Volume CCXXVI- Holiday Massacre
For the Week of 12/15/09
Videoport reminds you that you’ve still got…whoa…only ten days left until Christmas. Umm…don’t panic- Videoport’s got new and previously-viewed DVDs for sale, and gift certificates galore to take care of all those greedy, grasping little loved ones left on your shopping list.
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.)
>>> Andy suggests Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (in Sci Fi/Fantasy). What a good time to watch this movie again, or for the first time. The popular new 2009 Star Trek flick makes reference to the “no-win scenario” that Kirk is always on about in Khan, so that’s cool. But, of course, the movie stands on its own as one of the all-time great space action adventures. The exciting scenes of Kirk and Khan engaging in battle are like watching the coolest-ever game of chess…with spaceships! The cast of the original series returns: William Shatner gives perhaps his greatest performance (seriously- I’m not being flippant or condescending- he’s great), Leonard Nimoy, Deforest Kelley- both wonderful. Ricardo Montalban and his amazing chest return from the ‘Space Seed’ episode of the series to play Khan, on of the great scene villains (can you tell I love this movie?) Even Walter Koenig returns as Chekov, which is funny because he recognizes Khan when they meet, even though Koenig was not a ‘Star Trek’ castmember when ‘Space Seed’ aired. Look at me, I’m a nerd!*
*Editor’s note: It’s true.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Desk Set (in Classics). Bunny Watson (Katherine Hepburn), the brisk and busy head of the research library at a prominent television network, finds her bustling office thrown out of whack when the executives bring in EMERAC, a wall-sized computer, accompanied by its gruff and unpretentious inventor Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy). Fearing Sumner’s invention will replace her staff researchers, Bunny stands up to Sumner’s questions with withering civility and sharp wit, delivered as only Hepburn can do it. Tracy takes it with blank good humor, and gives us a gruffly charming performance as a preoccupied genius with little interest in social graces, in stark contrast to Bunny’s slick and ingratiating junior-executive gentleman friend. The film is a trifle, but a delightful one, and it rapidly leads up to Christmas festivity that verges on the frantic, with an office party blow-out to top all blow-outs.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Welcome to the Sticks (in Foreign Language). Sometimes a customer will ask for a good foreign language comedy and I go blank for a second. Comedy is such a verbal thing, and translation (no matter how good the subtitles) almost invariably flattens it out. (Think about it- the most popular cross-cultural comedies are usually either nonverbal [Jaques Tati] or hyper-physical and broad [Roberto Begnini, Jerry Lewis].) The closest I can usually get is something wry, whimsical, and more properly called a drama (something like Il Postino maybe), so it was a relief to discover this unassuming little French comedy, a refreshingly-ordinary little story that, no doubt, some Hollywood company has already optioned as a vehicle for some second-tier star. Tim Allen maybe, or Kevin James. It’s the story of a mild-mannered post office manager who, in response to his wife’s nagging him to obtain a transfer to a cushier post on the Riviera, makes a wildly ill-conceived bid, only to see himself transferred to a tiny town on the Belgian border. What you get from there is pretty standard stuff, as the city guy, comically misinformed about the dreaded ‘north’ starts out all stuffy and disdainful of his new coworkers’ accents (some deft subtitle jokes here) and funny ways, but then gets to like and understand them, etc, etc. Like I said, pretty standard stuff, but pleasant and actually funny in a way that most (like me) monoligual Americans will easily recognize and largely appreciate. (Oh, and check out OSS 117, another recent French comedy [a James Bond spoof] that is so inspired and goofy that language again is not an obstacle.)
