Volume CCXV- Zombiepocalypse Now
For the Week of 9/29/09
Videoport is an oasis of great films, low prices, and friendly service, and it’s all right here in your own backyard. (If you live in Portland, of course. If you are reading this in, say, Tucson, well, move here, I guess.)
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.)
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘Monk’ (in Mystery/Thriller). While I was sick in bed this week, [your editor/my husband] brought me daily discs of Monk, the cheerful USA series, to pass the time. Tony Shalhoub stars as Adrian Monk, “the defective detective” whose debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorders keep him off active duty on the police force. These same obsessive drives allow him to solve seemingly impossible cases; he notices tiny circumstantial details no one else sees. I’ll be honest: I had remembered the show as formulaic… and it is. But boy oh boy, that formula works. The show is predictably paced, with all its puzzle pieces recurring week after week, but it’s well-crafted and diverting. Shalhoub in particular is a pleasure to watch, bringing every ounce of his restrained talent to making Adrian Monk as endearing as he is irritating. The supporting cast work in concert to keep it peppy, John Turturro, Amy Sedaris, and Glenn Headley have recurring roles, and in the first two seasons alone, the guest stars include John Turturro, Betty Buckley, Rachel Dratch, Adam Arkin, Sarah Silverman, Gary Cole, Jane Lynch, Willie Nelson, and Shalboub’s wife, Brooke Adams. The show itself is a trifle, a lighthearted piece of mass-market entertainment, but all the performers are bringing their A-game. (One caveat: the jaw-droppingly bold product placements make me twitch, which actually adds a little meta-narrative sympathy with Monk’s own nervous tics. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what the producers had in mind.)
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests getting ready for the blaxploitation spoof Black Dynamite (view the awesome trailer at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1190536/), by schooling yourself on some of the choicest examples of the blaxploitation era in Videoport’s Action section. I heartily, and funkily, recommend: Trick Baby, Truck Turner, The Mack, Superfly, Shaft, Shaft’s Big Score, Shaft in Africa, and, of course, all the Pam Grier you can get your hands on (Sheba Baby, Friday Foster, Coffy, Black Mama, White Mama and, the Pammiest Grier of them all, Foxy Brown). Dig it.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis suggests the new season of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (in Comedy). Everybody loves Neil Patrick Harris now. And they should love Allyson Hannigan and Jason Segel. And they should be moderately amused by the other two stars of the show. Funny stuff.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> An Anonymous Videoport Customer* suggests Stupidity and Cosmos (in Documentary). Oh No, it happened again. You were minding your own business, huffing paint thinner in your garage, deciding to go visit your pal Skeeter ‘cause he just got a bunch of fireworks from that one Chinese guy down at the pier. Next thing you know, you’re waking up in the drunk tank with burns all over your forearms and your ring finger is missing from the second knuckle. The bad news is, you’re an idiot. The good news is, I’m a doctor and I can help. (I’m not a doctor.) Our first step should be to determine the cause of your ailment. I recommend that you watch the Canadian documentary Stupidity. It will help you to understand the different varieties of idiocy, and how society will reward your behavior even as the laws of physics and the legal system punish it. The narrator sounds remarkably like Donald Sutherland, but it isn’t him. (Donald Sutherland is also not a doctor, so don’t let him touch your swimsuit area.) The documentary features such examples of stupidity as Steve-O fans rioting after a show in Toronto, Muslim demonstrators putting a picture of Bert from Sesame Street sitting next to Osama Bin Laden on placards, and George W. Bush attempting to speak English. OK, we’re making progress. Now that we understand why you’re a dumbass, it’s time to decide on a treatment. I feel that the best course of action is for me to prescribe a regimen of Cosmos. Hosted by astronomer, author, cannabis enthusiast Carl Sagan, this series of science programs will give you a basic understanding of biology, astronomy, the history of science, and critical thought, and how gravity isn’t always your friend. It will help you to develop valuable skills, such as deductive reasoning, using physics to your advantage, and how to read without it hurting. (Carl Sagan is a doctor; feel free to let him fondle your junk.) All right, we’re not out of the woods yet, but with this course of treatment, a better diet, regular exercise, and support from your loved ones, I’m confident we can beat this terrible affliction. Remember, your children are vulnerable to stupidity as well, so be sure to have them vaccinated early with educational television and trips to the library.
