Volume CCCLI- Revenge of the Vengeance-Havers
For the Week of 5/8/12
Videoport gives you a free movie every day. That’s just something we think you should know…
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!
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Baghead(in Incredibly Strange.) In the Duplass brothers’ indie hit, four
would-be actors (self-described “extras for life”) decide to jumpstart their careers, so they take up for spontaneous weekend in the woods where they hope to hammer together a script starring themselves, more or less as themselves: The Stud, The Vamp, The Nice Guy, and The Ingenue. But here’s the heartbreaking point: these aren’t characters lazily sketched out as the same old stereotypes; these are complex people with knotty, interwoven dynamics trying desperately to wedge themselves into simple movie stereotypes and clearcut relationships. In a drunken blur, the ingenue (Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, Arthur, Damsels in Distress) dreams of a figure lurking in the woods with a bag covering his head, and The Stud seizes upon this image as the heart of their screenplay. Aaaand then things start to get eerie. This isn’t a winking deconstruction of horror movie tropes, but a stumbling, hesitant, occasionally hilarious, and weirdly convincing portrait of how average humans might react to a possible horror-movie threat: with blasts of panic, sure, but mostly with skepticism, irritation, on-group resentment, and stretches of just plain boredom. The label “mumblecore,” which all too often suggests an aimless, craftless extemporizing, is misleading here. On the screen, Baghead has an unpolished cinema-verite quality, and the dialogue is similarly rough and improvised, but under that raw surface are crystal-clear character and theme that carry all the way through from beginning to end.
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!
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests The Warriors (in Action Adventure.) So, um, I finally watched 1979’s The
Warriors, a touchstone flick referenced endlessly in MST3K, The Simpsons, and other pop-culture strip miners. From what little I knew about it (an eerily empty and blighted New York City subway populated only by roving gangs of, y’know, warriors; a seemingly eternal night of guerrilla warfare, a half-shirtless cast clad in leather vests), I assumed The Warriorswas a post-apocalyptic gangland epic, Mad Max set in the NYC subway. But it ain’t. The Warriors takes place in then-contemporary New York… which accounts for the squalid atmosphere. (Seriously, the 1990s clean-up campaign was overly aggressive and rife with systemic abuse of authority, but, y’all, 1970s New York was a sewer.) In the film’s opening, every street gang in the city is called to the Bronx for an uneasy summit meeting. The staggering proposal: since gang members vastly outnumber police, an intergang truce would allow them to rule the city unchallenged. Unfortunately, the movie drops the intriguing idea of class warfare and kleptocracy (and the social and philosophical questions it raises); instead, the Warriors are wrongly implicated in a gang slaying and have to hustle their way home to Coney without getting jumped by rival gangs. That’s right: the film offers the possibility of total social upheaval, then bait-and-switches to the epic adventure of some guys getting lost on the the subway. Aaaand then it plunges from the merely tedious into the absurd. Among the gangs The Warriors have to evade: The
Turnbulls, a reasonably realistic gang in reasonably realistic garb (jeans, bandannas) bearing a reasonably realistic range of weapons (chains, knives, two-by-fours, and — a little outlandishly — a great big school bus that they cling to); The Orphans, a weedy-looking bunch in monogramed drab-green t-shirts; The Baseball Furies, a band of bat-wielding soldiers in full face paint and old-timey baseball uniforms; the Hi-Hats’, suspendered tights-wearing mimes in top hats and, again, full face paint (why doesn’t it get smudged in combat?); The Lizzies, a tough all-girl gang who (OH MY GOODNESS) might not be as beguiled by The Warriors’ sexual magnetism as they let on; The Riffs, who habitually perform some sort of martial-art/standing yoga en masse and in shortie bathrobes; The Hurricanes, who all sport porkpie hats; The Punks, strapping guys in overalls and rollerskates who all dress like oversized Chucky dolls, which is not nearly as scary as it might sound. And about ten other gangs too ridiculous to describe or keep track of, though we randomly identified a few: The Referees (in vertical-striped black-and-yellow shirts), The Benatars (in horizontal-striped jerseys, snap-brim fedoras, and sassy-short feathery haircuts; c’mon and hit them with your best shot), The Traffic Cones (in blaze yellow satin jackets, not super for evading your enemies in the dark streets), and The Buffetts (in Hawaiian shirts). I don’t know what’s more bananas: seeing the gangs get more and more hilarious, or trying to suspend my disbelief when it turns out that these world-weary rakes and streetwise criminals can’t read a damn subway map, or watching Dexter’s dad (James Remar) strut around shirtless, threatening to rape women and unleashing homophobic taunts on his fellow gang members, or both of us saying at the same moment, “Hey, is that the less memorable sister from ‘Too Close for Comfort’?” (It is.)
