VideoReport #357

Volume CCCLVII- Tinker, Norman Mailer, Soldier, Spy

For the Week of 6/19/12

Welcome to Videoport…

Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. And we’ve got these discount deals where you get free money. And we’ve got all the movies in the world. And our staff knows literally everything there is to know about movies. And we’re independent, locally-owned, and dedicated to the art of movies, and to making your movie-watchin’ life better. Oh, and we have a gumball machine now…

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 Insomnia (in Mystery/Thriller.) A remake of the Norwegian thriller you can find in the Criterion section, this 2002 thriller has a lot of things going for it, not the least of which is a lesson in the value of underplaying. It’s a lesson its two stars, Al Pacino and Robin Williams, should revisit every once in a while, as each, while undeniably talented in his own way, has a regrettable tendency to go way, way over the top when left to their own devices. Set in the endless daylight of an Alaskan summer, Insomnia starts with a dead girl, wrapped in plastic. Unlike Twin Peaks, however, the sleepy Alaskan town doesn’t get a spotless hero come to town to solve things, but a pair of rumpled Los Angeles cops (Pacino and indie all-star Martin Donovan) who’ve been sent up to assist…and to escape some brewing trouble back home. Pacino’s the brilliant supercop he’s played before (see Heat), but as the investigation marches on and the incessant nightless days rob him of sleep, we see him start to unravel. And not in the usual Pacino “I’m gonna SUDDENLY YELL REALLY LOUD A NEW TOUGH GUY CATCHPHRASE!” way (see Heat‘s “GIMME ALL YOU GOT!!!”), but in an, I haven’t slept for three days and counting and I’m having trouble keeping myself together way. And it looks really good on him, especially when the plot kicks in with some twists that only a real jerk would spoil for you; his desperation makes him cloudier, rather than more manic, and Pacino does some of the most nuanced work in years. Add to that an interesting, again understated performance by Williams (as Pacino’s #1 suspect, a mystery writer with some mysterious connections to the dead girl) and, again, this should be used as an instructional video for these two guys. Williams (even more horrifyingly prone to GO FOR IT usually), tones it waaaay down here as well, giving vent to the undertone of effective creepiness he shows in the similarly-restrained work he did in One Hour Photo. Chuck in some truly unique and gorgeous scenery, and solid character work from Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney, Paul Dooley, Nicky Katt, and Donovan, and you’ve got yourself an oft-overlooked little gem of a thriller.

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!

>>>Dennis suggests The Awful Truth (in Classics.) Put that Kate Hudson movie down! Sorry to yell, but I’m a professional and I only care about you’re well being. So do a 180 and look into the Classics section if you’re in a rom-com mood. That way, you’ll save yourself from having to watch Matthew McConaughey make kissy faces and, instead, treat yourself (and your own kissypal) to The Awful Truth, one of the prototypical (and best) rom-coms of all time. In it, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play an urbane, seemingly happy (and goofy) couple who, due to a series of misunderstandings, decide to get divorced. As the day of their final decree approaches, and each of them is paired up with a clearly-less-awesome new partner, their old chemistry starts bubbling up again, manifesting itself in some of the funniest, most charming bouts of silly behavior the screen has ever seen. Plus, it’s got The Thin Man‘s brilliant dog actor Asta playing Mr. Smith. Seriously, guys- do your self, and your loved ones, a favor. Leave the Sandra Bullock on the shelf.

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 Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (in Comedy.) I completely understand and concur with anyone who says that the Kids in the Hall are hilarious. I simultaneously completely understand and concur with anyone who says that the Kids in the Hall are very much not hilarious. Don’t be alarmed! I am quite capable of having these two opposing thoughts without my brain exploding. Just don’t try to have me do math at the same time. That would likely rip whole in the space time continuum. Thus is my understanding of math! The Kids in the Hall, like most of your sketch comedy shows/troupes (particularly the ones who churn out an avalanche of sketches), are composed of an overwhelming amount of boring non-humorous materials with a generous sprinkling of comedic brilliance. Sadly the brilliant sprinkles of comedy become so overplayed that your will to find humor in them is virtually crushed. The beacon of wit and humor that stays burning bright is my beloved Brain Candy. Wow, I swear I didn’t even plan that much alliteration, it just happened like magic! Brain Candy takes everything that was ever funny about Kids in the Hall and wooshes it all together in one hilarious film. Minus most (all maybe?) the “classic characters” from the show. Unlike for instance the hit or misses from SNL moviedom, this movie does not take any one character or sketch from the show to expand a story upon. It’s a random and surreal creation in and of itself. About drugs, anti-depressants released before full human testing can be completed! Isn’t that what the cool kids are doing these days? Are drugs not cool anymore? If you can’t find humor in drugs and depression, sheesh, what can you find humor in then?

