VideoReport #221

Volume CCXXI- How I Met Your Mothra

For the Week of 11/10/09

Videoport thinks that fully 47% of you are wonderful. But you all may have a free movie every day. Because we at Videoport believe that everyone should have the same rights. To a free movie. And other things…

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 Graveyard Shift (in Horror). The lovely Mrs. Elsa S. Customer and I have been catching up on our crappy horror movies lately. Why do I mention that in connection with this Maine-set 80s Stephen King adaptation? Umm… This one has sort of a legendary reputation of wretchedness which had kept me away for a long time, which is weird, because I actively seek out bad horror movies in my free time. Well, we decided it was about time and there were some admittedly minor points of interest: the ever-welcome Brad Dourif* is on hand, hamming it up with customary glee as a psychotic Vietnam vet/ exterminator, it was actually (unlike most King adaptations) filmed in Maine (Bangor, Brewer, and Harmony, to be exact), and, well, that was it, really. The story of an ancient, run-down textile mill that is basically OSHA’s worst nightmare, dilapidated and swarming with rats!  Rats!!  They’re actually pretty cute, but there’s a big, rubbery, blubbery thing down in the bowels of the place that keeps killing off sweaty workers (which no one seems to notice, even though there are only about twenty people in the town). There’s an evil boss (Stephen Macht’s Maine accent is easily the most fascinating thing in the film), some completely-unmotivated character turns, and, um…yeah, it sucks, although perhaps slightly less (maybe 12%) than advertised, but still… yeah, it’s terrible.

*Editor’s note: Brad Dourif’s career is really strange. He started off like gangbusters, with an Oscar nomination for playing Billy Bibbitt in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and then, after exactly one high-profile lead (in John Huston’s fascinating, underrated Wise Blood– available in Videoport’s Criterion section), he has worked tirelessly, and almost exclusively, playing over-the-top weirdos, bug-eyed psychos, and, well, cuckoos in low-budget genre films.  And, unlike some actors who fall to that sort of role because that’s the true level of their talent, Dourif is always great.  Look at (mostly awful) movies like Exorcist III, Dune, Critters 4, Color of Night, Alien Resurrection, even the Chuckie movies, (and that episode of the ‘X Files’ he was in)- he never phones it in, is always in there, giving it all he’s got.  And more often than not, he’s the best thing in the movie. (Even when he took a role in the biggest hit trilogy of all time, The Lord of the Rings, he was playing a squirmy weirdo… and knocking it out of the park.)  His acclaim playing a slightly less-repellant guy than usual on ‘Deadwood’ hasn’t stopped him from accepting work in upcoming films titled things like Death and Cremation and Junkyard Dog.  Great actor, deliberately odd career.

Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests The Terminator (in Action). The now-legendary 1984 sci-fi action flick that cemented the reputation of director-writer James Cameron and transformed a hunk of affectless Austrian meat into a bankable movie star, The Terminator is built on compellingly simple narrative tension.  For heroine Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), it’s a nightmare scenario: you’re going about your everyday business, just trying to make ends meet and maybe go on a date, and suddenly you are pursued by a murderous entity (Arnold Schwarzenegger) whose only reason for existence is to destroy you. The film’s special effects reflect the low budget, and in this case, they just plain work.  Let’s face it, even state-of-the-art effects from 1984 would look dated to our eyes; where Cameron relies upon low-tech, on-set effects, the film runs smoothly without jerking the viewer out of the film. (Admittedly, there are also attempts at high-tech effects here, and those look just as silly to a modern eye as you’d expect.)  Much of the film’s dialogue, grown stale with repetition over the years, is refreshingly in context.  Man, who knew “I’ll be back” could be so funny?

