Volume CCVIII- The Walking, Poorly-Coordinated Dead
For the Week of 8/11/09
Videoport has the best selection anywhere, the lowest prices, the best customer service, payment plans that give you free money, and, oh yeah, a free rental every single day. Choosing Videoport…it’s just common sense.
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.)
>>>JackieO suggests Taken (in Mystery/Thriller). Giant Irishman Liam Neeson makes bad guys punch themselves in the face with their own guns so often, he might as well have been teaching a 90 minute class on it. The acclaimed actor is such a good action star that he more than makes up for the movie’s inherent xenophobia and assorted absurdities.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis suggests taking ACTION today by getting some free money with our CLASSIC movie rental plans! You can buy $25 worth of rental credit for only $20, and $40 worth of rental credit for only $30. Call it a 20% or 25% discount, call it five or ten free bucks, call it whatever you want- it’s just plain common sense.
*Oh, and if you’d like to avoid shameless filler like this, send your Action,Classics, or any other movie reviews to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or our myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/videoportjones. Oh, and since this is all shameless filler, why not check out our movie blog at http://www.videoportjones.wordpress.com!
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests The Forty Year Old Virgin (in Comedy). When the movie first came out, I braced myself to watch it. I was wary of the usual round of raunchy sex-comedy humiliations but drawn in by Steve Carell and Paul Rudd (whom I would watch if he put out a direct-to-DVD instructional film on paper-bag repair). And it is raunchy, make no mistake… but The Forty Year Old Virgin has a sweet and gentle heart under its layer of objectifying raunch and vulgar exchanges. Each character, however misguidedly, acts with good intent, and rather than being portrayed as a desperate loser of a sexual failure, Andy (Carell) is presented as a sweet, well-rounded fellow with a very comfortable, pleasant, sex-free life. It’s a tricky line to walk, and Carell manages it with seeming ease.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Pontypool (in Horror). Zombies!!! Canadian zombies!!! I love Canadian zombies. From cult Canuck director Bruce McDonald [Highway 61, Hard Core Logo, The Tracey Fragments] comes this characteristically oddball entry in the ever-welcome (to me) undead flesh-eater genre with a weird, intriguing satirical premise and a great central performance from Steven McHattie (you might remember him as Elaine’s creepy psychiatrist/boyfriend on ‘Seinfeld’ or, more recently, as the elderly first Nite Owl in Watchmen). McHattie plays Grant Mazzy, a
Don Imus-style morning deejay who finds his career at a low ebb as the new morning man in the titular Canadian town’s only radio station, which broadcasts from a church basement. As Mazzy settles in on a cold, blizzardy morning, sipping his Irish coffee, playfully condescending to his two-woman production team, and trying to cause some controversy out of thin air in order to ‘stir things up’, the station starts receiving odd, then disturbing, reports (on the police band radio and the phones) of inexplicable mass disturbances in the heretofore sleepy town. Reports of a riot start to trickle in, and then further reports of the townspeople, well, eating people. Yikes. It’s a nice, effective setup, building tension as we, like the three isolated main characters are kept in the dark, catching only snatches of the gathering menace, first through the eerie sounds from out there, and then, more disturbingly, more close by. See, it seems that the zombification stems from the fact that the English language has become infected, and Mazzy, with his smooth radio voice, may be spreading the problem as he reports on it; it’s an evocative setup (especially in fiercely bilingual Canada), and as plausible as the explanations set forth in any other zombie flick (space virus? radiation? rage-infected monkeys?!),and adds a nice, original level of creepiness to the proceedings, with each word emanating from the phone, the radio, the howling wind possibly foreshadowing doom. So, get past the lest frightening horror movie title in recent memory (I mean, why not just call it ‘Kittenfluff’ and get it over with), and check this refreshingly intelligent entry in the zombie sweepstakes out today; remember, any day with a zombie outbreak is a good day indeed.