A (living) video store is doing something cool for film fans

It’s the ghost of Videoport again… WoOoOoOoOoO! Here to tell you about our still-surviving cousin Bart & Greg’s DVD Exposion! up in Bruswick. They’re teaming up with Brunswick’s own cafe theater Frontier for artsy-cool movie nights. You should go to those, then rent movies at Bart & Greg’s. You know, since they’re great (and, you know, still exist.)


Read all about the Bart & Greg’s Film Series HERE.

And check out Bart & Greg’s website to see how great they are. Keep them alive, people.

Published in: on January 22, 2016 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A former Videoporter got paid to write about his pain at losing Videoport

I mean, the least you could do is read it, since we’re dead and all.


From the thing:

If you’re actually in a video store, the stakes are different. You’re engaged. You’re on a mission to find a movie — the right movie. You had to get out of bed, get dressed, and go to a store. You had to think about what you want, why this movie looks good and not that one, perhaps even seeking guidance or advice. Whether it’s from nostalgia, advertising, packaging, reputation, recommendation, or sheer whim, a movie chosen from the shelves attaches you to your choice. Before the film even starts playing, you’ve begun a relationship with it. You’re curious. Whether you’ve chosen well or poorly, you’ve made a choice, and you’re in it for the duration.

With online streaming, we don’t decide — we settle. And when we aren’t grabbed immediately, we move on. That means folks are less likely to engage with a film on a deep level; worse, it means people stop taking chances on challenging films. Unlike that DVD they paid for and brought home, a movie on Netflix will be watched only so long as it falls within the viewer’s comfort zone. As that comfort zone expands, the desire to look outside of it contracts.

Aaand, that’s the last nickel anyone associate with Videoport will probably squeeze out of the place we loved so much. Support your local video store—if you’ve still got one.

Published in: on December 31, 2015 at 12:11 am  Comments (1)  

You let Videoport croak—here’s how you can atone

Bart & Greg's. Brunswick. Go there.

Bart & Greg’s. Brunswick. Go there.

There’s another, equally-outstanding video store still hanging on up in Brunswick, people. Here’s an interview with the owner by a former Videoporter. Read it. Then take a little drive.

“It boils down to one thing – if you want it, we’ve got it.” So says Bart D’Alauro, owner and co-founder of Brunswick video store Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion, and he’s not wrong. “At this point, we have about 35,000 discs, which translates to about 26,000 individual movies and TV series,” he said, explaining that his store, housed since 2002 in the Tontine Mall on Maine Street in Brunswick, quickly moved into a large space in the mall, at first doubling and then tripling in size.

If only the same could be said of Bart & Greg’s customer base. Subject to the same forces (Netflix, mainly) which finally, in August, choked the life from Portland’s own movie rental institution, Videoport, the store finds itself looking for new ways to convince people that the local, indie video store model still has value. Having worked right ’til the end at Videoport (and with Bart at another indie video store decades ago), I had a lot to ask him about.

People think “well, Netflix has everything.” But that’s not true, right?

Except for “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” Pixar, the Disney classics, “Indiana Jones” – all pretty glaring omissions. There’s this idea, too, that, except for those few things, they have just about everything else. There are about 7,500 titles to stream in a given month, compared to our 26,000. Plus, every title in my store has been hand-picked because someone will want to see it. Netflix is filled with movies no one wants because they’re part of a package licensing deal – studios say, “If you want this movie that people care about, you have to take the junk along with it.” You could subscribe to 20 different streaming services and maybe get access to everything we’ve got.

Apart from the fact that it’s killing off video stores, what’s do you see as the worst thing about people watching movies online?

Netflix affects the way people watch movies. They watch 10 minutes and, if they’re not into it, they flip to the next movie. With a video store, there’s the fact that they’ve paid their $3.50, they’re going to give this a shot – you’re watching more challenging movies for that reason. The Netflix effect means people are only watching things in their comfort zone, genres they’re comfortable with. Movies that give them all the info they need in the first 10 minutes when part of the fun of watching movies is trying to figure out who these people are, why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s a variation on cable – you take what you’re given. Netflix is cable with a few more options.