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests The Lion in Winter (in Classics). James Goldman’s stage play of royal family drama is brought to gleefully, grubby life on the screen in The Lion in Winter. It’s Christmas at the castle. The Queen is imprisoned in the tower, and each of Henry II’s prospective heirs has his eye on the throne. How jolly! If you think your family dynamics are a little overwrought, The Lion in Winter will one-up you on every front. The wrangling, slanging marriage between Henry Plantagenet (Peter O’Toole) and Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katherine Hepburn) will make your parents look like lovebirds, and the self-serving treachery of their sons (including an impossibly young Anthony Hopkins in his film debut) makes your bullying, bickering siblings seem positively cheerful. For all its scathing, railing dialogue, the film has a certain buoyant spirit; the whole family is vicious and manipulative, but they certainly are exuberant about it! It’s rather cheering, really… and whatever your family tensions, at least you’re not bickering over a throne. There’s always that.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Dennis suggests not letting children touch our DVDs. Or drunks. Or domesticated monkeys. Or the inconsiderate. Those groups have trouble remembering that you don’t touch the shiny side of a DVD, ever.
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 Brazil (in Feature Drama/the Criterion Collection). If holiday shopping has soured your mood, you’re ripe for Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. In this dystopian consumer-driven future, the streets are full of overloaded shoppers; characters exchange dreadfully pointless pieces of overpriced, over-manufactured junk; a little girl demands that Santa bring her a credit card of her very own. The children of the Buttle household, where there is no chimney but only the ever-present vents, worry that Saint Nick will not visit them on Christmas Eve. How right they are. Whatever holiday you celebrate, take a well-deserved break and enjoy the perverse pleasures of Brazil.
>>>For Sunday, the Anonymous Videoport Drop Box Reviewer suggests Incubus (in Foreign Language). Hey guys, I don’t know if you have noticed this actor that I have been seeing all over the place. He’s been in movies as diverse as Fanboys and Free Enterprise, as well as several television commercials. I’m not sure what his name is but he always plays a character named ‘William Shatner’. He seems totally committed to his character and is very convincing- really fantastic stuff. So I mentioned this guy to a friend of mine, and she told me that he’s been acting for a very long time, especially on television shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘T.J. Hooker’, but he’s most famous for a science fiction show called ‘Star Search’. In that show he played Colonel Klink, and would pal around the universe with his buddies Dr. Spock and Dr. ‘Boner’ McCoy (a urologist?), fighting the evil Crampons and the insidious Raglians. But my favorite thing that the actor who plays ‘William Shatner’ has been in is a movie called Incubus. Incubus was made in 1965 and, although shot in the US, will most likely be found in the foreign section*. The reason for this is it’s the only film to date to be shot in Esperanto. Esperanto is an artificial language invented by a Russian philologist (look it up) in the 19th century to be a kind of universal language, so, naturally, no one speaks it. It’s basically the story of a female demon who falls in love with a man of high moral character and tries to corrupt him. When he tries to do the right thing and make an honest woman out of her, the demon feels rejected and violated. To get revenge, she and her other demon cohorts summon the Incubus to kill the character played by the actor who also plays ‘William Shatner’. I really like the look of this movie, starkly shot in black and white. It has plenty of religious and even satanic iconography. Although my absolute favorite thing in this movie is a fight scene involving the female lead and a goat. Seriously, how often do you see a woman fight a goat? That’s gotta be the coolest thing ever. Anyhoo, in closing, although the whole ‘William Shatner’ thing is fun and good for a laugh, I’d like to see this very talented actor stretch a little and play some more varied roles like he used to.
*Editor’s note: Yup.
Fine, Fine, We Give Up… (or Videoport Now Carries Blu-Ray…Hooray!!!!)