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Robyn the Watcher suggests ‘Darkwing Duck’- Disc 1. This release, circa 1991, reminded me of a time when the word Disney wasn’t immediately followed with a groan and an eyeroll. Do you remember? A Disney that hadn’t yet become mired in endless, saccharine, straight-to-video sequels: a Disney which had not yet truly tapped the market potential of the pop star farm in their basement. Yes, Disney has been a multi-million dollar, money-grubbing behemoth for most of my memory, but for a while there, they had the style to back it up. Despite my fond memories of this series, I was surprised again and again with just how well it held up under my adult scrutiny. First off, for an animated television series (pre-CG) the art and animation look pretty good. It’s not eye-popping or cinema-worthy, but after some recent disappointments regarding revisited, much-beloved childhood cartoons (I’m looking at you TMNT), I can sincerely say the art is never bad enough to be distracting, nor does the action ever become so choppy that I don’t know what’s going on. For TV animation from almost 20 years ago, that’s pretty darn good. While a lot of the plots are fairly standard cartoon fare, with bad guy chases and goofy sidekicks, it’s the execution of these things that make the whole thing worth it. The show uses words like ‘pretentious’ and ‘monotonous’ without pause or explanation…it’s a kids’ show! Often, there’s a surprising touch of cynicism, totally uncharacteristic of Disney’s usual approach. DW himself is an unabashed glory hound, with his ego as his adversary as often as any tangible villain. He’s not above paying his adopted daughter off to get her to go to sleep and stay out of his way. However, Goslyn gets one over on him often enough that it never comes off mean spirited, just amusingly dysfunctional. While I haven’t yet watched the rest of the series, and cannot attest absolutely to its quality, I do seem to remember some fairly sweet crossovers with Ducktales later in the series’ run, so I wouldn’t rule out the rest of the series being equally as good. Give it a watch.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Blowup (in Incredibly Strange). Michelangelo Antonioni’s famously ambiguous meditation piece, Blowup is a classic thriller in which, um, nothing much happens. Static, erratic, and ultimately intriguing, this is both an oddly eloquent time capsule of Swinging London and a pensive masterpiece that captures the era’s growing sense of uncertainty. David Hemmings stars as Thomas, a distinctly unpleasant but obviously sought-after fashion photographer who suspects that he’s stumbled upon a murder, and Vanessa Redgrave is the (also rather unpleasant) woman who wants the evidence back…. well, that’s one interpretation of events, anyhow. As the film unfolds, Thomas steps vacuously through his affluent life, drifting from one uncompleted and arbitrary task to the next. In Antonioni’s hands, a murder mystery becomes an ontological mystery, and we are left to wonder: what is real? what is imagined? how much weight can we give to our own observations, and how much of “reality” is enforced by social contract?
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Gates of Heaven (in Documentary). If I said to you that one of the most mysteriously moving, riveting films I’ve ever seen is a documentary about pet cemeteries, would you assume I had taken leave of my senses? Would you immediately tackle me to the ground and await the mental health professionals? If so, then please skip on to the next review. If you’re willing to give me a chance, then listen up: this 1978 no budget documentary by Errol Morris is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Now, before you take after director Werner Herzog (who famously lost a bet when he claimed he’d eat his shoe before Morris could ever create such a film and make it watchable) and pooh-pooh the idea, I can assure you that when I say ‘documentary about pet cemeteries’ I don’t mean this is full of weepy stories about silly people talking about their dear, beloved, departed little
shookumses. Even though it is. The film follows the careers and lives of the owners of two competing California pet cemeteries as they explain why they do what they do. And it’s riveting. Morris is, of course, the greatest documentarian of,well, ever (please do yourself a favor and see Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War, A Brief History of Time, Mr. Death, Standard Operating Procedure, Vernon, Florida, and any other of his films I may have forgotten). He has the singular ability to transform the standard talking head interview into an uniquely-illuminating exploration of the human condition in miniature, and he does it without judgment or condescension, no matter the subject. In Gates of Heaven, we meet the gentle, perhaps naive, old man who talks, in a touchingly-childlike way, of his love for animals and the need to cherish them when they’re gone. We meet the more businesslike, boosterish maverick owner who runs the more successful cemetery, and his two very different sons, each of whom take part in the family business for their own reasons. We meet the cemeteries’ customers and hear their reasons for spending so much on what most people simply entrust to the vet, or the trash can. And, in the most inexplicably fascinating sequence in the film, we meet an old lady who, in talking about her son, goes off on a tangent that I could watch over and over again and never figure out just why it’s so damned inexplicably fascinating. If I’m failing to convey exactly why this movie maintains such a hold on me, well, I think that makes as much sense as why it does. Just rent it.