Just a portion of Bart & Greg’s extensive inventory.

What’s lost when a community loses its last video store?

It’s a community spot, a gathering place. I enjoy that most people who return a movie want to have a short movie discussion, some analysis, some criticism – they’re not just zoning out to what’s on their screen. They’re actually thinking about it. We’ll get just about anything that’s requested, we pretty much get every new move people will have interest in – foreign films, foreign TV series, we get ’em all. I think the biggest loss is that without video stores you can’t go through Danny Peary’s “Guide for the Film Fanatic” and watch any of those movies – nothing on that checklist (of 1,600 essential films and cult classics) is going to be on Netflix. I have almost all of them.

Bart & Greg’s is a great video store (easily as good as Videoport was), so I urge anyone still smarting over Videoport’s demise, or anyone who values movies, to make the trip. Check out their website atbartandgregs.com. Like Bart & Greg’s on Facebook.

VideoReport #517

Volume DXVII— Well, That Happened

             For the Week of 7/14/15


Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Now Videoport’s owner Bill has something he has to tell you:


Videoport is closing in August. We want to thank the people of Greater Portland for your loyalty and friendship over these last 28 years, it’s been great. Thank You!

All is not lost! We are donating the Videoport movie collection to the Portland Public Library. Soon instead of a FREE movie every day at Videoport you will be able to get all your movies FREE at the library! Actually not all FREE, you need to support your public library just as you supported Videoport. Please enjoy all the Portland Public Library collections and services, and when you do, please make a donation to the library so they can keep up bringing in the New Releases!

The first movies moving to the Portland Public Library will be the Criterion Collection. You should find them on the shelf at the library sometime toward the end of July. Next we will start moving over the Foreign Language film section. Please stop by the library and check out their beautiful DVD section, sign up for a library card if you don’t already have one, and try out borrowing something! At Videoport the last day to rent movies will be Saturday August 15.


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!

>>> Former Videoporter Regan says goodbye, as only Regan can. I started renting from Videoport when I was a teenager, I’d get movies delivered (they used to deliver!) and I think Lenny delivered Angel at My Table and Heathers the night I decided to give my innocence away to a greasy-greaza. and one of the staff, after noticing my coming of age rental habits, suggested Valley Girl. And I still watch it on the reg! Love. It. That was when I wished to one day work at Videoport, and I did. For nearly 15 years. FIFTEEN YEARS! And I loved mostly all of it. The last few years were a total bag of farts, and I started to resign myself to the end being near. But I just don’t get it. Portland had something great here! A museum of cinema! And assorted gross foods. I’m not the most cinephily of the cinephiles, but I do watch a sh*tload of movies, and it will still take me a lifetime to get through all of the movies I want to see at Videoport. But we don’t have the Housewives of the Suez Canal, and we don’t have that obscure documentary about swedish-Latino-Afro-punk bands (those might be fake). But Videoport has a HUGE documentary section, a unparalleled foreign section. But that’s not enough for Portland, Maine. Videoport has paid for health insurance for its employees before it became de rigueur to do so, but we NEED another f*cking locally sourced overpriced restaurant with signature cocktails. Eh. So it goes.

I love movies, and I thought this town did too. I’m mad as hell….and most of you don’t understand this reference. Thank you Bill, Yolanda, James, Betsy, Tim, Ivory, Johnny Snowballs, JackieO, Wheeler, Michelles-n-cheese, Greegan, Pook, JORDAN!, Pie HEAD, Allen, Christian, HAMMER, And the last of red hot lovers, Andy, Sam, April and Dennis. It was my ultimate pleasure.

>>>Former Videoporter JackieO says goodbye. Thank you for everything, Videoport. From Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid to The Third Man, from the roommates to the drinking buddies, from the undue street cred to learning how to count change back, it was a pleasure, mostly.

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!

