VideoReport #223

Volume CCXXIII- Happy Thanksgiving!

For the Week of 11/24/09

Videoport is stocked up with gift certificates, new and previously-viewed DVDs for sale, and can order pretty much anything you need in order to keep this holiday shopping season somewhat manageable. (Oh, and to that end, you get a free movie rental any time you buy a movie from us, rather than some hideous, soulless retail chain.)

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 The Stepfather (in Horror). Now that the theatrical release of its vastly, ridiculously, laughably inferior remake has come and gone from the less-discriminating theaters, this effectively-nasty little 1987 horror thriller has finally gotten a DVD release, so I guess we can be thankful the wan, lame, crappy remake exists for that reason anyway. Directed by Joseph Ruben (who also helmed 1984’s similarly-underrated sci-fi thriller Dreamscape), The Stepfather is mostly mediocre, with a truly weak leading lady (replacement Charlie’s Angel Shelley Hack? Really?) but can boast some decent tension throughout. Of course, the only reason to watch it is the titular performance from perennial utility character man Terry O’Quinn as a creepy, outwardly-chipper psycho serial murderer/marrier. Obsessed with the all-American ideal of ‘the perfect family’, O’Quinn’s patriarch marries a single mom, smilingly enrolls them in all manner of wholesome pastimes and activities, and, when they inevitably fail to live up to his ridiculously-unrealistic Republican expectations, well, he murders them all and starts over somewhere else. Sure, there’s some social satire involved, but the real attraction in O’Quinn. You know him (he’s had some juicy supporting roles, has played Howard Hughes at least twice, and is now almost actually famous for playing Locke on ‘Lost’). He’s one of ‘those guys’; you know-guys like James Rebhorn, Chelcie Ross, Raymond J. Barry, Richard Jenkins who are always just there, playing cops, mean bosses, a general or two. I love guys like that, don’t you? For all the George Clooneys in the world, the movie and TV industry would grind to a halt without those guys, and when they get a rare lead and run with it, as Mr. O’Quinn did here, it just gives me a nice warm feeling. Even when he’s killing a couple o’ kids.

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

>>> Dennis suggests To Live and Die in L.A. (in Action). A slice of 80s action pie, To Live and Die in L.A. is a sun-drenched, gritty California treat. Director William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist) brings his assured style and mastery of action sequences to this tale of an obsessed, morally-questionable Secret Service agent (Manhunter and ‘CSI’‘s William Petersen) in dogged pursuit of a wily, creepily-decadent master counterfeiter (the ever-creepy Willem Dafoe). There is an epic car chase that even tops The French Connection‘s. There’s some welcome authenticity of location. There are some truly riveting sequences showing exactly how you can make your own US $100 bills at home! There’s some really regrettable 80s-style music (from the band Wang Chung, of all people), and some equally-shameful Miami Vice fashions. There is some out-of-nowhere shocking violence, and a few nicely-gritty twists of slang and dialogue. For those looking for a solid, stylish, exciting follow-up after watching something like Heat or Ronin, this is your sun-drenched, thrilling answer.

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

>>> Dennis suggests ‘How I Met Your Mother’, Season 3, Episode 9- ‘Slapsgiving’ (in Comedy). HIMYM is a pretty average sitcom which I can’t stop watching. It’s largely due to the supporting cast, with Jason Segal (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, ‘Freaks and Geeks’) and Allyson Hannigan (‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’) and, of course, the incomparable Neil Patrick Harris as the ultimate horndog Barney. There are two other ‘stars’ of the show who are…fine. Anyway, this third season Thanksgiving episode shows the three ‘supporting’ characters to their best effect (the two leads’ relationship has a crisis, which is…fine). See, a previous season showed Segal’s Marshall and Harris’ Barney engaging in a bet where the winner got to slap the loser as hard as he could five times, doled out for the rest of their lives. Marshall won, and in a previous episode, he revealed a website to Barney called ‘slapcountdown.com’ which is nothing but a clock, counting down to Thanksgiving day, showing when the next slap is coming his way. It’s a funny conceit, Segal and Harris play it up bigtime, and the whole thing even ends with a song. Happy Slapsgiving everybody!

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests “The West Wing” (in Feature Drama). Aaron Sorkin’s trademark comedy-drama set in the White House has, as you would expect, several well-crafted Thanksgiving episodes, but if you have to pick one, I suggest “Shibboleth,” season two, disc 2b (the flip side of the DVD). This episode particularly highlights the show’s knack at balancing big-issue storylines with downright silliness. As the West Wing staffers make their plans for Thanksgiving, President Bartlet faces a grim reminder why we should be thankful; The President must help decide the fate of a group of Chinese nationals who transported themselves to the U.S. under hellish conditions, perhaps only to be sent back for jail or worse. Family conflict at Thanksgiving is as traditional as pumpkin pie, and Leo (John Spencer) has to face it when his strident sister is considered for a prominent appointment. C.J. Craig discovers that the press secretary’s Thanksgiving responsibilities are less than dignified: she must arrange silly, folksy photo ops for the President, lead schoolchildren in song, and — oh, dear — select a properly photogenic turkey for the annual pardoning. Allison Janney really shows her comic chops in this episode; she’s a gifted physical comedienne with a refined sense of tone and timing, and here’s a rare chance to see those talents spotlit. If it’s been a while since you’ve watched the show (or even if you’ve never watched the show), no worries: this second-season episode was timed to pick up new viewers, and it opens with a fleeting recap of character’s names and positions for your convenience.

