Volume CCXXIV- The Godzillas Must Be Crazy
For the Week of 12/1/09
Videoport reminds you that the holiday gift-giving frenzy is upon us and that you get a free rental for yourself for every movie that you buy from us. Let your relatives’ greed work for you…at Videoport!
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 taking some sage advice from great movies, like The Maltese Falcon (in Mystery/Thriller). First up, it’s Bogart’s Sam Spade, advising you on spotting a blowhard with “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter”. Then she suggests this from Sydney Greenstreet’s Caspar Gutman, who cautions, “That’s an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides. ‘Cause as you know, sir, in the heat of action men are likely to forget where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away”. Pretty smart for a crook.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Holiday (in Classics). First a word about boxed sets. Sure they’re a good way to obtain DVDs on the cheap, and in bulk, but, when you’re planning to rent them out to people who, understandably, want to know what each individual movie is about, well, they’re a pain. See, we’ve got to fashion recognizable cover art out of the less-than-voluminous information the set comes in, so Videoport owner Bill gets to work with tape, scissors, mucilage, string, computers, and his mighty son army and tries to cobble something together. Why do I mention this? Well, maybe you don’t know that Videoport even has this movie, since the cover art is, well, nondescript, shall we say. But I heartily suggest you search it out in the Classics section, regardless of how it looks from the outside- you’ll be scoring yourself a two-for-one in that it contains one of the best performances of their careers from both Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. The set-up: Grant’s an idealistic, freespirited guy with plans to make one big score in business and then take a couple of years off in order to, well, “figure out what it all means” is the vague idea. After meeting a pretty, seemingly-similarly-freespirited rich girl (Doris Nolan) and falling fedora-over-heels for her, he meets her family- rich, stuffy dad, sad, drunken little brother (Lew Ayres is pretty affecting), and tomboyish, actually-freespirited older sis Hepburn, whom Grant slowly (but we somewhat more quickly) comes to realize is actually the perfect match for him. Along the way to the (and I’m not spoiling anything here) happy eventually-getting-together, there’s some nicely-evocative talk about the nature of business, the loneliness of being spoiled and rich, and about hanging onto your dreams, even in the face of the demon pragmatism. The dialogue’s got that nice ‘n’ stagey literary zing that Hepburn and Grant’s clipped, inimitable diction can have fun with, and Grant’s vaguely-anti-capitalist stance is refreshingly lefty (he’s even called ‘un-American’ at one point). Sure, it’s a little unformed and naive, but it’s nice to hear nonetheless (the same benighted boxed set contains the lesser Grant film Talk of the Town, where he gets to articulate some similar liberalisms). And he and Hepburn are just great. She was, at the time, box office poison, which baffles me; as legendary film critic Pauline Kael memorably said, “Katehrine Hepburn’s wit and nonconformity made ordinary heroines seem mushy, and her angular beauty made the round-faced ingenues look piggy and stupid”. This accurately describes the distinction between Hepburn and poor Doris Nolan, although the movie makes Grant’s final decision seem less of a foregone conclusion, and the film’s less of a screwball romantic comedy than you might think; there’s some weight in the characters’ dilemmas, and Grant and Hepburn (and Ayres)’ pain is genuinely human. And Grant gets to show off his playful physicality (he was once a circus performer) with little bits of business (a couple of front-flips, a synchronized tumbling routine with Hepburn) which don’t come across as manic or showy but as an expression of his character’s restless free spirit. (Sadly, there’s an ever-present trapeze in the film, but he never plays with it). It’s not my favorite Cary Grant film (that’s be Notorious), but it might be my favorite Grant performance. Great movie. Rent it for free on Tuesday, you.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Saturday Night Live- season 5 (in Comedy). I’m interested to see how Lorne handles the future seasons of SNL-on-DVD; he (and essentially everyone important to the show’s beginnings) left after year five, leaving SNL in the hands of Jean Doumanian (for one legendarily disastrous year) and then Dick Ebersol (for five bland, decreasingly-vital ones) before he came back home. Will they come out at all? (I’d be sort of interested to see if the Doumanian half-season is as bad as I remember*). Interesting. Anyway, this is the last year of the original cast and the show was taking its toll on everyone. Chevy was long gone, Belushi and Aykroyd were gone, new addition Harry Shearer was brilliant but a royal pain in everyone’s ass, Bill Murray was the unquestionable star of the show now, with Gilda right behind, and Jane, Larraine, and poor Garret were the perpetual also-rans. The show became more uneven this year, as the burnout threshold was being reached by many, but there’s a sort of ragged glory to it for all that; I’ve said it before- the idea of putting on a live, 90 minute comedy show every single week, just getting through that, and then having to confront a blank page Monday morning, is show biz heroism, and a big part of the reason why I still love SNL, as shaky as it inevitably is.