>>> Former Videoporter Michelle (AKA Pook) says goodbye, too. When I first moved to Portland in 2000, I came with one piece of knowledge, Anyone that that was anyone had a Videoport card. And so I went from never having that many films available to me to a whole new world of film lined up before me. The foreign film section was my first exploration. When I watched “Lovers Of the Arctic Circle” and then “Chacun cherche son chat” (When The Cat’s Away), I fell in love. And then suddenly I had Roberto Benigni in my home; making me laugh with “Johnny Stecchino”, crying with “Life is Beautiful”, and opening up a deeper appreciation of film with “Down by Law”. At this point in the Videoport timeline, I could even have these movies delivered to me with candy! I also enjoyed going to the store and overhearing the conversations and passions the staff had for film.  It is no surprise that not only was Videoport the catalyst for my love of movies, but it also was what made Portland my home. I had the true honor of working of Videoport. I met so many wonderful people while being both a renter and an employee there. I would not have the wonderful friends that I have today. Also, I would not be called Pook by so many people outside of my family. I would not have had the opportunities to learn about movies from people who were so passionate and knowledgeable. I know the Internet is an endless abyss of movies. But it is simply not the same as talking to someone in person, telling them what movies you love, and then having them reveal to you a treasure chest of films that will fill the craving for the movie you are looking for. No algorithm on any media platform will ever contain the same movie know-how as many of the employees and customers of Videoport. Movies are a way to have a shared experience with someone. Videoport gave people the ability to find other people to create these moments with. It is not just a store, it is not just a place to grab a movie, it is a full experience. No, it is magical. I am not sure anyone can recreate the Videoport experience. It is something unique and special to Portland, It is something that any of us that rented or work there know is some kind of wonderful. Bill Duggan made more than a just a video store, he made a Portland experience. He created a gateway to so many other worlds with his store for so many. He created a sense of community for so many. I hope we can all continue this magic with movie nights, encouragement of local film makers, and just simply talking together on the movies that we loved, hated, and can not wait to see. Thank you, Bill, for giving us so many years of Videoport and so many movies.

>>>Former Videoporter Allen says goodbye. I truly dream that one day I can operate a company of cinephiles that provide to the community, and to each other, the value that Videoport has provided me and my community for so many years. It was among the best jobs coming out of college. Hey, want a job where you are publicly lauded for your film knowledge? Want to work at one of the coolest places in Portland, where EVERYONE will see you, and get to know your face? Want to be part of a loving and caring group of people that will always remain close friends until you die with VHS tapes in your hand? Yes, I do. Thanks Videoport. For everything.

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!  

>>> Dutch Dennis (AKA Disco, Frenchy) says goodbye. It is a sad day when an institution like Videoport leaves town. I was the 92nd and last person Videoport ever hired. Half the friends I have I met through the store. It is highly unlikely I would have started watching Friday Night Lights without Regan constantly yelling at me that this was one of the best shows on television. Or that I would’ve started watching Andy’s crazy Asian recommendations, Sam’s action movies, Jackie’s Spanish adventures, anything Dennis recommended. I would have never watched hard-to-find documentaries I devoured, like Death by Design, Cane Toads, or Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. I guess what I am trying to say is that movies and friends work well together. It sure did for me the three years I worked in that basement.

>>>Former Videoporter Matt M. says goodbye. I can’t add much more to what my former coworkers have said about Videoport. I made great friends with some of the sweetest, smartest, funniest(seriously) people around. I also got to wait on the sweetest, angriest, most eccentric customers you could ever imagine. I received countless free drinks due to being a “Videoport dude”. Videoport was a social hub for Portland, and it will not be replaced. Running into former coworkers is different than running into other old friends- much like what running into members of your fraternity/sorority must be like. We had the coolest, most fun job in town. Portland owes a huge debt of gratitude to Bill and Yolanda for making Portland what it is. I’m amazed, but not surprised, that Videoport is donating their collection to the PPL. Videoport cared about the community, and this donation cements that fact. This is truly a sad day for Portland.

