unexpected laughter. This is a how a nerd movie should be done! FIRST you make a good movie, with relatable characters you care about succeeding throughout the movie, THEN you add the nerd nods and the dork winks. The rest just falls into magical place. After my run in with Regan and April another infamous Portlander, Mr. Guakomoli came to visit and somehow we got on the topic of Three Amigos and I realized that it had been well over a decade since I had seen that film. It totally holds up! I got a solid stinging bitch slap of humor when I remembered the comedic brilliance of Steve Martin, Martin Short (no really, he was once brilliant), and sadly brilliant because he’s a Dennis confirmed douche Chevy Chase. Which segues nicely into Bill Murray, because if you read everything Dennis writes like me, you learn that Dennis learned from his reading of everything…ever, that Bill Murray and Chevy Chase are NOT buddies. No sir. Bill Murray has done some earth shattering and iconic things in his admirable career. We can’t dispute that. But in some ways I think it can also be his curse, because some of his more quirky less iconic roles are still incredibly entertaining. It’s just hard for some to adjust to their expectations of Bill Murray. The Man Who Knew Too Little is one of those movies. It’s stupidly entertaining and Bill Murray is full of Bill Murray goodness. But it’s the stupid party of that stupidly entertaining that makes it vastly less than earth shattering or iconic. But really, how much out there is? Most of it is not. But these three films would make for a solid week of laughter. My week is vastly improved when that happens.

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 seven bucks!

>>>Andy suggests The Civil War (in the Documentary section). What’s that movie with Sam Waterston as Abraham Lincoln*, Jason Robards as Ulysses S. Grant, Morgan Freeman as Frederick Douglass, Garrison Keillor as Walt Whitman, and Arthur Miller as William Tecumseh Sherman? That’s right: Ken Burns’ epic documentary The Civil War. I know that no one really watches a documentary for the voice cast, but imagine that movie! Eleven and a half hours of authentic history dramatized by some of our finest performers (with bushy facial hair and a possibility of top hats).

The war of upper lip aggression.

Well, that’s what this movie is, essentially. The Civil War is a great movie. Ken Burns takes you on a journey through the most fascinating era of American history and, when it’s over, you feel like you’ve been somewhere. Sure, the movie has its share of cold facts and battle maps, but that just sets the stage for Burns’ real achievement: those glimpses into the real lives of real people long dead, but resurrected just long enough to tell their stories. The movie is full of colorful characters, whether they are historical figures or Civil War experts with a modern viewpoint. My favorite expert is playwright (and Oscar-winning screenwriter of To Kill A Mockingbird) Horton Foote, who has so many stories to tell that you’d think he lived through the war himself (he also provides the voice of Confederate president Jefferson Davis). In the final episode of The Civil War, Foote said something that made me want to watch all 680 minutes over again with a new perspective. “We feel we are a wholly superior people. If we’d been anything like as superior as we think we are, we would not have fought that war. But since we did fight it, we have to make it the greatest war of all times. And our generals were the greatest generals of all time. It’s very American to do that.” So maybe it is impossible to justify a war that killed more than 600,000 people, but our American ancestors fought it anyway, and so it was pretty great.

*Sam Waterston also played Lincoln in a 1988 mini-series called Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, which Videoport owns on VHS. Watch and compare!

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

>>>Dennis suggests The Muppet Show, if for no other reason than to gauge the 70’s stars’ ability to take the whole enterprise seriously. Sure, win an Oscar, but the real test is doing a convincing seductive dance number opposite a felt pig with a guy’s hand up her backside.

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

>>>For Saturday, here’s a reminder that you can get free money at Videoport to spend on movies- at Videoport! If you pay $20 on your Videoport account, we’ll give you $25 in store credit. And $30 buys you a whole $40 worth of rental-y goodness.

