Volume CCXII- Godzilla in Love
For the Week of 8/25/09
Videoport reminds you that there’s still time to enter this year’s Movie Trivia Quiz! You’ve got ‘til 9/21/09, and you get two free rentals just for playing! Oh, and Videoport gives you a free rental every day, of course…
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.)
>>>Videoport customer Mitch suggests Basic Instinct (in Mystery/Thriller). Michael Douglas seriously needs to watch out. Getting involved with Glenn Close introduces phrases like “bunny-boiler” into modern vocabulary; getting involved with Deborah Kara Unger gets him thrown into crazy Fincherland; and getting involved with Kim Basinger gets him framed and hunted down by Jack Bauer. And here, getting involved with Sharon Stone does him no better. As a Verhoeven take on Double Indemnity film noir/Vertigo psycho-thriller, you pretty much get what you would expect. Lots of blood, sexuality, car chases, and general early-90s social confusion. In other words, classic sleaze that’s excusable in the name of guilty pleasure and entertainment; excusable in the way that Showgirls, well, wasn’t.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Videoport customer Mitch suggests Goin’ South (in Action). Well, this is a weird film. Directed by and starring Jack Nicholson, this movie functions as a goofy showcase of pure Nicholson, though he sounds like he has a cold throughout the entire flick. The plot is happily misogynistic in the fashion of The Taming of the Shrew, and it’s a little hard to laugh at some of the scenes where he merrily torments his wife (especially in light of Chinatown and The Shining). Yet overall, fun is to be had. The creative cinematography and scene transitions make up for some clunky editing. And the supporting cast is outstanding, featuring a villainous team of Christopher Lloyd and John Belushi (!). The always-underrated Tracey Walter also puts in a strangely memorable performance.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Former Videoporter Jeremy suggests Soul Men (in Comedy). I wanna talk to you about Soul Men for a second. Once you get over your crushing disappointment due to the fact that it isn’t the long-awaited sequel to 1986’s Soul Man starring C. Thomas Howell (I know, I know; it’s hard), and once you get past the idea of enduring more than your fair share of Grumpy Old Men-style Viagra jokes and foulmouthed bickering, you can take this otherwise low-rent comedy for what it is: the chance to bid farewell to a true comedy talent, a funny fellow you may not have spent a great deal of time with while he was among the living: Bernie Mac. Mac had a great face, and an even better voice, both of which he used to enormously likable effect, even during those many occasions when he was boisterously suggesting that you routinely engage in sexual congress with your mother. There are certain people that can get away with just about anything (Jack Nicholson and Norm Macdonald come to mind), and Bernie was in that camp for sure. But unlike, say, Cedric the Alleged Entertainer, there was always an affecting sadness behind his jibes and goggle-eyed reactions, and here, in the role of Floyd, one half of a neglected backup duo for a recently deceased soul singer, he accepts a potentially hackneyed role and runs with the opportunity to display both his formidable comedy chops and his never adequately praised acting ability. Mac is never just doing a gag; he’s an overly sensitive, short-tempered clown in a ridiculous situation, earnestly attempting to get out of it through the only means available to him: yelling and posturing, and more often than not simply undergoing a total nervous breakdown. While a lesser comic might drag the tough black guy routine out to tiresome effect, Mac found more humor in vulnerability, in his inability to keep his emotions bottled up, be they insane outbursts of anger or even tears of frustration. An improvised freakout in a dingy flophouse hallway after being violently ejected by his partner, Samuel L. Jackson, is the most hilariously apoplectic I’ve seen him onscreen. It’s Mac to the nth degree, and it’s something to see. And watch him near the end, wildly firing a gun after being informed that his concert has been cancelled due to an unlikely if often funny series of events. It’s a scene most would have played for slapstick laughs, but there’s real hurt in those bigass eyes. Jackson makes for a decent straight man, and the intriguingly incomprehensible Mike Epps has a fleeting but funny bit part near the beginning, but this is Mac’s show all the way, and, sadly, his swan song. If you do decide to check out this undistinguished but thoroughly enjoyable comedy, be sure to watch the special features for some far too brief footage of Mac at the Apollo, taking the mic and entertaining the extras between takes while filming the final concert in the movie. In an increasingly soulless business, Bernie Mac brought class and hard work back to the table, and while most celebrity deaths inspire more shock than any sort of real grief, I get so sad knowing that we don’t get to see any more of this guy.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Videoport customer Mitch suggests Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (in Horror). Director Neil Jordan creates a captivating and spellbinding atmosphere; a vampire period piece that literally invites the 90s-era viewer in through the eyes of a modern reporter. Brad Pitt ably carries the film, though his performance feels too melodramatic at times. Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas, and Stephen Rea have a wicked time hamming it up. However, I get the feeling that the filmmakers were never sure exactly how much fun they wanted this film to be; a cloud of sadness overshadows the mythos, blood, and horror. Nevertheless, the occasional moments of black comedy (especially from a strangely mature Kirsten Dunst) are welcome, and the exhilarating ending scene is just about perfect.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>Dennis suggests taking your kids to see Hayao Miyazaki’s delightful Ponyo before it leaves theaters and you have to
wait for the DVD. In the meantime, of course, you can rent Miyazaki’s equally-delightful Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro for free today.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Videoport Customer Mitch suggests Requiem for a Dream (in Feature Drama). And here we have the reason why you shouldn’t do drugs. Aronofsky wrenches out some excellent performances from his four leads (as well as some creepy supporting roles from Chris McDonald and Keith David), and edits with a rhythmic precision that starts out fast and builds, builds, and builds, until we, the audience, feel like we’re trapped in a deadly nightmare and can’t get out. The cinematography is enchanting, unflinching, and disturbing; it is unafraid of going down into the abyss, but it never feels gratuitous. You made the decision to follow the lives of these characters, and here they are. I could especially feel the pain of Ellen Burstyn’s character, whose hopes segue into hopeless delirium
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Equinox (in the Criterion Collection). Oh sweet, sweet Criterion Collection. Sure we appreciate the steady stream of the classics of world cinema you routinely release to us (like this week’s massive, 3-disc edition of the Japanese WWII drama The Human Condition), but it’s the knuckleballs like this oddball no-budget 1970 horror thriller that keep us on our toes. Made by a couple of enthusiastic amateurs (one of whom, Dennis Muren, went on to win Oscars all over the place for his special effects work in films like E.T., the Star Wars movies, and Jurassic Park), Equinox is awful, sure, but it’s got energy, some truly neat Harryhausen-esque stop-motion monsters, and a whole ‘evil book that opens a portal to hell’ gimmick that I’m sure a young Sam Raimi must have been aware of when he made The Evil Dead. Plus the traditional Criterion heaping helping of special features (I especially appreciated the introduction by the late Forrest Ackerman), two full versions of the film, and an early performance by the future Herb Tarlek from ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’!