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 has one last recommendation for you. The VideoReport has done a lot for me. In its infancy, I wrote thumbnail reviews as an excuse to flirt with the fella I’d been dating, and — because then as now, he did the bulk of the writing every week — every review I submitted freed him up for more smoochin’. A few years later (almost exactly six years ago today as I write this), I presented Dennis with a week’s worth of reviews, written in secret during spare minutes here and there, so he could take off the week of our wedding and not worry about turning out a half-dozen reviews on top of everything else. (Thanks, Andy, for guest-editing that edition of the VideoReport.) The backlog of reviews and reflections we’ve both (but mostly your unfailing editor, Videoport Jones, a.k.a., Pancakes W. Meat, a.k.a., Dennis Perkins, freelance writer, true cinemaphile*, and swell guy) accumulated, years and years of writing for free, gave us each a springboard into professional reviewing. I’ll always be thankful for that.  But neither of us did it for that reason. We wrote, and write, for the VideoReport, because we believe in independent cinema, in local business, in the virtue of a video library not restricted by transnational corporations’ backroom deals, in the delight of walking into a real brick-and-mortar video store and having a conversation with a movie lover who can steer you to some unexpected treasure. Videoport has been a haven for me, for lots of movie-lovers like me and movie-lovers nothing like me, for decades. It’s been a gift to Portland. I’m grateful for all it’s given me, and us — us the couple, us the city, us the loyal supporters of indie everything. Goodbye, Videoport, and thank you for your gifts.

*During an interview, Malcolm McDowell called Dennis that, and the compliment buoyed him for weeks. Mr. McDowell, you don’t know how right you were. 

The Last Picture Show. Peter Bogdanovich’s tribute to the great Westerns of years gone by, this black-and-white 1971 masterpiece was nominated for eight Academy Awards. In a dusty Texas town, the local movie theater, the site of a lot of memories and fumblings in the dark, of dreams and desires onscreen and off, is closing down. A handful of friends — including Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd, all achingly young and lovely, all already looking back over their past with the keen combination of nostalgia, pleasure, and grief we all know too well — gather for a last hurray. It’ll break your heart, and it should.

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!          

>>> Dennis says goodbye. Too much to say. I wish it could be all “thanks for the memories” from me, but I’ve never been that guy. We’ve all put so much effort and worry, and doomed, desperate love into this place for me to put it in perspective. So I’ll just say to my coworkers: you are my best friends. To the customers who stayed: most of you are good people. To Netflix: I genuinely hope Anonymous infects you with a fatal virus. To me: go find something else to do with your life. To anyone who’s ever scratched our DVDs: you are genuinely bad people and we all think you are the devil. To everyone: movies still matter. I’m gonna go get a drink.

>>>Former Videoporter Christian says goodbye. Videoport exists in its own timewarp. It defied the odds and created a mythology all its own. I will always treasure my connection to Videoport. I’m so sorry to see it go!

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, Sam says goodbye. There aren’t a lot of jobs in which you get to do what you love, but for me Videoport clerk is one of them. I got my first membership card when I turned 18, and when I was hired 6 years and over 600 rentals later, I was hired. The boss told me he was reluctant to hire me because I was such a good customer. I loved Videoport then and I love it now, almost twelve years later. It is one of those rare things that has made my life measurably better. Not just the coworkers, who will remain like family to me. Not just comfort of that nerd-haven of a basement. No, I’m talking about the money, that sweet, sweet dollar bill! Seriously, though. Videoport has been my home in countless ways for exactly half of my life and I’m going to miss it more than you’ll ever understand.

>>>For Sunday, April says goodbye. April here. The most important thing I can say is this… thank you. Thank you for supporting us and loving us for so many glorious years. Videoport isn’t just a movie store to me and it certainly was never just a job. It’s been a privilege to work at a place that I genuinely love, with people that I respect and admire, and to belong to a community of movie loving geeks. I grew up in Portland and Videoport was always the coolest store around. My mother put me on her card but as soon as I turned 18 I got my own. Becoming a member at Videoport was a rite of passage and, naturally, the first thing I rented was an 18+ anime. I never finished watching it, but it seemed so scandalous at the time for me to rent it. This sort of thing was possible here. The vast selection that the store has always had makes it possible for you to rent obscure experimental films along with the latest popcorn action flick. It’s also a community gathering place. People meet here, couples fight, and old friends run into each other. Once, I was a witness to a marriage at the store and I’ve watched children grow up to get their own cards. Thanks for all of this goes to Bill, the best boss you could ever ask for. Generous and supportive, Bill is just as awesome as you could imagine the owner of Videoport to be. His dedication to the store, his employees, and to his community is unparalleled. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I will miss you.

