VideoReport #205

Volume CCV- Wet Hot Maine Summer

For the Week of 7/21/09

Videoport would like to remind you of how we give you a free movie every day and are awesome. In case you forgot…

Middle Aisle Monday. (Get one free rental from the Sci-Fi, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation or Staff Picks sections with your paid rental.) >>>Dennis suggests Knick Knack (in Animation). You know how Pixar is the animation company that makes the only really good animated movies in America? Well, this is their first effort, a four minute cartoon about a snow globe snowman who desperately wants to escape his plastic prison and join in the party being thrown by his fellow novelty items, and it’s got more laughs in its brief running time than anything that Disney (Pixar’s corporate overlord) has churned out, in feature length, in the last decade or so. Like their own features, this short, directed by John Lasseter (who went on to helm Toy Story 1 & 2, A Bug’s Life, and Cars), earns its laughs through its expert timing and minute attention to character and detail. Plus, since it’s so short, Videoport doesn’t charge you a lot for it…

Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.) >>>Dennis suggests The Dogs of War (in Action/Adventure). Remember when Christopher Walken was a lean, up-and-coming young lead rather than a hugely-entertaining and mannered character man? Well this was his big shot at being an action hero and he’s great, playing the close-mouthed head of a team of international mercenaries. Those looking for the now-de-rigeur hammy Walken performance will be largely disappointed, as he is lean, mean, and no-nonsense in this role, but it’s a very effective thriller, fast-paced and mean, with a surprising political turn. Watching Walken, so young and handsome, yet with his trademark spooky eyes and intensity, is riveting.

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.) >>>Regan suggests Midnight Run (in Comedy). From the director of Beverly Hills Cop comes this snarky road movie with an amazing cast!! Like…that guy from Boogie Nights and Say Anything (Philip Baker Hall), and the dad from ‘My So Called Life’ (Dad), and Joey the Pants (aka Guido the Pimp!) and Keith’s dad from Some Kind of Wonderful Hey and it’s Lt. Giardelli from ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’. Wow. It’s only taken me 4 1/2 viewings to really enjoy the relationship between Grodin and DeNiro. It’s like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles meets Thelma and Louise. And now I know what a litmus configuration is.

Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.) >>> Mrs. Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘The West Wing’, season one, disc one (in Feature Drama). Just as children learn to crawl before they can walk, even the best television shows need a few episodes to find their pace, their tone, their timbre. And that’s certainly true of Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed “The West Wing.” Still, I find it a positive pleasure to watch the first few episodes, stumbles and all. It’s like looking through someone’s faintly embarrassing (but still impressive and engaging) scrapbook: awwwww, look at them way back when! Look, they think Rob Lowe is a star, not a member of a gifted ensemble! Look, Martin Sheen is a guest star, not a co-star! Look, they thought the shallowly drawn, cartoonishly brash character of Mandy was a winsome wingnut and not a misogynistic comic swipe at high-powered women! (After this season, Mandy disappears as tracelessly as any character in an H.P. Lovecraft tale of terror, leading series regulars to speak in hushed tones of recalcitrant actors being whisked away to Mandyville.) One thing they got right: recognizing Alison Janney’s talent for physical comedy, they gave her a pratfall in her first forty seconds of screentime. It’s a great show, a show that grew to legendary proportions, and watching its fledgling moments you can see that greatness beginning.

Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary). >>>Mrs. Piehead suggests Charlie and Lola. This show got my child to eat peas. If you knew my child, you would understand what a miracle this is. His diet consists mostly of plain bread and turkey bacon. So hallelujah! Plus, the kids in this show are voiced by real kids with cute English accents, the animation is awesome- a lot like reading a book- and the content is fun and funny for kids and adults alike. Oh yeah, and it’s a great way to set an example for kids on how to be good siblings to each other with out all that sappy ‘moral’ stuff.

Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.) >>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests checking out Videoport’s online presence! You can read our movie reviews, old VideoReports, and general buffoonery at any one of these three places on the intra-nets! (Oh, and please send your stuff to us at denmn@hotmail.com). We’re on Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/videoportjones, Facebook (just look up Videoport), and our WordPress blog http://www.videoportjones.wordpress.com. Write reviews yourselves, make scurrilous comments, lob a death threat or two for what we said about Keanu Reeves that one time…we dare you…

