Volume CCXXVII- Godzilla’s Christmas Wish
For the Week of 12/22/09
Videoport says go ahead and look at the date above. Yeah. Three days before Christmas. You can go ahead and panic now. (See Tuesday’s recommendations for our last-minute desperation gift guide!)
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 Three Days of the Condor (in Mystery/Thriller). Robert Redford, in all his shaggy-blond mid-seventies glory, stars as bookish low-level CIA paper-pusher Joe Turner. His code name: Condor. His job: he sits in a small office in a Manhattan brownstone and reads novels, newspapers, and articles, compiles reports on emerging patterns, and sends off his findings to some other office somewhere. It’s the antithesis of all the glamorous spy novels and daring, resourceful agents that other films sell us. In Turner’s own panicked words, “I’m not a field agent. I just read books!” When his unassuming little office is targeted by a killer, Condor escapes by luck and finds himself on the run on the streets of New York City, not knowing who to trust or to fear. A doe-eyed, strikingly lovely Faye Dunaway plays the cool but terrified woman forced to help him, and Max von Sydow is marvelously chilling as the calm, collected killer. Three Days of the Condor takes place in New York at Christmastime, a festive background that highlights the paranoia and alienation coursing through the story.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> In lieu of our usual, scintillating Tuesday movie recommendation from the Classics or Action sections, (and at least partially because no one sent in a Tuesday recommendation this week- send yours to email@example.com), here are some recommendations for those last-minute holiday panic presents we’ve all got hanging over us: 1. Videoport gift certificates! 2. Videoport’s selection of new and previously-viewed DVDs for sale (and remember you get a free rental for yourself when you buy one). 3. We can still special order any movie we don’t have in stock; it won’t get here in time for the big day, but we’ll issue you a gift certificate you can give to the lucky so-and-so. 4. Big-ass boxes of jelly beans. Videoport- we’ve got you covered.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests About a Boy (in Comedy). Are you being driven mad by the ever-present Christmas music piped into stores and malls? Have I got a movie for you: Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) is a free-living bachelor who dreads only two things: the emptiness of his days, and the Christmas season. You see, Will is gainfully unemployed, a lush-life layabout living off his father’s legacy: residuals from the one-hit holiday song, “Santa’s Super Sleigh.” Arrested in adolescence by a life without demands and only his own appetites to please, Will may seem like a born playboy, but in fact, he’s never progressed beyond mere “boy.” The story: an aging hipster with a deep fear of commitment and a carefully crafted personal bubble collides with the real world, here in the form of an ungainly adolescent and his deeply earnest hippie-dippie mother (Nicholas Hoult and Toni Colette, both in marvelously layered performances). It’s adapted from the novel by Nick Hornby, who endows these seemingly aimless and unpleasant characters with empathetic and deeply human traits. This is why, when Will engages in truly appalling behavior, we can almost sympathize with him; he’s really a child trying to muddle along in a man’s life. (Hugh Grant’s trademark twinkle does its work here, too; another actor would have a harder row to hoe. Boy oh boy, I respect Grant more and more as he gets older and explores these less likeable characters.)
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Eyes Wide Shut (in Feature Drama). At a time when we’re steeped in Christmas classics, it’s tempting to explore the underbelly of holiday films: Christmas movies that don’t feel like Christmas. Kubrick’s controversial final film is perhaps the least family-friendly of the bunch, unless your kids love meandering tales of urban misadventure, marital strife, and secret sexual cabals of rich, powerful men and doped-out supermodel types. After a disturbing evening at a wealthy client’s holiday party and a disillusioning argument with his beautiful wife (Nicole Kidman), Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) wanders around the streets of New York in a fit of jealousy and envy. It’s never quite clear, however, what sparks his jealousy: his wife’s fantasy revelations or the sexual power his client wields. Bill all but sleepwalks through the film, which is a vague, quasi-sexual odyssey of frustration and missed connections, all shot against the background of a city festooned with holiday ornaments. Though Eyes Wide Shut was promoted as an erotic thriller, it is anything but; it’s a dark examination of class and economic power. Even the Christmas trimmings and tinsel show the economic core of the film: the contrast between the lush decor of the upper-crust homes and the pathetic glimmer of downmarket locales speaks louder than words could do. With its emphasis on the transactional dynamics that plague modern society, and the ways we try to buy and sell each other’s attention and affection… hey, it just may be a modern American Christmas movie after all.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests A Muppet Christmas Carol. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is indisputably a classic, but the many, many film versions of the tale rarely rise to the challenge it poses; too often, they are more “chestnut” than “classic,” and usually the more gimmicky they are, the worse they are. A Muppet Christmas Carol manages to to meld together two wildly disparate voices — the light, antic tone of Jim Henson’s Muppets with the crisp, wry tenor of Dickens’ original story. Ably assisted by Michael Caine as the dour old miser himself, The Muppets bring the Victorian flavor of the tale to the screen with verve and spirit.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (in Documentary). Errol Morris is the greatest documentarian of all time. Yeah, I said it. In most of his films, he’s able to take on a conventional documentary subject and, through filming and interview techniques as unique as they are subtle, transform his films into something riveting and mysteriously moving. Seriously, you should check them all out sometime. Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control is perhaps his most unusual film, in that its thesis takes its sweet time revealing itself. At the start, and for some time thereafter, its intercut interviews among a seemingly-unrelated quartet of men with decidedly-odd jobs (robot designer, expert on the naked mole rat, topiary gardner, lion tamer), while interesting, seem to have little in common. It’s as the film goes on, and Morris’ masterful editing and use of haunting music and stock footage draws the four middle-aged men’s stories closer together, that his themes are revealed, and, if you’re like me, you’re sitting their in awe. It’s that good.
