Volume CCXIX- Werewolf Bar Mitzvah, Spooky Scary…
For the Week of 10/27/09
Videoport wishes you a spooky, scary, and renty Halloween. Oh, by the way, LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU! Bwaa ha haaaa…gotcha!
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.)
>>> Ed the Renter kicks off this Halloweenie edition of the VideoReport with some obscure, quick-hitter horror movie suggestions (you can find them all in the Horror section. Duh):
Phantasm– Absolutely the best “who the ef knows what is happening” horror movie ever. Gets points in my book for the great cheesy scene where the heroes are attacked by a giant bug.
Pin– Very creepy. Good movie no one has ever sen.
Pumpkinhead– Come on, this is the perfect Halloween movie. Lance Henriksen rules!!
Rojo Sangre– The great Paul Naschy gets a tour de force in this one. Best opening line ever!
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Arsenic and Old Lace (in Mystery/Thriller, but it’s a Classic, so you can rent it for free on Tuesday!). Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant), confirmed bachelor and outspoken author of anti-marriage books and essays, has succumbed to the charms of the girl next door (Priscilla Lane) and gotten himself hitched — on Halloween, no less! Now he just has to share the happy news with the dotty old aunts and uncle who raised him, and then he and the blushing bride can take off for their honeymoon. But you’ve seen enough screwball comedies to know: it’s never that simple. Mortimer’s departure is delayed, and his marital bliss postponed, when he learns that his sweet little aunts (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) have been poisoning their unfortunate gentleman lodgers in a campaign to end the suffering of lonely old bachelors. Things go from bad to worse when more of Mortimer’s long-lost family shows up; meanwhile, his unwitting bride anxiously awaits him. It’s old-fashioned screwballery brought to you by Frank Capra, who puts some slapstick-y fillips on the original stage play. Cary Grant takes advantage of the hilarity, discarding his usual urbane gloss in favor of over-the-top takes and unabashed mugging; Hull and Adair balance this beautifully, radiating a calm and contented benevolence over the whole macabre mess. It’s a romp of dark comedy and goofy suspense.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests that you check out these cool scary flicks in the Foreign Language section if you’re feeling adventurous (and if the Horror section has been decimated by the less adventurous) this Halloween season. Anatomy (gory thriller starring Run Lola Run’s Franka Potente as a spunky med student uncovering bloody secrets in her medical school), The Orphanage (genuinely terrifying and moving Spanish haunted house thriller), The Devil’s Backbone (another gem of atmospheric horror from Spain), Pulse, Shutter, Ringu, Ringu 2, One Missed Call, Evil Dead Trap, Dark Water, The Grudge (all really scary Japanese films, most of which were apallingly remade into American crapfests), They Came Back (moody French film about loved ones coming back from the dead…different), Nosferatu (Werner Herzog’s remake of the silent German vampire classic), Tesis (really intense thriller about a grad student who uncovers some really unpleasant things while investigating the urban legend of snuff films), Cronos (weird vampire flick from Guillermo Del Toro, director of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone), Vampyr (Carl Dreyer’s 1932 adaptation of the classic vampire novel by Sheridan le Fanu)…branch out horror fans- the rest of the world’s a very scary place.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Donnie Darko. It’s October, 1988, and Donnie Darko is counting down the days until Halloween. Why? The movie unravels that mystery, sort of, but the journey to that half-answer is tortuous, intriguing, and disturbing on several levels. Despite writer-director Richard Kelly’s intent, for many viewers, the story ends up as a meta-mystery: is Donnie receiving supernatural messages about a doomsday event, or is he slipping dangerously out of touch with reality? Is this a film about extra-natural events, about a young man’s existential crisis, or about a descent into madness? Either way, the film is tragic, complexly compassionate, and sweetly elegiac, with a sorrowful empathy not only for Donnie’s plight, but also for supporting characters which a lesser film would treat as two-dimensional villains or clueless chumps. Jake Gyllenhall, starring as Donnie, is an inspired piece of casting. He’s completely believable as a clever but troubled teenager. Gyllenhaal’s Donnie is vaguely threatening, a complicated mess of confusion and yearning, hulking around in a man-sized body. He manages to meld seemingly opposing characteristics in every moment of film. He’s gloomy and dark, but with bright bursts of cheer and charm breaking across his face like sun breaking through stormclouds, and even displays moments of delightful childlike innocence. This is Kelly’s first film, and its scope and scale are almost impossibly ambitious; without Gyllenhaal’s talent and ability to underplay, you could cut that “almost” and leave it at “impossible.” (Though both DVD versions are fine, I prefer the original theatrical release; the director’s cut is 20 minutes longer, with a more cluttered narrative and less Echo and The Bunnymen.)
