Volume CCXXV- Jo Jo Gamera, Your Life Is Calling
For the Week of 12/8/09
Videoport reminds you that the Holiday Season is barreling down upon us like a brakeless freight train. In an unrelated announcement, Videoport would like to further remind you that we have a great selection of gift certificates, new and previously-viewed movies for sale, and can order anything you need in time for the big day.
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 Night of the Living Dead (in Horror). In a recent conversation with a friend, I came to the jolting realization that for some people, the title Night of the Living Dead does not bring to mind Romero’s 1968 classic of creeping, low-level, low-budget anxiety, but instead conjures up memories of the pallid, sloppy full-color 1990 remake. Warning, warning [and spoiler alert]: guys, it’s not even the same movie. NotLD 1990 is a loving homage, sure, but even the fates of the characters are different, which makes the film as a whole a different narrative and much less susceptible to intelligent cultural dissection. (To be fair, remake- director Tom Savini has little interest in cultural dissection, being almost exclusively interested in actual dissection… or whatever passes for it on film. A special-effects and makeup artist from the splashy school, Savini has an unabashed love for big gooey explosions of fake innards. He’s the guy who brought you the goopy gore and over-the-top makeup of Romero’s intentionally goofy sequel Dawn of the Dead. ) No, Romero’s original is taut, eerie, and filled with social statement, intentionally or otherwise. Unlike the sequels and remakes, it rarely invites guffaws or giggles; Night of the Living Dead brings on uncomfortable fits of tittering, nervous laughter mixed with groans and silent dread. Like all great stories, it’s not about the event (the dead are rising from their graves!) but about how people respond to the event, and to each other; it’s about social dynamics in terrifying and emotional circumstances.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests The Emerald Forest (in Action). This 80’s era jungle adventure has a lot going for it: the ever-manly Powers Boothe, some spectacularly-filmed locations, hallucinogenic drug trips, action, some hot native girls who don’t go in for shirtwear. It’s also completely bonkers, which is refreshing. Supposedly based on a true story (one assumes, up to a point fairly early on), the film follows American engineer Boothe on his ten year quest to find his son who was seemingly abducted by Brazilian tribesmen. When he does eventually track down the lad, the boy’s a strapping blonde native warrior with a really hot girlfriend and a fast track towards toe chieftain-ship, so he’s not exactly psyched to leave with his middle-management dad and learn the right fork to use with the salad course. So dad hangs out with the natives, talks with the elderly chief (who’s allowed a sly sense of humor), smokes some blue stuff that unlocks his spirit animal (or something), and gradually begins to see his son’s point of view. But, when goons under the employ of Boothe’s own land-raping company (dum-dum-DUMMMM) invade the village and start killing and enslaving everybody, well, then it’s time for some good-old father/son bonding-through-killing. Sure it’s silly, but The Emerald Forest has a nice, propulsive style, it’s never dull, and there’s enough sex, violence, and drugs, that it’s message of the unspoiled purity of those who live close to the jungle goes down painlessly. Plus, it’s pretty mindblowing to anyone who’s seen “Long Way ‘Round’, ‘Long Way Down’, or ‘Race to Dakar’ (recently acquired by Videoport!), to see young Charley Boorman (son of the film’s director John) at 18; unlike the puffy-faced, leather-clad pal o’ Ewan McGregor you see there, he’s a lithe,Tarzan-bodied hunk here, although still with those bug eyes and beady little teeth.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Trading Places (in Comedy). With the recent snowfall, I’m starting to get in the holiday spirit. Today, I’m celebrating a little early with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. There’s nothing like betrayal, penury, and revenge on the Wall Street bigwigs to give life that Christmas twinkle! Louis Winthorpe III (Aykroyd) is a privileged and successful executive in a ritzy brokerage house, but his even-more-privileged bosses (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy) wonder if his success is due to his own efforts or to his upbringing and surroundings. With the callous insouciance of the mindbogglingly wealthy, they use Winthorpe’s life and livelihood as a the basis for a brotherly bet: toss him out of his envied position, ruin his reputation, and see if he sinks or swims. In his place, they groom street grifter Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy), a smart cookie with little formal education and a mismatched set of social skills, but loads of charisma and life experience. The plotline is silly and in other hands could easily be stilted and predictable, or become a dismissive and superficial buddy comedy, but Murphy and Aykroyd make the whole thing hum along like a beautiful machine. And a machine it is; the film’s structure owes a good deal to the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, and particularly to the social-class comedies like The Lady Eve or My Man Godfrey. It’s also a buddy movie, and it’s marvelous to watch Aykroyd and Murphy let their incompatible types find the nices and nooks of compatibility between them. They inhabit their characters so fully, imbue them with real depth and intelligence and humor, never letting them feel like caricatures or plot vehicles. The story does deal with a great many racial and social stereotypes, and imperfectly acknowledges them as stereotypes, but the central parts are so marvelously cast, so intensely alive and real, that I can forgive it its failings. Also, it’s freakin’ funny, so there’s that.