*Editor’s note: Whether this review, which was slipped into our drop box without a name on it, was intended to be anonymous, or whether its signature-less nature was the result of, well, stupidity, we at the VideoReport would like to remind you all out there in the Videoport community that we welcome your submissions, be they movie reviews, best of/worst of lists, movie essays, or, really, anything at all about movies. Please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, our Myspace page http://www.myspace.com/videoportjones, our movie blog http://www.videoportjones.wordpress.com, or, you know, just pop them in the drop box without a name on them. We love you.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>Karen Kustomer suggests Bedknobs and Broomsticks. What do you get when you mix a British WWII movie, witchcraft, a touch of King Arthur, Disney animation madness, a love story, trippy special effects circa early 70s, a musical with dance numbers, three precocious Cockney kids, elements of Monty Python, a ratty black cat, and the Bayeaux tapestry? Why Bedknobs and Broomsticks of course! This weirdly engaging Disney movie was made in lieu of Mary Poppins while the rights to that book were being wrangled, and won the 1971 Oscar for Special Effects. The combination of live action, cartoon, and special effects used went on to make Mary Poppins a hit. I much prefer this movie, everything its just right. I loved it as a little girl in the movie theater, and every time I’ve seen it since then I’ve loved it. Show it to your kids, watch it yourself! A thousand movies in one! Seriously. And, oh yeah, Angela Lansbury? She’s got great legs.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, April suggests Grey Gardens (the film, In Feature/Drama). Well, I have to hand it to Drew Barrymore, she steals the show the way only Hollywood royalty can. For a few minutes there I thought the real Little Edie was up there dancing and carrying on and I think the real Little Edie would have approved of the way she’s portrayed here. Grey Gardens the film is a bit flashier than Grey Gardens the documentary. It’s gentler and less cluttered. They clearly wanted to show the history of the Beales through Little Edie’s eyes because it’s her version of events that we see. Her parents are the cause of all her troubles, or so she thinks. Father is rarely around except to dole out the allowances and bring Little Edie back home to Mother. Mother on the other hand is unintentionally controlling and pathetic. All she wants is to have someone around to care for her, her husband, her lover, or her daughter. She doesn’t really care who it is as long as she isn’t alone. There’s lots of stuff here from the ladies past that I’d never known about so it does bring something new to the cult club of the Edies but I’m not sure if (as a film) it really works. I’d have liked to see more of Little Edie in New York and her rebellion against her family. We have Grey Gardens the documentary to show us their later life, it wasn’t as compelling to see that in the film, but If I were to give the film a rating I’d give it four stars. You really should watch it.
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Sugar (in Feature Drama). I’m a baseball fan. Sure, my 300-day-a-year wearing of various Red Sox jerseys may have clued in some of the swifter of you to that fact, but I’ll just come out and admit it anyway. I say this
because I’d like to stress that my baseball fanniness has precious little to do with my enthusiasm for this movie which is, sure, about a young Dominican guy who comes to America because he is a, well, baseball player. Nope, this stunningly good little indie movie, starring the nonprofessional actor, and former semiprofessional baseballer Algenis Perez Soto in an utterly winning performance as the titular (that’s his nickname) pitcher, would be just as good if he were a top prospect in, I don’t know, math, or cooking, or even (shudder) soccer. Directed by the duo who did the quite different but also quite good Half Nelson, Sugar is as perceptive and moving a character study as I’ve seen all year, and my pick for the year’s best film. Knowing little English, and with not only his own hopes for making it in the American major leagues but the hopes of his entire family to escape from poverty, Sugar is plopped down right in the heartland when he gets assigned to a single-A team in Iowa. As he tries to make his way in this strange new place, I felt almost unbearably anxious, wincing at risky play, bad game, or off-field encounter with the potential to go bad on the good-hearted but inexperienced Sugar. As true and insightful