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests State and Main (in Comedy). In a break from his usual heist-and-hostility routine, David Mamet brings us a movie about movies: temperamental talents, deeply hidden secrets, and the panic of production delays.  The premise: the entire cast and crew of Hollywood production The Old Mill has been booted out of the small New England town where they’re filming. As the frantic director tries to hustle another town’s mayor into signing on as their new location, the clock is ticking away.  And time is money, people.  Writer-director David Mamet’s dialogue is pointed, clever, witty, and utterly despicable.  With its quick, smart humor and characters running the range from “wretchedly angst-ridden” to “utterly vile,” State and Main feels like an Aaron Sorkin show set in Hell.  William H. Macy plays director Walt Price with whiplash virtuosity, slipping effortlessly between unctuous gladhanding and vicious rants.  Philip Seymour Hoffman turns in another masterful performance as the first-time screenwriter improvising like mad despite his almost total lack of confidence; Hoffman takes the sad-sack role and transcends it.  Alec Baldwin delivers here one of his nastiest comic roles as the big-name movie star with a loathsome yen for underaged girls.  And here’s a sneaky little in-joke: the small-town mayor (perfectly played by Charles Durning) is named George Bailey — a poke at Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.  As Mamet no doubt knows, Capra’s view of small-town life was far from the whitewashed sentimentality we celebrate in the film today.  It’s a Wonderful Life gave us a glimpse of village life’s underbelly, and State and Main would like to pick up when Capra left off, plunging farther into the ghastly depths than Capra ever dreamed.  With its vicious wit, its depravities, and its rapid-fire plot complications, State and Main is a screwball comedy of the darkest shade.

Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)

>>> Dennis suggests Patton Oswalt: My Weakness Is Strong (in Comedy). Reviewing a standup comedy special is usually pretty dull. I mean, apart from ‘boy this sure was funny’, there’s not a lot of places to go usually.  So here are some random thought’s about this new one from hipster darling/hobbit Oswalt.  He is very adept at mining laughs from seemingly absurd analogies which, upon immediate reflection, make a great deal of sense (comparing George W. Bush to sodomy demons, for example; you’ll just have to see it).  He is remarkable at donning very specific comic personae; not that he’s an impressionist, he’s just very in control of his instrument/voice, and the comic effects he wants to elicit; (see his impression of himself as a fat[ter] guy and that of a startlingly well-drawn Southern bartender).  He’s got some nice, Carlin-esque takes on ‘serious’ issues (specifically religion in this one) where, like Carlin, he spins a very funny argument (in this case how religion came into being) which is hilarious, insightful, and makes enormous sense all at the same time.  Oh, and this is really, really funny.

Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).

>>> Andy suggests Escape From the Planet of the Apes.   If you’re looking for the excellent sci fi classic Planet of the Apes, you’ll find it in the Sci Fi/Fantasy section.   You also find the pretty good first sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Tim Burton’s dull remake in Sci Fi/ Fantasy. But when you’re done with those, I suggest you turn your attention to the Family section and check out the second, third, and fourth sequels for some fun, G-rated, if pretty violent, Apes action.   The third film, Escape From the Planet of the Apes, is by far the best of these.   The plot involves the apes from the first film traveling back in time to our ‘present day’ (1976) or so and trying not to mess up the future while sticking up for ape rights or something.  It’s all in fun, in the same vein as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  You can tell the producers were trying to save money by shooting on location instead of building futuristic sets.   Budget problems don’t prevent Escape from being an entertaining sci fi adventure, but with the fourth (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes*) and fifth (Battle for the Planet of the Apes) films in the series, there is a noticeable step down in production value. (Still…free rental folks.)

*Editor’s note: Andy’s very right about the later films, but Conquest, which shows how the apes first rebelled against their human masters with zombie invasion-like single-mindedness really creeped me out as a kid. Creep out your kid today!

Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests sending in your movie or TV reviews (or movie essays, best-of lists, etc) to us at the VideoReport! (So we can fill this review space with actual, you know, reviews and stuff.) Just drop them off at the store, send them to denmn@hotmail.com, or our Myspace page http://www.myspace.com/videoportjones or our Facebook page “Videoport Jones”! And, aw heck, while you’re on the intra-nets, why not stop in at our movie blog http://www.videoportjones.wordpress.com!