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests sending in your lists of the best and worst films of the year! Check out page 2 for part 1 of the picks of the Videoport film geek community and then send in your votes to us at firstname.lastname@example.org our Facebook page Videoport Jones or our Myspace page http://www.myspace.com/videoportjones! Oh, and, while you’re on the computer, check out our movie blog at http://www.videoportjones.wordpress.com!
New Releases this week at Videoport: District 9 (weird, exciting sci fi from South Africa about a race of aliens living in uneasy proximity to humanity; and then the explosions start!), ‘Pale Force’ (animated sries about the imaginary herioc adventures of fellow comics, and melanin-deprived Irish lads Jim Gaffigan and Conan O’Brien), Herb & Dorothy (documentary about a married postal clerk and librarian who managed to amass one of the most important collections of contemporary art in the world), ‘Cake Boss’ (cooking series about a loud fellas who likes to make the cakes), The Dog Who Saved Christmas (it may be about some sort of dog, perhaps one who saves Christmas), (500) Days of Summer (oddly punctuated indie romance starring twinkly indie staples Zoey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt), ‘Family Guy: Something Something Something Dark Side’ (the TV series that everyone loves but I think is the animated devil is back with yet another Star Wars parody), All About Steve (before she bounced back to relevant-town with The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock’s career was pronounced dead with this abrasive dark comedy), Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Michael Douglas is back being sleazy as a crooked politician in this thriller), Extract (Mike Judge’s winning streak [Office Space, ‘King of the Hill’, Idiocracy] comes to an end with this well-cast but disappointing comedy starring Jason Bateman), Blind Date (co-great actors Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci co-star in this drama about an estranged couple who meet for a series of the titular blind dates to try and work things out), It Might Get Loud (Musical documentary follows three generations of guitar gods, Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White as they compare axe theory and then jam).
At Christmas, not about Christmas
Tis the season… to be fed up with tinsel and carols, with bustling crowds and brimming cups of nog. If you’re exhausted from the holiday whirl, relax with these seasonal films that take place at Christmastime but are decidedly un-Christmassy.
The Lion in Winter
The Shop around the Corner
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Better Off Dead
Eyes Wide Shut
Meet John Doe
Three Days of the Condor
Bell Book and Candle
The Thin Man
The Ice Harvest
Less Than Zero
The Videoport film geeks pick their best and worst films released on DVD in 2009! (Look for more next week when everyone else realizes they forgot!)
15. Synecdoche, NY
14. Drag Me to Hell
13. I Love You Man
12. Let the Right One In
11. Funny People
10. The Wrestler
9. Pineapple Express
8. World’s Greatest Dad
7. Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog
6. The Limits of Control
5. Observe and Report
4. Inglourious Basterds
3. Away We Go
The Best TV on DVD: Will Ferrell: You’re Welcome America- A Final Night With George W. Bush, ‘Eastbound & Down’, ‘Scrubs’- season 8, ‘The Office’- season 5, Stella: Live in Boston, ’30 Rock’- season 3, Patton Oswalt: My Weakness Is Strong, and, greatest of all…’The State’- the complete series!!!!!
The Worst (that I actually saw): Babylon AD, My Best Friend’s Girl, My Bloody Valentine, Land of the Lost, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Blood: The Last Vampire, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
WALTZ WITH BASHIR
‘VENTURE BROS.’ SEASON 3
SITA SINGS THE BLUES*
THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THRU TIME*
Ed the Renter
OBSERVE & REPORT
‘BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’ SEASON 4
‘WIRE’ SEASON 5
DR. HORRIBLES SING ALONG BLOG
DEATH NOTE 2
FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH REMAKE
Notice how this year tv totally kicked the movies butt-take note hollywood!!
*V-port doesn’t have these (yet)-so order them and get a free rental-plug plug!!
3. Star Trek
4. District 9
Top 10 DVDs of 2009:
1. Observe & Report: My pick for the boldest and most surprising movie of the year. And it’s funny, too.
2. Religulous: Larry Charles and Bill Maher have a lot of important and necessary things to say. Good thing they’re funny, too.
3. Star Trek: The most fun I had at a movie all year. And with Simon Pegg in the cast, you know it’s going to be funny, too.
4. Drag Me to Hell: Sam Raimi returns to horror with spectacularly gross and scary results. And it’s funny, too.
5. Anvil! The Story of Anvil: These guys seriously rock, and their plight is the stuff of great drama. And it’s funny, too.
6. Inglourious Basterds: It’s gripping and violent and painfully suspenseful, all while being funny, too.
7. Let the Right One In: A sweet and touching story about the friendship between a 12 year old outcast and the lonely vampire girl who moves in next door. And it’s funny, too.
8. Thirst: The other excellent foreign vampire film that came out this year. And you know what? It’s funny, too.
9. I Love You, Man: Rudd and Segal and the adorable Rashida Jones doing their hilarious improv-y thing. And it’s funny, too!
10. Tyson: Wow. I was surprised and riveted by the fight scenes and Mike’s candid and eloquent comments about his own life. Not funny.