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests suggests you do yourself a favor during this week of Family Togetherness: rent a kid’s movie that the adults can enjoy, too. Take your Pixar, ahem, I mean: take your pick. I wholeheartedly recommend the following: Finding Nemo; Wall-E; Toy Story; Ratatouille; The Incredibles; Monsters, Inc.; The Iron Giant. You’ll be glad you did.

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests sending your own movie reviews, movie lists, movie poetry, movie essays, movie rants, movie recipes, or, really anything remotely movie-related to us here at The VideoReport. Send your submissions to us at denmn@hotmail.com, our Myspace page http://www.myspace.com/videoportjones. Or, of course, you can just drop them off at Videoport or call Andy at home and dictate them to him in the dead of night; just remember, Andy’s a little deaf, so you’ll have to scream it to him.

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests The Nightmare Before Christmas (in Feature Drama/Videoport’s seasonal Holiday section). Here it is, the week of Thanksgiving. That places us squarely between Halloween and Christmas on the calendar, and it means lots of us will be spending days with kids, grandkids, stepkids, niecekids, nephewkids, friendkids, or other kids of our acquaintance. It’s a perfect time to enjoy the dark whimsy of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween, learns about Christmas and becomes determined to spread Yuletide jollies… but he, uh, doesn’t quite get the whole Christmas spirit thing. It’s a giddy, spooky little tale with vivid design (as expected from co-writer and producer Tim Burton and director Henry Selick [Coraline, James and the Giant Peach]) and catchy tunes from Danny Elfman. Enjoy it with your leftover Halloween candy or with a premature glass of egg nog!

New Releases this week at Videoport: Funny People (the Judd Apatow comedy juggernaut steams on, with this funny/surprisingly-moving tale of a spoiled movie star [Adam Sandler, very solid] who finds out he’s sick and hires a struggling standup comic [a slimmed-down Seth Rogen] to write him jokes and assist him in reevaluating his life and pursuing the girl he lost), Angels & Demons (Tom Hanks is back as the smarty-pants hero hunting down all the secret thingies the Catholic Church hoped to hide in this sequel to The Da Vinci Code), Four Christmases (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon are a very height-inappropriate couple out to survive the titular multiple family holidays in this most recent annual Xmas movie assault on us all), Shorts (maverick filmmaker/auteur/hobbyist Robert Rodriguez brings us this newest kid-friendly, special effects-heavy adventure, this time about a kid with a magical, wish-granting rock), The Maiden Heist (how is it that you’ve never heard of a movie starring Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken, and William H. Macy?; is it a bad sign that this heist comedy has gone directly to DVD?; rent it and find out, if you dare…), Three Monkeys (Turkish drama about a family which chooses to deal with their problems by playing ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’- like those three monkeys, get it?).

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Santa Buddies (we are cute puppies in Santa hats! You cannot resist us!), Chops (documentary about the annual Essentially Ellington Festival at hosted by Wynton Marsalis), Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (see, Disney does this great thing where they deprive little children of the movies they want to see for a period of seven years in order to drive up the demand for said movies when they finally deign to allow us to purchase them; in unrelated news, Videoport has now been able to purchase new copies of this movie!), The Exiles (groundbreaking, lost 1961 documentary follows a group of Native American teenagers living in Los Angeles), Wild Child (Julia Roberts’ niece stars in this movie as a spoiled rich girl sent to a strict English boarding school; hilarity ensues?), ‘Elvis Costello: Spectacle’ (I am in geek heaven as personal musical hero Elvis Costello hosts this half chat show/half musical performance show with guests like Lou Reed, Kris Kristofferson, Smokey Robinson, and other people usually too cool to appear on such programs), Skills Like This (a failed would be writer/slacker decides to instead pursue something he’s good at- crime, in this indie comedy with more than a passing resemblance to Bottle Rocket).

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!

Park for free at Videoport!

Here’s how: 1. Parking meters are turned off after 6pm, Monday-Saturday and all day on Sunday. 2. The parking lot behind the building is open for free one hour parking after 5pm on weekdays and all day on the weekends. 3. Videoport participates in the Park & Shop program, which means we can get you a free hour of parking at any downtown Portland parking garage (including the courthouse garage which is, literally, a two minute walk away). Just bring us your parking stub, and we’ll give you one of our magic stickers!

Want some free movies at Videoport? Here are about a million ways…

1. Rent a bunch of movies. Every time you hit your next hundred rentals, we give you two free ones.

2. Rent a movie any day of the week. If you check page one of this here newsletter here, you’ll see that there’s a different special every day of the week where you get a free movie. You literally cannot come into Videoport without getting a free rental. Yeah…

3. Buy a movie. For every single movie you buy at Videoport, we give you a free rental. Now if that’s not the perfect cue to start whipping readers into a holiday buying frenzy, then I don’t know what is: this holiday season, when you’re spending all your hard-earned cash on a gang of glutinous, insatiable greed monsters (I mean your loved ones, of course), why not get a little something for yourself out of the deal? Videoport has a great selection of new and previously-viewed DVDs for sale right in the store and we can also order literally anything that’s currently in print. And, for every movie you buy from us, we give you, yourself (not them) a free rental that you can use any time.

4. Trade in your old DVDs. Got some movies or TV series that you don’t want cluttering up your shelves anymore? Bring them in to Videoport and we’ll turn them into free rentals on your Videoport account. It’s that simple!

5. Spend some money. Videoport has two different savings plans which, essentially, give you free money just for renting with us. Seriously. Put $20 onto your Videoport account and we’ll turn that twenty into $25 worth of rental credit. Pay $30 and we’ll give you $40 worth of rental credit. That’s five or ten free bucks worth of renting cash, if my math is right…yup, it is!

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