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Delicatessen (in Foreign Language).  Vividly textured, richly ambiguous, and darkly comic, Delicatessen opens in a ramshackle tenement hazily located in a French town in some unspecified dystopian future.  Food is scarce, yet the butcher shop occupying the building’s first floor never seems to feel the pinch too badly. I think you see where this is going… but the new tenant does not.  His name is Louison (played by oddly charming rubber-faced actor Dominique Pinon), he’s a former circus performer, and he delights the neighborhood children with his clowning antics, which are cartoonishly impressive.  Indeed, Delicatessen has a cartoonish quality that meshes weirdly but successfully with its grubby, dark setting and its gruesome premise.  This is the first feature film of co-directors Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who also co-directed the great City of Lost Children.  Jeunet is now perhaps best known as the director of Amélie, and it’s easy to see Amélie as the indirect descendant of the grotesqueries of Delicatessen. Both films immerse themselves in a whimsically embroidered narrative built around the laborious quirks of its characters, and does so with an aplomb that magically weaves a potentially overwrought, incoherent mess into a beautifully balanced composition of humor, compassion, sorrow, and wonder.

New Releases this week at Videoport: UP (it’s the new Pixar animated film, about an old man who floats his home with a mess o’ balloons; if you watch it, it will thrill you, move you, and make you happy- so you should watch it), The Ugly Truth (Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl are a mismatched couple who may, or may not, overcome their differences and fall in love; I’m on pins and needles myself), The Merry Gentleman (Michael Keaton directs himself and No Country for Old Men‘s Kelly Macdonald in this tale of a troubled young woman who falls in love with a troubled hit man, who may, by definition, be more troubled than she), Ink (dark, upsetting fairy tale film about the war between good and evil that takes place when we’re asleep; compared favorably to Dark City by more than one reviewer…), The Accidental Husband (a disgruntled firefighter, angry at the advice guru whom he believes caused his girlfriend to leave him, somehow (the details are a little unclear) convinces said guru that they were secretly married, even though she’s all engaged and stuff; convoluted comedy comes to us from director Griffin Dunne and stars Uma Thurman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Colin Firth), Lake Tahoe (from the renting-like-hotcake Film Movement series comes this indie dramedy about a hapless teenager who turns to help from a wide variety of eccentric characters when he accidentally wrecks the family car), Hurt (creepy horror thriller about a single mom who moves into the salvage yard home owned by a crazy uncle, finds a seemingly-adorable orphaned child, and then…well, I’m not tellin’),

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Pageant (fifty gay men battle for the right to be crowned Miss Gay America in this documentary), Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart (documentary follows the titular musician as he makes a tour of Africa), The Thing (From Another World) (the Howard Hawks original alien from space classic finally gets a DVD release; trivia time: although Hawks’ longtime editor Christian Nyby is credited as the film’s director, it’s pretty widely accepted that Hawks himself actually directed the film but allowed pal Nyby to take the credit), Eddie Izzard: Live from Wembley (British comic [and now sought-after character actor] Izzard is as quick on his feet and free-from as Robin Williams, only Izzard is still funny and doesn’t make you want to just slap him as hard as you can so he’ll finally shut up), Where God Left His Shoes (John Leguizamo tries to tone down his undeniable innate creepiness in this heartwarming story of a homeless dad trying to get a job on Christmas Eve so his family will qualify for an apartment), The Achievers: The Story of Lebowski Fans (documentary reveals the story behind the birth of Lebowski-Fest, a growing gang of guys turning the Cohen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski into a cult film by dressing up as The Dude and drinking White Russians), The Chaser (sleazy-looking Korean thriller about a dirty cop-turned-pimp who discovers that his hookers are being killed off by a serial killer), The Bunker (Anthony Hopkins is Hitler! In this movie, of course…), My First DVD (new to Videoport’s kids section comes this program designed to introduce your little angel to the wonderful world of DVDs; lesson one: DON’T TOUCH THE SHINY SIDE OF A DVD EVER!!!!!; lesson two: DON’T LET A CHILD TOUCH A DVD, ESPECIALLY THE SHINY SIDE!!!! IT’S CALLED PARENTING!!!!!).

YOU WILL GO TO THIS!

Former Videoporter/local filmmaker/cool guy Allen Baldwin’s newest film Up Up Down Down will have its first test screening at the Nickelodeon theater (right around the corner) on Thursday, December 3rd at 7pm and 915pm! Come and see the latest film from Allen’s Strongpaw Productions (you can see his great first film Twelve Steps Outside in Videoport’s Feature Drama section)! C’mon!

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Published in: on November 9, 2009 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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