*For a primer on these lost years, check out SNL in the 80s: Lost and Found in the Comedy section.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Andy suggests Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (in Documentary). As a Beach Boys fan, I watched this documentary hoping to learn something about how the Theremin (the world’s first electronic musical instrument) came to be used in “Good Vibrations”. What I got was a fascinating documentary about the man behind the instrument, the people who loved him, and his mistreatment by the Russian government. And plenty of footage of Brian Wilson at his saddest and craziest, talking about how “scary” and “sexual” the Theremin sounds.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Dennis suggests this simple, one step plan for ensuring that your DVDs (especially, but not limited to, childrens DVDs play well:
1. NEVER, EVER, TOUCH, OR LET A CHILD, MONKEY, OR IRRESPONSIBLE, INCONSIDERATE PERSON (OR MONKEY) TOUCH THE SHINY SIDE OF A DVD!
That is all…
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Elsa S. Customer suggests some more movie-based advice, this time from Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Amy Archer in The Hudsucker Proxy (in Feature Drama): “Only a numbskull thinks he knows things about things he knows nothing about”.
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests The Devil and Daniel Webster (in Classics/the Criterion section). I almost made the case for shutting this movie off after about a minute and a half to the lovely Mrs. Elsa S. Customer. A hokey, obvious farmhouse set, some stilted, too-quaint dialogue from a dopey farmer and his wife, a wise old mama, some roughhousing with a pig- it just didn’t seem my cup o’ tea. Well, I should know better than to doubt the good folks at the Criterion Collection, whose nigh-unerring discretion pretty much guarantees any movie they put out will be worth your time (sure, I question their championing of The Rock, but their batting average is still stellar). The Devil and Daniel Webster really gets rolling as soon as the Devil shows up. Hope I didn’t give anything away there. Carrying his little black book of potential suckers through the New Hampshire countryside, ol’ Satan looks like a scruffy leprechaun and, with Water Huston playing him, he’s got beady little teeth in a huge smile, glittering eyes, and a rascally vibe that really livens up the old farmstead when he makes the beleaguered (and Jethro-dumb) farmer the old ‘heap o’ gold for your soul’ bargain. Soon, Jethro’s wearing fancy clothes, loaning money at usurious rates (the movie’s really hard on usury) to his former farmer pals, and building an ostentatious house on the hill for him, his spoiled-rotten brat son, and the kid’s saucy, wasp-waisted French nanny (Simone Simon was never more sexily feline) with whom he’s clearly doing things his sturdy New England missus has never even heard of. Things look pretty bad, especially when Jethro remembers that pesky soul deal he made and tries to weasel out of it, but luckily, said sturdy wife is on hand to call in legendary New Hampshire politician Daniel Webster who challenges the Devil to a jury trial for Jethro’s seemingly-worthless eternal essence. (This part was memorably parodied in a Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror where the jury of the damned was at least partly made up of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers). All in all, this one’s a lot of fun, with some spooky effects, Huston’s devil stealing the film, Edward Arnold harrumphing memorably as Webster, and the sexy Simon embodying every French slattern stereotype with slinky abandon. You even get to like Jethro a little, and wish him well in his future life of simple toil and thrice-yearly, lights-off missionary coitus.