New Releases this week at Videoport: Crank 2 (umm…the guy didn’t die…even though he fell out of that helicopter…Oh, hell, who cares- Jason Statham kicks some more guys in the face), Che: The Argentine and Che: Guerilla (these make up Steven Soderbergh’s four hour-plus biopic about the Cuban guerilla leader and the face that launched a thousand t-shirts, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, starring the ever-magnetic Benicio Del Toro),
A Girl Cut in Two (from French master of suspense Claude Chabrol comes this story of a young weathergirl torn between the attentions of two guys who may not have her best interests at heart), Roman de Gare (Another new film from a French master, this twisty-turny thriller comes from Claude Lelouch, who loves to toy with you), Valentino: The Last Emperor (documentary about the legendary clothing designer; Project Runway fans unite!), ‘The Office’- season 5 (if you don’t think this show is hilarious, well, then you are incorrect), ‘Fringe’- season 1 (an ‘X-Files’-y supernatural series hits the DVD; I hear it’s not bad…), ‘Parks and Recreation’- season 1 (the deliriously-talented little psycho Amy Poehler stars in this very funny series from the creators of ‘The Office’), Dance Flick (the Wayans family trots out another spoof, this time of, well, dance movies), ‘Harper’s Island- season 1 (this short-lived Agatha Christie-style horror series promised to kill off pretty much everyone, on by one), ‘Important Things With Demetri Martin’- season 1 (standup/sketch show from the up-and-coming comedian and star of the recent Taking Woodstock), Sleep Dealer (ambitious sci fi about a near future where governments have become [even more] fascistic and three people try to connect through some sort of Matrix-y thingy), Dakota Skye (indie drama about a girl who can always detect when people lie and her relationship with a dude who, seemingly, never does), ‘Worst Week’- season 1 (sitcom about a couple getting acquainted with their respective in-laws), ‘No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency’- season 1(quaint HBO series about a spunky African lady named Precious who solves crimes in Botswana), Dark Streets (musical melodrama about the owner of a 1930s nightclub who gets in over his head, in various ways), Sin Nombre (gripping drama about a Honduran teenager trying to make it into the US), Filth and Wisdom (Madonna writes and directs her first feature film about London flatmates engaging in various unsavory acts to get by; probably worth a curiosity rent…), Fragments (after surviving a random shooting, a disparate group of people [including Forest Whitaker] start to hang out), The Human Condition (the Criterion Collection brings out this epic three-part WWII drama about a conscientious objector and his attempts to survive, and make sense of, war-torn Japan), ‘Supernatural’- season 4 (two hot guys continue to fight evil in the second ‘X-Files’-y series release this week), ‘Rescue Me’- season 5 (Dennis Leary is still a jerk, a drunk, and a fireman).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing (a forgotten comedy starring Maggie Smith from 1973? Why, yes, of course Videoport has it!), ‘Charlie and Lola’- volume 9 (the super-cute British animated kids show is back for more), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (finally on the DVD!), Goosebumps: Attack of the Jack-O-Lanterns (kids horror series marches on), Kabei: Our Mother (touching Japanese drama of a courageous mother trying to keep her family together in the days leading up to WWII), Local Color (autobiographical film about a young would-be artist and his relationship with a crotchety old painter; starring Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ron Perlman, Ray Liotta and Charles Durning), ‘Nana’ (anime series about two girls named Nana rooming together, pursuing their dreams, and then here come the tentacles…[I’m just guessing…]), The Toe Tactic (oddball fantasy combining live action and animation; it’s no Cool World, though…), The Meteor Man (Robert Townsend tried his hand at a superhero comedy after the surprise success of Hollywood Shuffle; it did not become a franchise…), Lilith (Warren Beatty and Jean Seberg try to find love in an asylum in this 1964 tragic romance), Tess (Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles finally comes to DVD), One Day In September (DVD release of this gripping documentary about Israeli Olympic athletes being killed by some Palestinian jerks), Her Alibi (Videoport brings you this 80s comedy starring Tom Sellick and a supermodel; we have our reasons…), An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky’s 1978 feminist film starring the delightful Jill Clayburgh finally gets a DVD release), Third (enigmatic Polish drama about a yuppie couple who take a mysterious old man aboard their yacht; is he a psycho? A Mob boss? God? Just a smelly old guy? Rent it and see), ‘People Like Us’- season 1 (BBC comedy series about an incompetent documentarian pestering people for a human interest show; find it in Videoport’s British Comedy section), Lion of the Desert (this massive, expensive, [legendarily unsuccessful] epic about a Libyan freedom fighter stars Anthony Quinn and Oliver Reed, and was bankrolled by Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi!).