an examination of the immigrant experience in America as it is a baseball movie , Sugar keeps you off balance, never quite going where you’re expecting, but always does right by its central character. (If you’ve ever booed a baseball player [who wasn’t Alex Rodriguez], you’ll hate yourself as much as you hate the ‘fan’ who yells ‘Santos, you suck!’, at one point; the gap in understanding, in basic humanity between that all-too-common jackass and the object of his ignorant derision is the clearest illustration of the dark side of American sports, and perhaps America, as you’ll see in a movie.) So, when you ask the baseball-beshirtted goofus what he recommends, and he says that Sugar is the best film he’s seen in 2009, don’t just roll your eyes, you. This isn’t just a great baseball movie, it’s a great, human movie.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Away We Go (‘The Office’’s John Krasinski and former ‘SNL’ funny lady Maya Rudolph star in this absoultely-charming comedy about an unmarried couple traveling around the country, looking for the perfect place to have their child), The Brothers Bloom (Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are the titular conmen after loopy heiress Rachel Weisz’s millions in this oddball comic scam movie), The Girlfriend Experience (risk-happy director Steven Soderbergh teams up with porn star Sasha Grey to bring his tale of a high-priced call girl to life in this intriguing character study), Shrink (the title of this one perhaps describing the prospects of his leading man career, Kevin Spacey stars as the titular psychiatrist who’s self-medicating his grief with lots and lots o’weed), Mangement (the always-interesting Steve Zahn and the sometimes-above-average Jennifer Anniston pair up in this oddball romantic comedy), Lymelife (Alec Baldwin, Timothy Hutton, Cynthia Nixon, and a couple of Culkins examine family dysfunction, coming of age, and, well, Lyme disease in this indie drama), Monsters vs. Aliens (animated comedy about the titular creature smackdown features just about every funny person I personally love: Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson, Ed Helms, Stephen Colbert, Paul Rudd, Jeffrey Tambor, and John Krasinski; damn- I may actually have to watch this thing), ‘How I Met Your Mother’- season 4 (Neil Patrick Harris, Allyson Hannigan, and Jason Segel, playing the sidekicks, make this sitcom more than worth watching; the two leads are…fine, as well), ‘Kings’- season 1 (Videoport brings you the first season of this oddball, alternate-reality series about an America ruled by royalty, starring ‘Deadwood’’s awesome Ian McShane), Princess (holy crap…this is a Danish, animated, hyper-violent thriller about a former missionary who goes on a psychotic rampage when his porn star sister dies, vowing to eradicate every scrap of porn she ever appeared in; enjoy!).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (animated DC Comics flick teams up the Dark Knight and the Big Boy Scout), ‘The Unit’- season 4 (the David Mamet-created, Videoport’s Samuel James-approved action series follows Robert Patrick, Dennis Haysbert, and the spooky-eyes Scott Foley as they do questionable things for the good of the good old USA), ‘Life on Mars’- season 1 (the American remake of the BBC cop series about a, well, cop who finds himself back in the groovy 1970s costars Harvey Keitel and Michael Imperioli), Love for Rent (a spunky Latina plays surrogate, deals with a shiftless green card husband, and dates a hunky doctor [‘The State’’s Ken Marino] in this indie dramedy), Frownland (upsetting character study of a truly abrasive human being has been hailed with good reviews [Roger Ebert liked it a lot], walkouts, and general hostility; I shall definitely see it…), Treeless Mountain (painfully-touching drama about two adorable little Korean girls whose mother leaves them on their own to search for their absent father), Go Diego Go: Underwater Mystery and Go Diego Go: Ready Set Go (new Diego for your little monsters), The Country Teacher (new film from the Film Movement series about a sweetly-closeted gay teacher stuck out in nowheresville, Czech Republic), The 48 Hour Film Project (two-disk collection of this year’s entries in the 48 Hour Film Project [where you have to make a short film in two days], including former Videoporter Allen Baldwin’s hilarious, ‘Flight of the Conchords’- esque ‘Stuff Is Wrong’), ‘Man Stroke Woman’- season 2 (second series of the rapid-fire British sketch comedy show starring, among others, the hilarious Nick Frost from ‘Spaced’, ‘Shaun of the Dead’, and ‘Hot Fuzz’).
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