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Atonement (in Feature Drama.) Atonement brings to the screen Ian McEwan’s dense, prickly novel about the stories we tell each other… and ourselves. 13-year-old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), a bright and inquisitive girl and an aspiring writer, witnesses a series of encounters between her sister Cecelia (Keira Knightley) and Robbie (James MacAvoy), the son of their estate’s housekeeper. What Briony makes of these moments changes the course of several lives — and “makes” is the right word, since Briony’s limited perspective and her own feelings potently shape her understanding and her actions. Truthfully, I avoided watching Atonement for a long time; the trailer made me think McEwan’s deservedly renown story (shortlisted for the Booker Prize), a seemingly unfilmable tangle of mistakes, misunderstandings, and metanarrative, would be shorn of its complexity and softened into a mere pretty period romance. Props to screenwriter Christopher Hampton (who has previously adapted such seemingly uncinematic books as Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, A Most Dangerous Method by Portland’s John Kerr, and Dangerous Liaisons) who manages to retain the greater themes as well as the sorrows at the center of this tale. Oh, it’s pretty, all right — striking, even, which we should expect from director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Hanna) and studded with pretty young British actors (Knightley, MacAvoy, and Benedict Cumberbatch in a truly unreliable-looking moustache). But the clincher here is Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Hanna), whose luminous emotional clarity and quiet intelligence bring depth even to scenes where she is merely watching silently.

Back off or I will totally take my shirt off…

New Releases this week at Videoport: Contraband (Mark Wahlberg plays a smuggler lured out of retirement for one last smuggle in this action thriller co-starring the ever-weird Giovanni Ribisi in what Videoport’s Regan assures me is an entertainingly-bananas performance), The Innkeepers (smart horror movie fans should flock to this sophomore feature from Ti West, who directed the excellent House of the Devil), Pariah (this year’s Precious, this indie drama follows a young African American woman’s attempt to reconcile her lesbianism with her strict upbringing), A Hollis Frampton Odyssey (the Criterion Collection compiled this collection of the experimental films of noted American avant garde filmmaker Frampton; we at Videoport bring it to you, because of how much we love weirdness), The Wicker Tree(from the director of the

You guys know there’s a sequel to The Wicker Man, right?

original cult classic The Wicker Man [no, not the Nicholas Cage one] comes…a sequel?!?!? Yup, you heard right- a pair of young missionaries head into an isolated village full of suspiciously-friendly locals. I’m sure everything turns out fine, though…), The Organizer (more from the Criterion Collection at Videoport this week with this 1963 Italian drama about the striking workers of a Turin factory being aided by a traveling professor [Marcello Mastroianni]), Cinema Verite (Tim Robbins, James Gandolfini, and Diane Lane star in this film about the creation of the original American “reality show”- 1973’s An American Family), King of Devil’s Island (check the Film Movement section in the middle aisle for this drama, starring the always-interesting Stellan Skarsgard, about an uprising at a brutal juvenile prison on a Norwegian island), The Flaw (irreverently-ticked-off documentary posits that the current financial, shall we say, unpleasantness, might just have something to do with the growing gap between the rich and, well, the rest of us), Albatross (when the teenaged great-granddaughter of Arthur Conan Doyle takes a job at a seaside bed and breakfast to work on her own writing, she is drawn into her host family’s lives in various, unexpected way in the British drama), The Time That Remains(director Elia Suleiman mines his own family’s troubled history as Israeli Arabs in this

Only rent this if you want to laugh your face off…

heartbreaking drama), Patton Oswalt- Finest Hour (Patton Oswalt is the funniest standup comic working today, so you should probably watch his hilarious new special; you know- if you like to laugh and stuff…), Calexico- Flor de Muertos (Videoport’s Jackie introduced me to Calexico’s unique, dreamy, Tex-Mex sound- for which I thank him), and check the Criterion Collection section for the four-disc Criterion release “Pearls of the Czech New Wave’ which features six, count ‘em six, films from that period in the 60’s when the Czech cinema was arguably the most innovative, and wildly-weird and satirical in the world; you know, before the Russians clamped down and drove tanks over everybody. The set includes: Pearls of the

Two ladies from “Daisies.”

Deep, Daisies, A Report on the Party and Guests, Return of the Prodigal Son,Capricious Summer, and The Joke.

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: With the release (and almost immediate disappearance) of that new Three Stooges movie, Videoport thought it was a good time to bring in some of the original Stooges shorts on DVD, so check the Classics section for The Three Stooges Go Around the World, The Three Stooges in History, The Three Stooges and the Law, and The Three Stooges Spook Louder.

New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Contraband.

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