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!
>>>Dennis suggests you make your life better by watching ‘Friday Night Lights’ (in Feature Drama.) The lovely Ms. S. Customer and I just finished the fifth, and sadly final, season of this tragically-neglected tv series about Texas high school football. Now wait a minute- I see most of you checking out at the mention of a certain team sport, but let me try to convince you to give it a shot. I have some reasons: 1. It is one of the favorite shows of Videoport’s Regan who not only has a fine and analytical mind (with regards to movies and tv anyway) but also hates football, and all team sports, with a withering passion. 2. Ms. Elsa S. Customer, also, has no interest in sports whatsoever, and yet she loves it. (This is also how I explain why she loves me.) 3. While the central football theme is, well, central, FNLis hardly uncritical about Texas football
culture; all the fanaticism, overemphasis on sports rather than academics, parental pressures, jock culture, sexism and more all get some serious examination. 4. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton (as Coach Eric Taylor and wife Tammy) are, without exaggeration, the most realistic portrait of a married couple ever on tv. They’re not squeaky-clean, perfect tv marrieds, either- they make mistake, hurt feelings, ignore important things on occasion- but Chandler and Britton have such a handle on their characters, and the myriad, tangled conflicts and compromises that go into a long-term relationship. 5. I can count on one hand the number of episodes that did not make me break down in manly, manly- man-tears. You know that scene just before the big game in Hoosiers when hard-nosed coach Gene Hackman says, “I love you guys”? Well, there’s a moment like that in nearly every episode. And it’s not cheap sentiment either; all earned, all emerging from character and situation, and all deviously-employed to make a guy break down in man-tears. 6. Far from being the sausage-fest the subject might suggest, FNLhas a startling number of some of the best, most rounded, and downright human female characters television has produced in its regrettably-sexist history. Apart from Britton (whose Tammy Taylor is simply one of the best female characters on tv ever), there’s Aimee Teegarden who turns the potentially-thankless and tiresome role of the Taylor’s teen daughter into something much more interesting, Adrianne Palicki, who similarly turns stereotypical “bad girl” Tyra into someone much more interesting, and I’ll even give you Minka Kelly’s head cheerleader Lyla Garrity. 7. Of course, the dudes get some great roles, too, and there are literally a dozen or more, apart from the incomparable Chandler, along the way. Special mention for golden boy QB (with a SPOILER) Jason Street, cocky African American running back (with some serious challenges to overcome) Smash Davis, good-looking bad boy with a heart Tim Riggins (I’m willing to forget that John Carter or Battleship ever happened- that’s how much I love Taylor Kitsch’s Riggins), ‘The Wire”s Michael B. Jordan as the troubled kid from the wrong side of Dillon’s tracks (Ms. S. Customer actually burst out crying when she recognized him, saying, “I’m just so happy Wallace is okay!”), painfully-earnest farmboy/running back Luke Cafferty, gangly comic relief nerd turned unlikely football player Landry (Jesse Plemons is like Matt Damon’s goofier-looking, funny little brother), and, my personal favorite, underclassman backup quarterback Matt Saracen,
whose series-long journey to manhood is absolutely heartbreaking in the hands of actor Zach Gilford. 8. Unlike most high school shows, FNL takes place in real time; people graduate, time passes, and that inexorable passage of time underlies everyone’s journey. It’s part of the greatness of the show; no matter how great you are in high school, it’s over in four short years. And then your life starts.