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests A Clockwork Orange (in Feature Drama). I’m endlessly fascinated by Kubrick’s films, yet I can rarely put my finger on what exactly makes them tick along like a … well, the title reference is a little too obvious here, so I’ll skip that. Anyhow… It took years of watching and rewatching Kubrick’s three most ambitious and idiosyncratic films ( A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey) to notice: the effect is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. These films are lavishly detailed, intently staged, beautifully shot, and — beneath the smooth polish of design and style — almost always emotionally empty. A Clockwork Orange is a perfect example of this: the tale of Alex, the viciously anti-social droog tapped for psycho-medical rehabilitation seems impossible to bring to the screen. How can you portray the torture, the dreadful force, the chilling depth of Alex’s disdain for humankind? How do you show his acts of outrage without violating his key characteristic of affectless insouciance? Kubrick does it with towering, vicious majesty; the film is a horrific masterpiece of unfeeling brutality. Even the camera silently shows us Alex’s distorted worldview: over and over, Alex (Malcolm McDowell, in an utterly nauseating but weirdly charm-filled performance) appears in the middle of an overwide shot, the camera’s perspective causing the peripheral characters to recede into the distance, their forms bending and swaying while he stays strong, straight, and centered. Once again, Kubrick has eviscerated an emotionally charged story, leaving only its towering trappings. Like so many of his films, A Clockwork Orange is like a drum: it resonates so loudly because it is empty.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Dennis suggests that, and I don’t want to offend anyone here, that CHILDREN (AND IRRESPONSIBLE, CARELESS PEOPLE) SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED TO HANDLE OUR DVDS. We don’t touch the shiny side kids, and we don’t smear jelly on it, and we don’t leave it out on the floor ’cause it’s so shiny and pretty. 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 Miller’s Crossing (in Feature Drama). It’s Chicago, during Prohibition, and Tom is causing trouble. Again. The leaders of two rival gangs, Leo O’Bannon and Johnny Caspar (Albert Finney and Jon Polito) clash over a small business matter: should a small-time bookie (John Turturro) be killed, or protected? This seemingly simple proposition gets indescribably complicated, as the ties between the characters get unearthed. The whole story revolves around the efforts of Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), O’Bannon’s right-hand man, to ease tensions the only way he knows how: persuading Leo to let him kill that guy, already. But nothing is ever that simple, not in noir and not in a Coen Brothers’ film. The twisty-turning plot feels a little bit like two noirs woven together… and I intend that as a compliment. As always with Coen Brothers’ period pieces, the background is spectacular, in that unspectacular noir-y way: richly designed and fully believable houses, offices, flophouses, and cars; period costumes that look lived-in instead of costume-y; the snappy patter that flows off everyone’s tongue; and always — in the office, in the hallway, in the alley — the shadows, looming. But there’s more here than you’ll find in the average noir: a depth, a sorrow, a richness of metaphor that makes Miller’s Crossing a stand-out, even in the Coens’ oeuvre.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Ratatouille (in Comedy). If you’re taking home this week’s hot new culinary tale for adults, Julie and Julia, why not give the kids a culinary treat as well: Ratatouille, Pixar’s delightful story about a winsome rat (voiced by the hilarious Patton Oswalt) with an unusually refined palate… a gutter rat who aspires to become a world-class chef. The echoes of Julia Child’s own story are amusing and touching, and Remy will charm you right out of your chef’s toque.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (have you guys heard about this Harry Potter deal? It’s like he’s some sort of wizard boy…huh, weird…), Julie & Julia (Meryl Streep is a hoot playing the legendary gourmand Julia Child; Amy Adams fights hard to make the ‘Julie’ of the title [a whiny blogger who cooked her way through Child’s most famous recipes] even remotely likeable), Public Enemies (some guy named Depp plays famous gangster John Dillinger; luckily for that poor sucker, he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast including Christian Bale, Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Dorff, Christian Bale, Rory Cochrane, and Marion Cotillard), Jar City (who’s up for an Icelandic serial killer thriller?!), Kevin Nealon: Now Hear Me Out (former SNL-er and current ‘Weeds’ cult favorite Nealon brings his serviceable comedy styling to this new standup special), ‘Lost’- season 5 (so there are these people stuck on some sort of island? With, like a polar bear or something? Huh, weird…), ‘Rescue Me’- season 5, part 2 (Denis Leary continues to bring disgrace upon the heads of us Dennises everywhere as his drunken fireman fights with women, alcoholism, seemingly everyone in the world, and the occasional fire), World’s Greatest Dad (Bobcat Goldthwait directs pal Robin Williams to shocking glory in this dark comedy about teen suicide, fame, and auto-erotic asphyxiation; seriously, it’s one of the best movies of the year), Beautiful Losers (from the IMdB: “In the early 1990’s, while most of the country was still reeling from the Reagan era, a loose-knit group of American artists develop a cultural movement influenced by the D.I.Y attitude and underground youth cultures of skateboarding, graffiti and punk rock.”- a couple of the subjects include Spike Jonze and Harmony Korine), Humble Pie (comedy about a hefty young dude who wants to be an actor), Lion’s Den (Argentina’s entry for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar is this drama about a young woman trying to raise her child while she’s in prison), Somers Town (two unlikely friends in London deal with homelessness, family prejudice, and loving the same girl), The Boy With the Sun in His Eyes (from Bangor, Maine’s own indie auteur Todd Verow comes his latest gay-themed thriller), Into the Storm (Brendan Gleeson takes over the role of Winston Churchill from Albert Finney in this continuing BBC biopic about the legendary statesman).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Evangelion 1.01 (new Anime! There may be robots!), Merry Madagascar/Party With the Penguins (it’s a Christmas-related animated spinoff from the moderately-successful children’s series! Originality!), Runaway (indie thriller about a pair of young brothers trying to start over in a new town, until their past catches up with them), Shank (secretly-gay British skinhead tries to hide his sexuality from his droogs, which becomes more difficult when he falls in love with the French guy they were beating the crap out of; I’m sure the guys’ll be understanding…), Valley of the Heart’s Delight (Pete Postlethwaite stars in this 1930s-set thriller about a kidnapping, a reporter, and a lynch mob), and Videoport brings in four more episodes of the legendary comedy series MST3k (that’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 to the uninitiated): Warrior of the Lost World, Santa Claus, The Corpse Vanishes, and the all-time classic Night of the Blood Beast!
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).