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests ‘The State’- the Complete Series images(in Incredibly Strange). FINALLY! Final-freaking-ly! The only worthwhile thing that MTV ever produced (apart from that Metallica video included on the DVD of Johnny Got His Gun), this mid-nineties sketch comedy show has long been unavailable except in grainy, pirated-at-the-risk-of-federal-imprisonment VHS since it was s-canned after four short seasons (music rights were the issue apparently). It was given to me (and my lovely new bride Mrs. Emliy S. Customer) as a wedding present (thank you Regan!) and, after watching the entire boxed set in one two-day, post-wedding exhaustion, I can relievedly say that it holds up spectacularly well. Sure, it’s a little raw (the cast members were all two years out of college), and a little shrill at times (I’d describe the first two seasons as ‘yelly’), but the genius is most definitely there, with belly laughs interspersed with conceptual weirdness. As proof, here comes a member-by-member review of each of ‘The State’’s eleven members (fully eight of whom, I’d say, have gone on to solid gold comedic careers): 1. Kevin Allison: Not one of the eight. The red-headed one. Relatively central to the show, and energetic. Too energetic. Guy has no sense of going small, and often gets shrill and annoying. Still, some high spots, namely (underplaying for once) in the taco-delivering mailman sketch, and the obnoxious (this time it works) ride-sharer. And, of course, his over-the-topness is used to classic effect in the ‘Jew, the Italian, and the Redhead Gay’ sketch. 2. Michael Ian Black. One of the best-known post-State-ers, Black’s particular brand of smarmy, grinning self-aware unctuousness can be a little much when not used properly (apparently, he plies his trade on those VH-1 ‘I Love the 80s/90s’ shows to mixed effect). On the momma show, he’s a mostly-welcome presence, mixing his signature smarm with a nice, Bruce MacDonald on ‘Kids in the Hall’- style conceptual weirdness. Gone on to rewarding work on ‘Stella’ and ‘Michael and Michael Have Issues’. High points are his turns in sketches introducing the cast to the audience (‘Sleep with The State’, ‘Tell Something Personal About Yourself’). 3. Robert Ben Garant. You know him as Deputy Travis Junior on the hilarious ‘Reno 911’. Small, wiry, and prolific, Garant, along with his longtime writing partner Thomas Lennon (see #7) work really well together even this early. High points include the classic ‘chicken sandwich Caaarl!’ sketch and his ode to bacon. 4. Todd Holoubeck. Also not one of the great eight, this guy always seems like he should be funnier; he’s got a babyfaced, adorable thing going on, and plays a funny-looking girl in drag (Emily calls him a homunculus), but I am hard-pressed to come up with a single memorable moment for the guy. Sorry, little fella. 5. Michael Patrick Jann. Let’s just get the duds out of the way. Tall, gangly dude. Not a performer. But that’s okay, really, as he was more involved in the directing/production of the show (he also directed the feature Drop Dead Gorgeous, which some people like). Also directs a bunch of ‘Reno 911’, so all is forgiven. 6. Kerri Kenney. Ten guys, one girl. Allll-riggght… Kenney is a funny broad, more than able to hold her own with the boys. Also fond of going big, Kenney shares, with fellow funny broads like Amy Poehler, the willingness to look absolutely grotesque in order to get the laffs. Still working, to classic effect, as Deputy Trudy Weigel, on ‘Reno 911’. 7. Thomas Lennon. In my opinion, the most talented member of ‘The State’, Lennon, in addition to being ridiculously prolific, was able to create unique,vividly- inhabited characters. The Inbred Brother, Lighthouse Keeper Jefferds, Peter Lorre, Christopher Walken, Figgy from ‘Science Fiction Lab’, and about a couple of dozen other times, Lennon shows not only innate comedic chops, but his acting chops as well. His delivery absolutely makes my all-time favorite sketch ‘Monkey Torture’. Instrumental in ‘Reno 911’ and the as-yet-unreleased ‘Viva Variety’, little Tommy is just plain hilarious. 8. Joe LoTruglio. Short, popeyed utility man- every team needs one. You’ll recognize him from Superbad, Role Models, and as recently-added Deputy Frank Rizzo on ‘Reno 911’. A great straight man and capable of uncorking it when necessary. 9. Ken Marino. The ‘handsome one’ of the group, Marino’s strapping, Italian looks are played for big laughs throughout (in the aforementioned ‘Jew, the Italian, and the Redhead Gay’ and many others), this guy, like #10, just seems to be one of those people who are just funny standing around. I get the giggles just thinking about the big lug. See the ‘Where’s the Mousey?’ sketch for an example of him being funny just doing weird stuff, and his all-out performance in the brilliant ‘Tenement’ sketch. 10. Michael Showalter. Just plain funny, with his gangly body, floppy hair, and big nose vying with his innate sense of abashed comic timing (see especially the ‘Prison Warden’ and ‘The Bearded Men of Space Station 11’ sketches) stealing every scene he’s in. Best known for playing Doug, the catchphrase-spewing teen (used to mock MTV’s demand for bankable recurring characters), Showalter was great directing himself in the utterly charming rom-com The Baxter, and co-creating and starring in ‘Stella’ and ‘Michael and Michael Have Issues’, and the completely-genius Wet Hot American Summer with many of his Statie friends. 11. And David Wain. Often playing the group’s resident creepy goon (he is sort of offputting-looking), Wain also did a lot of directing, writing, and technical stuff, which served him well, and more than well, as he’s gone on to direct Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten, and Role Models and creating the internet series ‘Wainy Days’. So that’s it, gang. ‘The State’ is what you should be watching right about…now. And I haven’t even mentioned Porcupine Racetrack…