New Releases this week at Videoport: A Christmas Tale (nothing says holiday warmth and magic like an oddball French family drama featuring dysfunction, dead children, and, of course, cancer; seriously, though, this is a good one from director Arnaud Desplechin [My Sex Life, Kings & Queen] and starring the legendary Catherine Deneuve and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly‘s Mathieu Amalric), and you can find it in the Criterion section), A Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian ( hey it’s that sequel I’ll never see to that movie I’ve never sen about that museum!; written by two really funny guys [‘The State’ and ‘Reno 911’‘s Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant] who specialize in writing some really crappy movies [The Pacifier, Herbie: Fully Loaded]- hey, everybody’s gotta pay the plumber), The Cove (thrilling, furious documentary about a sneaky film crew that snuck into the titular, remote Japanese village to capture footage of the massive, annual dolphin slaughter; half-real-life thriller, and half call to action on overfishing and ocean pollution), Paper Heart (indie hipster cutie-pies Charlene Yi and Michael Cera star in this quasi-documentary about a young, hipster cutie pie actress going cross-country to try to find out what’s the deal with love), Five Minutes of Heaven (the ever-formidable Liam Neeson stars in this drama about an IRA murderer’s confrontation with the brother of one of his victims some twenty-five years later), Terminator: Salvation (Christian Bale tries to save the past, the future, the present- the whole deal, really in this third sequel of the Terminator franchise), ‘Better Off Ted’- season 1 (I’ve heard pretty good things about this kooky workplace satire starring ‘Arrested Development’‘s Portia de Rossi, so you should watch it, I think), I Sell the Dead (‘Lost’‘s Dominic Monaghan stars in this comic horror ghoul-a-thon about a condemned-to-death 19th century graverobber looking back on his life of grime), ‘Sordid Lives’- season 1 (TV series based on the cult comedy about the, shall we say colorful, denizens of an hilariously-seedy trailer park), Seraphine (biopic about the life of French painter Seraphine de Senlis), Doctor Who: The Next Doctor (there’s a new doctor in the TARDIS for internerds to get all hot and bothered about).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Focus, Concent, and Love Letter (Videoport’s Andy recently donated these Japanese films to us, and you’re gonna have to watch them yourself, or ask Andy what the hell they’re about, as the DVD box is entirely in Japanese; for all you Japanese speakers out there, you’re fine…), ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century’- season 1 (the little boy in me got momentarily excited when I saw that this 80s sci fi series was coming to DVD; then the grown man in there remembered Twiki, and I got all sad inside…), SNL- season 5 (the last year of the original crew hits DVD), La Promesse (what? This wrenching French film has never been released on DVD in America? Have no fear- Videoport’ll get it for you…somehow), Rosetta (ditto for this wrenching French drama; don’t worry your pretty little head about it…we’ve got our ways…), I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (and, as for this whacked-out cult film, made from an unfinished script by the late, far-from-great Ed Wood, and starring Billy Zane as an escaped mental patient…similarly, the fact that it has never been released on DVD in this benighted country has not stopped Videoport from bringing it to you! We are the balls!), ‘The Vicar of Dibley’- season 2 (Dawn French returns as the beleaguered vicar of an eccentric village in this Britcom), A Far Off Place (check out widdle Reese Witherspoon in this 90s Disney nature adventure flick), And Then There Were None (classic film version of the venerable Agatha Christie whodunnit), Fire, Proven in the Northeast, and Isolated (three new ski movies hit Videoport’s Nonfiction Sports section).
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! Yup, just pull into any downtown parking garage and then ask for a Park & Shop sticker from your friendly neighborhood Videoporter and we’ll get you a free hour of parking therein. (And remember: parking meters are off after 6pm, Monday-Saturday and all day on Sunday, and the parking lot behind the building is open for free one hour parking after 5pm Monday-Friday and all day on the weekends).
Videoport can get it for you! Assuming ‘it’ refers to any movie, TV show, or boxed set you want to buy for those knuckleknobs on your holiday shopping list. If it’s in print, we can get it (put your orders in soon so they’ll be here in time), and you get a free rental for yourself with each purchase!