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!

>>>Piehead suggests Daisies (in Foreign/the Criterion Collection.) We’ve had a sort of cheap-looking disc of this Czech surrealist farce for a while, but here it is again, courtesy of the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse offshoot. Banned in its native country for “having nothing in common with socialism” and for, uh, “food wastage”, the film follows two cute teenage girls who just refuse to take anything seriously at all. They make crazy clothes, make fools of men, drink like fish and, yes, throw food around. Every edit, every shot, changes from black and white to color, or throws in some kind of animation or a crazy sound effect, all pretty remarkable for a film made in 1966. (By the way, having been to Czechoslovakia, I’ll bet the scene where they drink beer with a straw may have been the most shocking one of all.) Their only friend seems to be a women’s toilet attendant. I don’t know enough about feminist film theory to explain exactly why this is an important feminist film, but the script makes a big deal out of the girls and their society being “spoiled” both, I think, in terms of being “ruined” and “overindulged.” They also refer to themselves as being “dolls” (which also means “virgin” in Czech.) There’s a darkness here, too. The film made me feel like I feel when I realize when cute girls are laughing at me. It’s a sexy feeling, and kind of disconcerting.

Editor’s note: Daisies, in addition to the cheap-looking DVD Piehead mentioned, is included in that Eclipse series- check it out in the Criterion Collection section under “Czech New Wave!”

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

>>> ElsaS. Customer suggests more Free Friday double-features! Pick one (FREE!) movie for the whole family to watch together, then another adults-only feature to watch after you tuck in the kids. So many possibilities! David Lynch, though notoriously tightlipped about his works’ inner meaning, cheerfully admits that 1939’s The Wizard of Oz appears again and again in both the plots and imagery of his films. This influence is perhaps clearest in Wild at Heart, but I think Mulholland Dr. makes an excellent second feature after Wizard of Oz. Pixar makes this double-feature business almost too easy: their suspenseful and heartwarming The Incredibles makes an excellent counterpoint to the dark and sometimes dismal Watchmen, and both hinge on the same notion: criminalizing or controlling the acts of superheroes. Ratatouille is brilliantly colorful and filled with frenetic energy, and its story (of Remy the rat, who aspires to cook in Paris’ finest restaurant) plays on our anxieties about corruption and contamination, which makes it an odd but excellent kid-friendly companion to the vividly colored, richly textured, intensely emotional, occasionally revolting, and decidedly NOT kid-friendly The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, Her Lover. Wall-E and… what, 2001: A Space Odyssey? Silent Running? Moon? Take your pick. A Bug’s Life is a perfect match for The Seven Samurai, or if you’re not feelin’ sub-title-y, The Magnificent Seven.

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

>>>For Saturday, Former Videoporter Stockman suggests Help! (in Popular Music.) Have you heard of this new band? They’re called The Beatles. Rumor has it they’re not half bad. Actually I should probably point out those sentences were humorous. There are too many people who genuinely have no idea who they are. Well, have I got a brilliant way to introduce them! Make them watch Help! Make anyone watch Help! On one condition, they love dry humor excessively dry. Like Antarctica dry (which, fun fact, is by technical definition the largest desert in the world. That’s right, Stockman reviews are educational and entertaining). The Beatles are impressive actors, but even more impressive comedians. I absolutely adore dry humor. The kind of humor that you potentially won’t even realize was a joke until a week later. The kind of humor that is all in a well-timed subtle delivery. This movie lives and breathes the epitome of that humor. It’s also incredibly silly. Most people who enjoy Beatle’s movies are probably going to steer you towards Hard Day’s Night, I’m going to agree to disagree. Help is where it’s at. It’s an adventure of human sacrifice, mad scientists, Scotland Yard, and tigers. Yes, every single one of those things plays an active role in a movie starring the famous Beatles! And is the direct cause of my brother and I’s plan to someday create our own Help tour of Bermuda.