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 Sherman’s March: A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love in the South during an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation (in the Documentary section). Hungry for more history after watching Ken Burns’ epic documentary The Civil War, Ross McElwee’s documentary Sherman’s March was, to say the least, not what I expected. But I felt while watching it that the filmmaker really got away with something, and his movie is a real achievement. The movie begins with McElwee getting a grant to make a documentary about William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous March to the Sea and its lasting effect on the South. Then McElwee’s girlfriend breaks up with him and, devastated, he sinks into depression. He starts having disturbing nightmares about nuclear holocaust. After bumming around for a while, McElwee heads South to make his movie. The idea, I guess, was to follow Sherman’s route and document the experience. But, in his fragile emotional state, he keeps getting sidetracked when he meets women or bumps into ex-girlfriends. Inevitably and invariably, the women break it off with him and the nuclear holocaust nightmares return, and our vulnerable, needy filmmaker uses some of the grant money to get a motel room and mope. The director, who also provides the deadpan narration, is kind of a sad sack, but as his movie rambles on, his romantic missteps, neurotic obsessions, and surprising tangents (there’s one involving Burt Reynolds) become more and more charming. As we get to know Ross, we pick up more of his subtle sense of humor and sympathize with his easily bruised heart. But I had to wonder, What kind of grant did this guy get? Was he supposed to make an educational film? Because I certainly can’t imagine seeing the finished movie on PBS or in a high school history class. Sherman’s March is a personal story about one sensitive, creative man who is obsessed with a certain kind of woman: women who use him and trample on his poor heart; boisterous women who amuse and surprise him, but are ultimately not interested in him. Of course, Ross is using the women, too, for the purpose of his film. He is trying to understand the enigma of the Southern Woman, and that becomes the broader theme that Sherman’s March is about.
Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!
>>>It’s a free movie. Deal with it.
Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!
>>>For Saturday, Videoport customer Jeremy has this to say about Mad Dog and Glory (in Feature Drama): “It’s so confusing and awesome!”
>>>For Sunday, Where the Wild Things Are (in Feature Drama.) When I first heard rumblings that Maurice Sendak’s beloved, iconic storybook was being transformed to a big-budget Hollywood film, I shuddered. How could such a dreamy, surreal allegory of childhood imagination, love, and rage ever survive the battering, bruising reduction that all great books suffer when they’re transferred from page to screen? Then I learned that the project was helmed by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggars and my anxiety abated a bit. If anyone can craft a dream on the screen, it’s director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation.) and if anyone understands the delicacy, elasticity, and occasional savagery of childhood dreams, it’s Dave Eggars. And the movie surpassed my hopes: it never suppresses the wildness of the Wild Things or tries to simplify them; it gives them scope to rage and thunder without denying their gentler moments. It’s a triumph. It’s a rumpus. In honor of the late, great Maurice Sendak, let the wild rumpus start.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Underworld: Awakening (Kate Beckinsale is back as the queen of the vampires, surprising everyone who hadn’t realized she wasn’t in the last movie after all), The Vow (Rachel McAdams gets amnesia, looks at husband Channing Tatum’s abs, decides to stay with him anyway), ‘Chuck’- season 5 (everyone’s favorite nerd spy is back for more comic thrills), Tim
& Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (by now, you either think Tim and Eric are conceptual comic geniuses or two really unappealing guys who like to make you squirm at their repellant antics; this movie will do nothing to change whichever opinion you currently hold), ‘The Big C’- season 2 (Laura Linney returns in this darkly comic series which proves that just because you get cancer, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a selfish, snarky person), George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Martin Scorcese directs this loving, 2-disc documentary about the life and career of the erstwhile Beatle), Seven Days in Utopia (Robert Duvall and Melissa Leo star in this family-friendly feelgoodery about a young hotshot pro golfer who ends up learning some crusty life wisdom from an eccentric old rancher; think of it like The Legend of Bagger Vance, but with Robert Duvall instead of Will Smith…), The Front Line (intense Korean war film about the final battle of the Korean War to decide the final border between North and South), Reykjavik to Rotterdam (did you like Contraband? Do you like reading? Well then, this is the Icelandic original it’s a remake of, where a retired smuggler gets lured back into the smuggling game for one more smuggle), The Shrine (in this horror movie, some young journalists infiltrate a cult reported to engage in human sacrifice; I’m sure nothing’s gonna go wrong…)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Cycling Shorts (for all you pedal-pushers out there, Videoport brings in this compilation of 28 bicycle-related short documentaries.)
New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Robots, Cinema Paradiso, Underworld: Awakening.