New Releases this week at Videoport (because Videoport will keep bringing you the best movies right up ‘til the end): Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (Well, not always the best movies, but we give you movies, anyway. Kevin James returns to fall down in a manner some people find amusing as the world’s best mall security officer heads on a Vegas vacation only to get stuck fighting terrorists—in a mall! What are the chances?!), It Follows (Now this is more like it. One of the best and best-reviewed horror movies in years, this indie from the director of The Myth Of The American Sleepover takes the idea of horny teenagers being pursued by an unstoppable monster to some genuinely terrifying and unique places. Artsy and terrifying, just rent it if you’re in the mood to wet yourself just a little bit), The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Everyone’s aunt’s favorite movie gets a sequel, as Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill NIghy, and Dev Patel continue to enjoy late-in-life love at the hotel of their dreams. This time, Richard Gere shows up to fill a vacancy, causing heart to go all aflutter), Ex Machina (If It Follows is the great, artsy horror flick of the week, then this is the great, artsy sci-fi flick of the week. In it, young researcher Domhnall Gleeson is brought in by eccentric scientist Oscar Isaac to test out his new artificial intelligence program, which is housed in a disturbingly sexy female robot body. Things do not go well.), Clouds Of Sils Maria (A legendary actress [the always-stunning Juliette Binoche] finds herself forced to confront her life and career when she agrees to take a role in a revival of the play that once launched her career alongside young actresses Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moretz), The Longest Ride (Another Nicholas Sparks adaptation about possibly doomed but probably not young lovers. This time, he’s a rodeo rider guy, and she’s very pretty, but in a circumstance that means they can never be together—or can they? Luckily, crusty old Alan Alda is on hand to offer sage love advice based on his own sweetly tragic love story)


Published in: on July 15, 2015 at 11:59 am  Comments (11)  
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VideoReport #516

Volume DXVI— Jurassic Park 5: We’ve Totally Got It Right This Time, We Swear

             For the Week of 7/7/15

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Netflix gives you a bewildering variety of venereal diseases through your television.

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!

>>> April suggests The Return of the Living Dead (in Horror) Zombies! Punks! This film is like a nice pair of novelty socks that you can’t being yourself to throw out, even though they’re full of holes, because you adore them. Not that Return of the Living Dead hasn’t aged well, it’s just as great as you remember, but it’s not quite classic cinema either. It’s Freddy’s first day of work at a medical supply warehouse and things are going swell until his boss accidentally breaks open some army canisters that contain a strange gas. The gas brings a medical corpse (and some half-dogs) back to life. Meanwhile Freddy’s punker friends decide to hang out in a nearby cemetery. The boss decides to use his friend’s mortuary to cremate the re-animated corpses which only spreads the zombie infection to the cemetery. All hell breaks loose, naturally. Written and directed by Dan O’Bannon (writer of Alien) and starring some not great but fun actors who really seem to relish digging into brains!

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!                                                            >>> Dennis suggests picking something at random from Videoport’s Classics section. That’s what a video store is for. We hold onto things that matter, care for them, curate them—and save them for you. Film history lives at Videoport—come get some. That’s what we do.

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!  

>>> Dennis suggests Key & Peele (in Comedy). Here is the pantheon of sketch comedy TV shows, in order. (And no, there is no debate): 1. Monty Python’s Flying Circus 2. Mr. Show 3. The Upright Citizens Brigade 4. Key & Peele. Yeah, I said it. Key & Peele starts its fourth season on Comedy Central this week, so now’s the perfect time to catch up on, yes, the fourth-best sketch comedy show of all time. The best sketch shows (see numbers 1-4 above—no debate) derive their character (not to mention characters) from the performers, and Key & Peele reveals Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele to be both hilarious and possessed of a lot to say, about race, sexuality, America, men and women, and just plain nonsense of all kinds. Anyone can point to something and say, “That is ridiculous/offensive/mean /just plain wrong and say nothing insightful or worthwhile—see: Saturday Night Live on a bad run. Key and Peele do a lot of material about race in America (they’re both black men)—and they find new and provocative ways to go about that, none of which are ever free from an admirable and original silliness. Apart from their writing—which is stellar—both guys are two of the best actors on television, regardless of the show or genre. Like the sketch show rankings (not negotiable)—yeah, I said it.