Well, blu-ray has been around for a good, long while now, and the very, very slight interest in it has grown to a very slight interest, so we’ve brought in the first batch of blu-ray discs to the store. Why the wait? Well: 1. It’s pretty superfluous; it’s more expensive than DVD, and requires very expensive TV and sound systems to show any upgrade at all (and that cost doesn’t include the cost of a whole blu-ray player). 2. Videoport’s Jordan (the most fanatical audio/visual tech geek in the history of the world) estimates that, on his space-age equipment, there’s about a 25% improvement in picture over DVD and absolutely no upgrade in sound quality. 3. It seems like a marginally-improved technology which has been massively hyped in order to make people buy the movies and TV shows they already have all over again. Anyhoo, if you’ve already joined the blu-ray revolution, please peruse the following list of Videoport’s inaugural blu-ray trial balloon and rent the heck out of ’em (if you want us to expand the collection), enjoy your major equipment purchases, and remember- since they’re all new, we’ll be able to know exactly who’s mistreating them, so DON’T TOUCH THE SHINY SIDE!!!:
American History X
The Dark Knight
Fast & Furious
Full Metal Jacket
The Getaway (Steve McQueen version, of course)
Ghost In the Shell 2.0
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
I Am Legend
Ice Age: The Dawn of the Dinosaurs
In the Realm of the Senses
A Knight’s Tale
The Last Samurai
Last Year at Marienbad
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Live Free or Die Hard
‘Mad Men’- season 1
‘Mad Men’- season 2
The Perfect Storm
‘Planet Earth’- the Complete Series
Quantum of Solace
Requiem for a Dream
Silence of the Lambs
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
State of Play
Terminator Salvation- Director’s Cut
There Will Be Blood
2001: A Space Odyssey
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
The Usual Suspects
V for Vendetta
The Wages of Fear
Watchmen- The Director’s Cut
The Wedding Singer
The Wild Bunch
X Men Origins: Wolverine
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
New Releases this week at Videoport: Inglourious Basterds (the new Quentin Tarantino movies here! And it’s a completely bananas and completely awesome WWII action/drama/revisionist history and you can find it in Videoport’s Incredibly Strange section; yeah, we put it there, and there’s nothing you can do about it…), The Hangover (some drinking buddies lose their friend/the groom after a blackout bachelor party night in Vegas in this comedy starring Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, and Zach Galafianakis; some of you may have heard of it), G Force (the week’s release that Zach Galafianakis is perhaps less happy about, in this one he’s the human pal of a litter of wisecracking, CGI guinea pigs voiced by the likes of such other overqualified and justifiably-sheepish stars as Sam Rockwell, Penelope Cruz, and Tracy Morgan), The Other Man (Liam Neeson thinks wife Laura Linney is cheating on him with Antonio Banderas; that’s whom I’d suspect too…), ‘Robot Chicken’- season 4 (Seth Green continues to get laughs and mileage out of his childhood toybox with this stop-motion animated show), ‘The Tudors’- season 3 (they decided to shut this series down right before Henry VIII stopped being so hot), Taking Woodstock (Ang Lee directs this whimsical period piece about a shy young guy [comedian Demetri Martin] who finds himself instrumental in bringing the legendary music festival to his parents’ sleepy little town), ‘The Drinky Crow Show’- season 1 (new spazzed-out, 11 minute episodes of hilarity from the Adult Swim people; this one features alums of ‘Mr. Show’, ‘The Simpsons’, and Dave Herman, from Office Space), ‘Lucy: The Daughter of the Devil’- season 1 (created by alums of ‘Home Movies’, this one boasts the voice of Coach McGuirk himself Jon Benjamin as Satan!), Hollywood, Je T’aime (a depressed gay Frenchman comes to Hollywood to try and be a movie star), Summer Hours (Juliette Binoche stars in this bittersweet French comedy about a trio of adult siblings coping with the disposition of their mother’s estate after she dies),
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Chai Lai Angels (it’s a Thai version/ripoff of Charlie’s Angels! I have literally no idea how to respond to this!), The Girl From Monaco (French dramedy about a high-powered defense attorney, the Russian mob, his bodyguard, and a dizzy weathergirl on the make), Collision (British miniseries about the investigation into the lives of the people involved in a deadly car crash…or collision, if you will), Place of the Execution (another British psychological thriller, this time about a filmmaker looking into a famous, forty-year old murder case; starring Truly, Madly, Deeply’s Juliet Stevenson), ‘Mondovino’- the complete series (wine, wine, and more wine in this documentary series…about wine!).