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” teaches us about hope and about humility. Every year, Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin, and every year, Linus is disappointed. Yet he persists: he tries to sustain the wavering hope that this year something transcendent will visit him, will validate his years of sacrifice and trust. “Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.” He’s the Fox Mulder of the Peanuts gang: he wants to believe. I love you, Linus, even though you’re the sad puppet of a fundamentalist gourd-based religious faction.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, April suggests Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (in Horror). Bette Davis got the Oscar nomination for her role of Baby Jane in this awesome creepfest but it’s Joan Crawford who really makes the movie great. Yeah, yeah, Davis is all crazy psycho dressed like a creepy doll but I just keep thinking how terrifying it is to be the wheelchair-bound sane sister. If you’re looking for a great movie to watch on Halloween that isn’t all gore and guts and actually has real thrills in it, you can’t go wrong with Baby Jane.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Ginger Snaps (in Horror). Breaking away from the stultifying mass of formulaic teenage-horror films, Ginger Snaps is a darkly subversive werewolf movie with a vicious sense of humor and an unapologetic frankness about youthful hungers. It tells the story of the Fitzgerald sisters (Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle), two disaffected teenagers who radiate stagey, shallow morbidity. Even their longstanding death pact bores them silly. Their mother (played with pitch-perfect determined cheer by Mimi Rogers) watches them with hysterically-repressed anxiety, hoping that her daughters will grow up into perfectly normal darlings. Spoiler alert: they won’t. The film cleverly uses lycanthropy as a complex metaphor for the many transformations that come with puberty — not only the bodily metamorphosis, the shapeshifting and hairiness and bleeding, but also the unrelenting insistence of the body’s appetites. Perkins and Isabelle handle their roles with the aplomb of accomplished actors; they manage to earn our empathy without betraying the deeply bitter and unpleasant characters of Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald, who (with the ardor of bored teenagers everywhere) would rather die than be average.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (Galactica junkies rejoice! Thought the series has ended, and thus your lives have no meaning, this posthumous BG movie promises to sate your cravings, at least for a little while…), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (part three of the animated film series with the prehistoric animals with the celebrity voices and all; it’ll hold us until Up comes out on Novemebr 10th!), Orphan (Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga learn the lesson that adopting needy children from other countries leads to horror and death. Has anyone told Brangelina? Sarsgaard’s a good actor, at least), Whatever Works (‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’‘s Larry David is the latest talented actor to be swallowed up as Woody Allen’s comic mouthpiece in the Woodman’s most recent, largely-forgettable exercise in creative petering-out), Nothing Like the Holidays (yup, it’s time for the year’s crop of Christmas movies to begin; this one’s can boast a wealth of Latino Hollywood talent, with John Leguizamo, Elizabeth Pena, Freddy Rodriguez, and the ever-welcome Luiz Guzman, oh, and Debra Messing, for some reason), ‘Life After People’- season 1 (the History Channel speculates on what the world is gonna be like after all of us pesky humans disappear with the help of experts, spooky narration, and lots of CGI buildings going SMASH!; seriously, this sort of thing is like crack to me), Into Temptation (Jeremy Sisto and Kristin Chenoweth star as, respectively, a priest and a prostitute in this dark drama; also starring ‘The Office’‘s Kevin [Brian Baumgartner], which is irrelevant, but I like Kevin), Il Divo (brilliant, darkly-comic biopic about Giulio Andreotti, the longtime Italian politician whose reputed connections to the Mafia, the Freemasons, and a whole lot o’ murders [including, possibly, that of his political rival, Prime Minister Aldo Moro] haven’t prevented him from being named ‘Senator for life’), Stan Helsing (get it? Yeah, it’s another labored, unfunny movie spoof from some of the people responsible for the Scary Movie franchise), Afterwards (direct-to-DVD thriller about a lawyer who meets a spooky guy who claims he can predict when someone is about to die; the only reason you should conceivably care- said spooky guy is played by a slumming John Malkovich).