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!                                        

>>> Dennis suggests getting your hopes unreasonably high for Halt And Catch Fire (in Feature Drama). I’ve reviewed every episode so far of this AMC “we need a new Don Draper, STAT!” drama series. It started out okay, got a lot worse, and then improved quite a bit in its second season. Here’s my old review of the promising pilot from The AV Club (www.avclub.com): A handsome, carefully crafted machine, Halt And Catch Fire looks good coming out of the box. Set in 1983 Texas, the show has an unobtrusive period feel—the fashions feel right, and the decade-appropriate details are present but not overdone. In this first episode, the corporate offices of Cardiff Electric, a mid-level computer company content in its secure inferiority to industry giant IBM, is just the sort of placid, unadventurous corporate setting for a brilliant but cowed computer programmer/family man like Gordon Clark to drone away his once-lofty dreams of Steve Jobs superstardom and wealth. At least until Joe MacMillan blows into town in his Porsche, steals Gordon’s parking space, teases Gordon with his former ambition (in the form of a visionary article he once wrote for Byte), and seduces the downtrodden Gordon into reverse engineering one of those ubiquitous and lucrative IBM personal computers with him in order to—well, that’s the rub, isn’t it? Who is this Joe MacMillan, and what sort of game is he playing? In Todd VanDerWerff’s TV Review of the premiere ,“I/O” (the only episode AMC is letting critics see), he made the point that Halt And Catch Fire is made up of a lot of familiar components. Scoot McNairy’s Gordon is the former dreamer uneasily setting aside his ambitions under the pressures of fatherhood and husband-hood. His wife Donna (Kerry Bishé) loves him but is losing patience with his restlessness, wishing he’d forget that time the two of them almost started their own computer company and that he’d fix the kids’ damn Speak & Spell already. And then there’s Joe, the smooth-faced, smoother-talking mystery man with the impeccable suits and perfect hair and the seeming ability to make men and women do exactly what he wants—and what he wants is something only he (and the show) knows. And he’ll reveal it when he’s good and ready. It’s in the inevitable revelation of Joe’s endgame that Halt And Catch Fire is going to live or die, as his lightning fast machinations in this first episode are the only engine the show has. McNairy’s Gordon, receding behind his mousy beard and short sleeved work shirts, has some colors in the pilot—you can feel the character’s self worth wax when his technical expertise briefly makes him the dominant partner while disassembling the IBM—but he, like everyone else, is a reactive element in the story Joe’s writing. Like another AMC show I promised myself I wouldn’t compare Halt And Catch Fire to, there’s nothing especially compelling about the corporate world in which the main character operates in itself. Here, the 1980s computer industry (like the 1960s industry involving the advertising of goods and services on that other show) is merely the battleground upon which a brilliant, charismatic protagonist with a troubled past only hinted at will prove his worth to himself and to those shadowy past figures he’s ever haunted by. The degree to which the drama therein is going to succeed will rely on Lee Pace’s place at the center of all this, and his performance—indeed, his casting—assures things are at least going to stay interesting. I’ve always found Pace to be a vaguely unsettling presence, his blank affect and angular features reminiscent of someone manufactured into existence for the role at hand. That’s why he’s fit so well into the stylized TV universes of Bryan Fuller, the even more stylized cinematic world of Tarsem Singh’s The Fall, and why he makes a damned fine elf king. Here, too, in his crisp, Patrick Bateman ’80s suits and haircut (you just know he has a Bateman-esque defoliating ritual), Pace’s Joe orchestrates every relevant bit of plot in the pilot like a criminal mastermind, laying infallible snares for everyone around him. When those snares go off, it is, as another current Bryan Fuller TV mastermind might say, “by his design.” So when Gordon agrees to lie to his wife and help Joe, and when the pretty, punky computer student Cameron (a winningly no-bullshit MacKenzie Davis) becomes the guys’ third accomplice, and when Toby Huss’ blustering Cardiff exec is forced to allow their project to continue because Joe called IBM to force the company’s hand—it is all by Joe’s design. It’s fun watching Pace glide through all these machinations—it’s like every one of his speeches was designed to outdo Alec Baldwin’s inGlengarry Glen Ross—and Pace is magnetic as always doing so. But, like Joe’s plan, the first episode of Halt And Catch Fire is too calculated to allow much room for air. As the introductory crawl explains the title: “halt and catch fire” was “An early computer command that sent the machine into a race condition, forcing all instructions to compete for superiority at once. Control of the computer could not be regained.” Gee, that’s sort of like what Joe does. Halt And Catch Fire allows some cracks to show in Joe’s demeanor, but they, like much of the show, are deployed as if according to, well, a program. (File labeled: “prestige cable drama.”) When Joe, seemingly thwarted by Gordon’s initial refusal, digs out a baseball bat emblazoned with the motto “Swing for the fences, son” and starts smacking line drives into the walls and windows of his spacious, empty apartment, we’re meant to respond to the storytelling shorthand. There are enough spaces around the main characters that can still be filled in (Davis’ smudged humor is deployed to good effect), but, again like Joe’s master plan, there’s a lot of evident planning going on. It seems paradoxical, ungrateful even, to call Halt And Catch Fire out for being too assured in a TV landscape of ramshackle, clichéd nonsense. There’s a lot of promise here, and a few unique and welcome surprises. As thankless a role as Bishé is stuck with (at least in this one episode), it’s gratifying how quickly Donna and Gordon come to their understanding about him pursuing his dreams again. As the lone other female of the story, Davis is a welcome rogue element amidst all Joe’s control, and her outsider status as the only woman in her field of study makes narrative sense since Joe and Gordon have to find someone off the radar. Toby Huss remains an unheralded character-actor secret weapon—his understandable late-episode threat to find out just what Joe’s hiding marks him as a worthy adversary. And as hackneyed as his family story might be, McNairy looks to have some interesting moves of his own to play as Gordon continues to be drawn out of hiding. The show looks good, with a muted, shadowy palette that sets off every glowing electronic device with an evocative, neon nimbus. And it’s got Pace who, as programmatic as his character might appear, provides Halt And Catch Fire with a compellingly enigmatic center to build around. When, in the last scene (scored to Bonobo’s eerie, edgy “Cirrus”), Gordon asks Joe “What are you trying to prove with all of this?” as a seemingly endless parade of IBM lawyers file into the lowly Cardiff offices, Pace’s wordless reaction does a lot of work toward keeping the stakes palpable.