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests you honor Kate Winslet’s induction into the ranks of the CBE (that’s “Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire,” y’all) by making a three-for-two weekend rental of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Heavenly Creatures, and — in honor of that “MOST EXCELLENT” part — Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Most excellent.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Project X (last year’s super low budget smutty high school comedy that could success story finally hits DVD this week; three of those horny teens you read about decide to throw a last day of high school bash, but thanks to that internet all the kids are into these days, the word gets out, things get out of hand, and there are probably some boobs as a result), Big Miracle (‘The Office”s Jon Krasinski brings that boyish charm of his to the big screen in this based on a true story story of a family trying to save some whales trapped in the ice; Drew Barrymore’s along for additional twinkliness and Videoport’s Regan said this movie made her cry; don’t worry- we made fun of her), Wanderlust (attention, fans of good things- this is the movie you want this week; directed by David Wain [of Stella, Role Models, The Ten, Wet Hot American Summer] and starring pretty much everyone involved in those movies, this comedy about a yuppie couple [Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston] who go broke, hit the road, and end up at a wacky commune is the comedy you want to see; you know- if you like good things), Seeking Justice (one of the approximately 54 movies Nicholas Cage made in 2011, with Nick alternately growling and shouting his way through New Orleans in search of the people who attacked his wife [Mad Men‘s January Jones]), Cat Run (Videoport’s JackieO came back from lunch one day a little bewildered by this thriller about a couple of American pals in Montenegro who: set up a detective agency with no experience, run into a high-priced call girl with secrets on a corrupt US senator, and come across a lot of naked Eastern European women; can’t say I blame Jackie…), Jeff Who Lives at Home (the second comedy for smart people out this week, this bittersweet number is from the acclaimed indie director Duplass Brothers [The Puffy Chair, Baghead, Cyrus]; starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, and Judy Greer, it’s the story of a slacker-y dude [Segel] whose comfy, aimless life in his mom’s basement changes when he spends the day with his uptight brother [Helms] following Helms’ possibly adulterous wife all over town), ‘Franklin and Bash’- season 1 (it’s wacky bro lawyer time with Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as the new high-fivin’, rule-breaking, chick-beddin’ new law dudes at a stuffy law firm; costarring Videoport’s personal pal Malcolm McDowell as the Shatner-esque head of the firm), ‘Wilfred’- season 1 (Elijah Wood brings his hobbit-y weirdness to this oddball series about a guy who’s the only one who sees his sexy neighbor’s dog as a crude, beer-swilling, Australian dude in a dog suit), ‘Louie’- season 2 (in another gift to fans of smart comedy this week, the DVD gods have brought us the second season of this completely-brilliant, utterly-cringeworthy autobiographical comedy series from/about comedian Louis CK), The FP (in the completely-bananas release of the week, we’ve got this odd little number, an action/gang/dance flick ab out a dystopian future where rival gangs face of over turf…in games of Dance, Dance, Revolution? Whatever you say…), And Everything Is Going Fine (check the Criterion Collection for this documentary/biography of the late, legendary monologist Spalding Gray, which fittingly uses only clips from his own shows and interviews to recount his oft-recounted, often funny, ultimately tragic life), Four Lovers (Criterion liked this sexy French romantic drama about a pair of couples who decide to swap partners; I’m sure it works out fine…), Tomboy (French drama about a 10 year old girl who, upon moving to her new house in Paris, decides to live as a boy), Circo (follow the life of a family of Mexican circus performers in this acclaimed documentary), Young Goethe in Love (before becoming the legendary poet, little Goethe was tempted by love and stuff in this German drama)

New Arrivals at Videoport this week: Gray’s Anatomy (Criterion, in conjunction with this week’s Spalding Gray documentary And Everything Is Going Fine, brings out its typically-deluxe edition of Gray’s one man show about his journey into the world of alternative medicine when he starts losing vision in one eye)

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