New Releases this week at Videoport: Watchmen (megabudget adaptation of the seminal graphic novel by Dave Gibbons and professional curmudgeon Alan Moore; was Moore right to be all teed off that the director of 300 was making a movie of his work? Well, kinda…), Coraline (comic book god Neil Gaiman wrote this stop-motion animation fantasy about a little girl who finds out that her seemingly-normal life ain’t so normal…), Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode 2 (Seth Green and his toybox take on George Lucas again; Seth’s cool…), Sherman’s Way (indie dramedy about two mismatched dudes on a road trip; they’re the original Odd Couple!!), Visioneers (certified funny guy Zach Galifianakis [The Hangover, The Comedians of Comedy] stars in this oddball indie satire about a mild-mannered office drone who has to cope with a new syndrome affecting his coworkers which causes them to, um, explode), ‘Prison Break’- The Final Break’ (the big wrapup from the series whose protagonists have broken out of a completely-plausible number of prisons), ‘The Mighty Boosh’- seasons 1&2 (finally, this British cult comedy series which defies my abilities to describe it hits the DVD), The Great Buck Howard (John Malkovich stars in this comedy about a washed up TV magician trying to make a comeback).

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: ‘Monk’- season 7 (USM’s pride, the ever-cool Tony Shalhoub returns as the obsessive-compulsive detective in this comic detective series), ‘Psych’- season 3 (it’s the fake psychic and his sensible best friend series back for another go-round; still thankfully starring ‘The West Wing’’s Dule Hill), ‘Pushing Daisies’- season 2 (if he touches someone, he can bring him/her back to life, but if he touches him/her again, they’ll die!!!! It’s all about the premise folks…), Spongebob Squarepants (it’s a new Spongebob DVD; do you really care about the rest of the title?), The Unknown Woman (Italian thriller about a Ukranian maid [who is, o’course, thoroughly bananas] wreaking havoc on a family; from the director of Cinema Paradiso), 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her and Made in USA (the Criterion geniuses bring out two more satirical films from French master of grumpy outrage Jean Luc Godard), Goldfrapp: Electric Wonderful (a band I’ve never heard of…but I’m not remotely hip), My Side of the Mountain (classic kids movie about a boy running away and palling around with animals), If You Are the One (Chinese romantic comedy about a guy trying computer dating), Summercamp! (documentary about where you’ve sent your kids for the last two weeks), Equinox (Videoport brings in this completely, bugnuts crazy release from the Criterion collection, a 1970 trippy horror thriller; I’m sure Criterion knows what they’re doing…), Global Metal (documentary about how America’s greatest export, heavy metal music, manifests itself in places like Asia, Africa, and, perhaps, Antarctica), ‘Leverage’- season 1 (Timothy Hutton makes a bid for relevance in this series about a gang of conpersons playing Robin Hood).

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Addendum to my review of ‘The State’ (Because it wasn’t long enough already):

    Fun Fact: There’s an entire, 5th, disc of special features that came with the DVD boxed set and it’s very welcome- for a ‘State’ completist; the unaired sketches, while, again, welcome, weren’t aired for pretty good reasons. As you can all see, I like watching these guys (and gal), and there are some nice, funny bits along the way, but…eh.

    The commentaries are also fun and, for a ‘State’-head like me, essential. (I find myself trying to read, in the remarks and the groupings, each of the eleven’s relationships to the others…I recognize that that is sad).

    Not So Fun Fact: The reason why this set was delayed for so long has to do with…surprise!…money! Specifically music and image rights. Sigh. Whatever…I’m sure glad that Sebastian Bach, Andrew Shue, and whatever other mid-nineties nonentity was protected from having their music or images given free publicity; oh well, they probably need the royalty fees at this point. It’s pretty distracting until you just get over it; it’s most jarring in the ‘Pants’ sketch (just because I remember The Breeders ‘Cannonball’ over it so vividly), the ‘and’ sketch (where blurred out posters seem poised to eat David Wain’s head throughout), and, of course, ‘$240 Worth of Puddin’ which, having Marvin Gaye so woven throughout it, necessitated Thomas Lennon and Michael Ian Black redubbing the entire sketch over a new Craig Wedren background track. They do a decent job, as they are both still funny guys, but it’s obviously dubbed and it flattens out the classic sketch- it’s a real bummer. Way to go corporate fatasses- you’ve made the world less funny. Kudos.

  2. Oh, and there are exactly two worthwhile sketches in the unaired sketches (they were both, oddly, included on the original VHS ‘Skits and Stickers’ best-of collection)- ‘Super 8’ (Marino’s especially funny), and ‘Carter’s Lineage’ (where it’s all about Showalter’s delivery of nonsense words).

  3. Oh, I forgot the ‘Crisy Pops’ commercial on the Bonus Disc- actually pretty funny as well, with a clever premise and one of Wain’s best performances. Aslo was on the original ‘best of’ collection. WTF?


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