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!          

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>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Delocated (in Incredibly Strange). You might recognize the very funny Jon Glaser from his recurring role as Leslie Knope’s d-bag city council nemesis Jeremy Jam on Parks And Recreation, or as Laird, the pathetic but sympathetic neighbor to Lena Dunham’s Hanna on Girls, or in any number of scene-stealing supporting roles, usually playing some sort of gross, pervy jerk—hey, everyone’s good at something. But you don’t have to worry about recognizing Glaser on this ludicrously silly sitcom about a guy in the witness protection program, as he never once takes off the black ski mask he thinks will protect his identity while he aims for fame with his own reality show. Which they’re filming during his time in the witness protection program. Funny stuff as ever from Glaser, whose persona and writing are as weird and unexpected as ever.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (in Comedy). I recently rewatched all ten seasons of this show for a thing—it’s a whole thing, I’ll tell you about it later—and can confirm that this disreputable sitcom is one of the most underrated comedies in TV history. The ongoing adventures of five of the worst people in the world, it does the highly improbable—it sustains itself through unremitting terrible behavior. Even Seinfeld (whose own terrible people would run screaming from the Sunny gang) ran out of gas after a while, finding the task of balancing the show’s comedy of bad behavior over its nine seasons. Indeed, last season was one of Sunny’s best, a refreshing refutation to the idea that all good things have to go on too long. Sure, Sunny is designed to test your willingness to empathize with (or, indeed watch) awful people do awful things—and come away happy.