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure (yay! Disney continues to plunder its own animation legacy with another direct-to-DVD sequel! Our standards are getting lower as we speak!), Z (Costa-Gavras’ superlative political thriller about right-wing Greek fascists trying to overthrow the country’s democratically-elected government [like they do], gets the deluxe, Criterion treatment), Death in the Garden (from legendary surrealist director Luis Bunuel comes this belated DVD release of his 1956 tale of a diverse group of people forced to flee into a South American rainforest due to a local revolution), Perestroika (an acclaimed astrophysicist returns to his native Russia after decades in exile, only to find the new, post-Communist Moscow as confusing as ever; cult movie fans- this was directed by the guy who made Liquid Sky!), ‘Trial and Retribution’- season 3 (more of the British crime series currently setting rental records in Videoport’s Mystery/Thriller section), You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk 1977-1984 (documentary includes great footage of seminal Windy City punk bands like Effigies, Naked Raygun, Strike Under, Articles of Faith and others), I Can See You (just in time for Halloween, this surreal, low budget horror film follows some yuppies in the woods, with things going about as wrong as they possibly can…), Lioness (documentary about a group of American female soldiers who, in the [current] Iraq war, became the first group of female soldiers to fight in direct ground combat), Tucker’s Crossing and The Bigfoot Diaries (two low budget horror films from New Hampshire director Jamie Sharps whose very nice ladyfriend brought them to us for you all to rent), Roxy Music: More Than This (the Brian/Bryans [Eno and Ferry]’s legendary band gets their own retrospective documentary), I Am Because We Are (this documentary, about the wrenching fate of the million plus orphans in Malawi dealing with AIDS, and, well, being orphans was written by Madona, of all people, and features Desmond Tutu and others; thus ensuring that the names ‘Madonna’ and Desmond Tutu’ would be forever linked in the most unlikely pairing of all time), Summer Storm (from 40s-50s master of melodrama, director Douglas Sirk [All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind] comes this typically-lush adaptation of a Chekhov play), Refresh, Neverland, Everyday is Saturday, and Wild Stallions (four new sports documentaries about people who strap wood to their feet and hurt themselves), Marigold (middling American actress Ali Larter plays a middling American actress who gets stranded in India and gets involved in a lavish Bollywood movie), ‘The Guardian’- season 1 (before people liked Simon Baker in ‘The Mentalist’, they were sort of indifferent to him in this series about a shamed lawyer forced to be nice).
Dennis presents one sentence reviews of the only movies that ever actually scared me: (SPOILERS, baby):
The Blair Witch Project: He’s in the corner! He’s in the corner!
Angel Heart: That little bastard at the end gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about him to this day.
Jacob’s Ladder: Stupid ending aside, this is as close to one of my nightmares as I ever hope to see on a DVD.
Halloween: The first, the original, still the best…the most masterful use of foreground/background in film history, and that sparse piano theme is not what you want to hear if you’re home alone.
Jaws: Can anyone ever be at peace in the ocean anymore?
Candyman: Something about the combination of icy camerawork, Phillip Glass’ moody score, Tony Todd’s imposing, soulful presence, and climbing in that hole in the wall with the Candyman’s face painted on it!!!
Session 9: Just plain well-crafted spook stuff with a great setting.
The Last Broadcast: Pre Blair Witch-style low budget flim about the Jersey Devil has some good, scary ideas…and a really stupid ending.
The Baby’s Room: Part of the Spanish ‘Six Films to Die For’ series, this one’s just plain creepy.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: That boat ride sequence is perhaps the most intense thing I’ve seen in my life; they show this to kids?
Carrie: Two words: Shock. Ending.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): Best last scene of a horror movie ever caps off a great ratcheting up of the tension throughout.
Don’t Look Now: Two films in a row featuring Donald Sutherland and a serious W.T.F!!!!! ending.
Onibaba: Utterly creepy throughout, culminating in some all-time freaky imagery.
The Vanishing: The Dutch original’s ending- wheeeeaaaaughhhhh.
Signs: So sue me- before it gets lame, there are some serious scares (The newsreader saying, “The following footage may disturb you”…yup, it did.)
The Mothman Prophecies: Not a good movie, but the whole “Chap.Stik” thing is undeniably creepy.
Aliens: The whole motion detector scene.
Eraserhead: The world has ceased to make sense, and I can’t wake up.
The Exorcist: Tubular Bells still does it for me.
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