New Releases this week at Videoport: I Love You Man (certified comedy
guys Jason Segel [Forgetting Sarah Marshall, ‘Freaks and Geeks’, ‘How I Met Your Mother’] and Paul Rudd [Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Role Models] make this story, about a soon-to–be-married guy who realizes he has no male friends, a completely winning and satisfying rent), Welcome to the Sticks (French comedy about a meek post office worker who, when his nagging wife’s plan for his professional advancement backfires, gets transferred to the loneliest, most eccentric outpost in France), Katyn (Videoport brings you another film, the latest, from legendary Polish director Andrzej Wajda [Kanal, Ashes and Diamonds, many others], this one about the Soviet slaughter of thousands of Poles in the titular forest in 1940), ‘90210’- season 1 (the pointless remake of a worthless TV series finds a home at Videoport; we’ve got a big tent…), 13: Game of Death (from those gorehounds at Dimension Extreme comes this Thai horror film about a guy who, perhaps rashly, accepts a wager to endure thirteen ascendingly-horrific trials for a hundred million bucks; perhaps the final challenge is having to watch this film…), The Wild Man of the Navidad (low budget indie horror about a purported Bigfoot-type monster stalking Texans got some good film fest reviews; you can find it in the Incredibly Strange Film section), 17 Again (the old body switch plot comes back, like the cicada, every seven years or so; this time, it’s Matthew Perry who wishes himself back to high school, where he’s the tween marketing phenomenon known as Zac Efron), Paris 36 (lushly retro French film noir about a sultry chanteuse in the 1930s and the steamy goings on with men in hats; from the director of The Chorus), The Class (universally-acclaimed semi-fictional tale of real-life teacher Francois Begaudeau and his year-long attempt to reach his racially-diverse students), Alien Trespass (‘Will & Grace’’s Eric McCormack stars in this pastiche/homage to the deliciously-cheesy 50’s sci fi alien invasion genre; come, friend, the Incredibly Strange section welcomes you!), Gigantic (the words ‘quirky indie’ and ‘Zooey Deschanel’ are essentially synonymous at this point; witness her participation in this film about a young mattress salesman trying to adopt a Chinese baby and his relationship with the oddball free spirit [also synonymous with Ms. Deschanel] who he meets when she falls asleep on one of his mattresses), The Tiger’s Tail (director John Boorman reunites with Brendan Gleeson, the star of his excellent film The General, in this thriller about a wealthy Irishman seemingly stalked by his villainous doppleganger), ‘The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle’ (‘Absolutely Fabulous’’s Jennifer Saunders stars alongside Miranda Richardson in this British comedy series about a vacuous TV chat show host).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: It Could Happen to You (Videoport brings this breezy, largely-forgettable lottery rom-com from the mid nineties back from VHS oblivion as Nicholas Cage gives waitress Bridget Fonda part of his winning lotto ticket as a tip; oh, and by the way, it can’t actually happen to you…start a savings account instead, ‘kay?), Long Life, Happiness, and Prosperity (the lovely and talented Sandra Oh stars in this charming little indie about a little girl who resorts to magic to help her single mom; look for it in the ‘Film Movement’ display in the middle aisle), Asterix & Obelix Contre Caesar and Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatre (massively popular in their native France, these live-action adaptations of the Gallic comic book series star Christian Clavier [The Visitors] and big, beefy, Gerard Depardieu as the bumbling, world-hopping adventurer duo), ‘Pulling’- season 2 (new season of the saucy Brit-com that bills itself as the ‘anti-Friends’ so much, you’d think David Schwimmer ran over the creator’s dog), ‘Life With Derek’- season 1 (Canadian, Disney Channel, ‘Brady Bunch’-esque series about two families mixing together when the single folks get married), Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters (cartoon featuring the world’s second-most irritable duck), ‘Corner Gas’- season 2 (Videoport’s James swears by this oddball Canadian comedy series about the denizens of the most remote gas station in Canada; created by and starring the tragically-named Brent Butt), Awakenings (you really didn’t ask for it, and now Videoport brings it to you! Finally this middling Robin Williams/Robert DeNiro doctor flick comes to DVD!), Bang the Drum Slowly (speaking of DeNiro, this 70s baseball flick, about a not-too-bright catcher and his pretty boy pitcher best pal who secretly rallies the team around the lug when he finds out he’s dying, also finally comes to DVD; guaranteed to make you shed a single man-tear, even though it’s about the Yankees), London to Brighton (British thriller about an aging prostitute, the twelve year old girl she tries to protest, and the assortment of really creepy men who’re after them for various nefarious purposes), Nights and Weekends (the ‘mumblecore’ movement shuffles along, staring at its shoes in this semiautobiographical tale of two filmmakers in a long distance relationship, played by two filmmakers in a long-distance relationship, making a movie about two filmmakers in a long-distance relationship…), ‘Super Friends: The Lost Episodes’ (I became a comic book geek in spite of these static, ill-animated cartoons; apparently, these are the ones not good enough to air in the first place), Invisible (this movie exists…I’m almost certain), Olivia (you know, for kids!).
DVD Handling Refresher Course. Trust Me…
1. NEVER TOUCH THE SHINY SIDE OF A DVD!!!
2. NEVER LEAVE A DVD OUT OF ITS PROTECTIVE CASE!!!
3. SEE POINTERS 1 AND 2.
4. Oh yeah, I almost forgot…DON’T TOUCH THE SHINY SIDE OF A DVD!!! EVER!!!
5. WE LOVE YOU.