8d41760ba8fb731f0a277c334f406984New Releases this week at Videoport: Hard To Be A God (Fans of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky [Solaris, The Sacrifice, Stalker, My Name Is Ivan] are urged to take their passion for slow, obscure, disturbing, three-hour films to this new film from director Aleksy German, a three-hour, black-and-white tale of Earth scientists sent to surreptitiously study the Medieval-level inhabitants of the terminally muddy and dire planet Arkanar, only to find their mission compromised when the natives start worshipping them as gods. Writing for the AV Club, film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky opens with: The plot of Hard To Be A God—the late Aleksei German’s decades-in-the-making medieval sci-fi flick—is relatively straightforward, but it’s often difficult to follow, because it’s buried under all of the mud, muck, smoke, decay, and shit that German crams into every frame. To put it another way: If Hard To Be A God isn’t the filthiest, most fetid-looking movie ever made, it’s certainly in the top three. Everyone seems to be continually kicking each other, spitting on each other, or beating each other—and if they’re not, it’s because they’re busy picking things out of the mud, poking bare and dirty asses with spears, or smelling what they just wiped off their boots. It is grotesque and deranged and Hieronymus Bosch-like, and damn if it isn’t a bona fide vision—but of what, exactly? Rent it at Videoport and find out!), House Of Cards- season 3 (Kevin Spacey returns as Francis house-of-cards-s3Underwood, the most cartoonishly corrupt politician in TV history in this series from a company we don’t talk about at Videoport. Lots of you love this show out there—and thanks for renting it from us and not from that soulless, video store-killing corporation we don’t talk about), Woman In Gold (Helen Mirren stars as a woman attempting to regain possession of the titular portrait, a family heirloom of great value stolen by the Nazis. Based on a true story, it also stars Ryan Reynolds as 1118full-woman-in-gold-posterher lawyer who, I’m just guessing, wasn’t as doe-y eyed handsome in real life), Maggie (Arnold Schwarzenegger attempts to put “actor” on his resume at this late stage, playing a hulking, close-lipped famer who attempts to keep his zombie-bitten daughter around for as long as possible. Reviews say this artsy zombie flick wisely limits Arnie’s lines, and that he’s sort of 148449_aaeffective, actually), Slow West (Unusual Western about a young Scottish man who sets out on a long, perhaps slow journey through the harsh Old West in search of his lost love, a taciturn outlaw as his guide. Good cast includes Michael Fassbender [as the taciturn guide, of course], The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Ben Mendelsohn, and the film is directed by John Maclean, who art-rocker types know better as the lead singer of Scottish cool-guy rockers The Beta Band), Kill Me Three Times (Everybody’s favorite, Simon Pegg [Shaun Of The Dead] tries out his tough guy muscles in this pitch-black Australian comedy thriller as a hitman who takes up position to observe [and occasionally facilitate] the bloody chaos caused by a trio kill-me-three-times_official-posterof variously competent Aussie adulterers, kidnappers, and assorted violent types ), 5 Flights Up (Sure, this late-life romantic comedy/drama looks a little cuddly and twinkly, but since it’s Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton doing the cuddling and twinkling as a long-married couple dealing with the upheaval of giving up their longtime, rent-controlled New York apartment, we’ll allow it), What We Do In The Shadows (Hilarious comedy from the people behind the equally hilarious show Flight Of b5200c6107fc3d41d19a2b66835c3974_500x735The Concords sees a group of contented vampires thrown into turmoil when one of their number turns a newcomer who’s a little more enthusiastic about the bloodsucking), The Lovers (Josh Hartnett stars in this time traveling romance as a present-day guy who enters a coma and finds himself romancing a princess in 18th century India; directed by The Killing FieldsWhat-We-Do-in-the-Shadows-UK-PosterRoland Joffe, which used to mean something)

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Published in: on July 7, 2015 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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