Justin Ellis (Portland Press Herald) & I on the new stuff for 1/12/10!

Perhaps there is hope yet for the future of DVD releases in 2010! This week not only do we have a political thriller (a British one!) but a character study, a quiet little sci fi epic and two of our favorite men on the earth, Sam Rockwell and Patton Oswalt. Yes, Videoport Jones, there is hope. Also, more remakes.

Then again…

Big Fan

Videoport Jones: “In a big, big new release week, this is my pick. The pedigree is impeccable, with Robert Siegel (writer of ‘The Wrestler’) writing and directing, and personal hero/standup legend/hobbit Patton Oswalt. Oswalt stars as Paul Aufiero, a dumpy (sorry Patton) little 36-year old parking garage

You will stop calling me 'dumpy'...

attendant who lives with his mom, is looked down upon by his loathsome lawyer brother, and whose only sense of self-worth derives from his passionate devotion to the New York football Giants, and his nightly calls to a sports call-in show where his carefully-pre-written takes as ‘Paul from Staten Island’ are his one creative outlet. When Paul and his only friend (the ever-excellent Kevin Corrigan, whom I maintain will become the next generation’s Christopher Walken) follow Paul’s idol, Giant’s player Quantrell Bishop, things go as badly as they can, and Paul is beaten senseless. What follows is a heartbreaking, intense character study (think Rupert Pupkin, Travis Bickle, and Seth Rogen in ‘Observe and Report’) that allows for Oswalt to show that he is a dramatic actor to be reckoned with and one of the most unexpected and affecting films of the (admittedly new) DVD year. And yeah, before anyone else says it, my position as a rabid (Red Sox) fan, constantly decked out in game jerseys, and sporting my one tattoo (of the Red Sox “B” over my heart in payment to the baseball gods) perhaps provides me with an unique perspective, but it’s a really good movie regardless. (Would I go to Paul’s extremes if David Ortiz punched me in the face? Well, I’d like to think not…)”

Justin: “After following Papi and Jacoby Ellsbury into a Southie club they say Jonesy was never right in the head again. They tuned him up real bad…ANYWAY! ‘Big Fan,’ I am a very happy man to see you arrive on DVD. It’s been a long time since I have actively chased a movie around just to watch it. The NXT Gal and I have had near-misses with this movie in several cities that only served to make us more excited to see it. How could you NOT want to see this movie? Patton Oswalt people! A character study on sports fans! Depressing set pieces! OK, so maybe it’s not exactly in everyone’s wheelhouse, but it is in mine. What makes movies like ‘Big Fan’ interesting is that it’s like a crack in the door to a room you can’t go in and spying on what is going on inside. In this case the room is a lonely, desolate place that no one would want to spend too long in. This movie isn’t a tale of ‘what happens when someone takes their fandom too far,’ but instead a look at longing and obsession. Don’t expect to get an warm fuzzies out of this one or any life lessons, just a good (though not exactly uplifting) movie.”

Moon

VPJ: “Sam Rockwell, ladies and gentlemen. One of the most valuable supporting guys in the universe, Rockwell is usually too weird and interesting to get a lead, but here (as in ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’ and ‘Lawn Dogs’), Sam shows how he can bring a sympathetically-oddball movie to life. In this sci fi flick, Sam plays, well, Sam, the sole human employee of a mining facility on the, well, moon. He’s due for relief after a three year stint when he gets into an accident on the lunar surface and, well, I’m not

Hey, there's somebody cooler than me over there... Oh wait, that's impossible!

telling what happens next. And I grant all readers the authority to whip a battery at anybody who threatens to spill the beans; it’s one of those movies. Anyway, as Twilight Zone-y cool as the plot eventually ends up being, it’s Rockwell’s show, and he runs with it. Sure, maybe I could wish that the third act built up a little more tension, but ‘Moon’ is a pretty gripping ride, with Rockwell anchoring the enterprise with his fascinatingly-offbeat charisma. Fun, thought-provoking movie – and please, chuck batteries at anybody you even think is planning to spoil your Videoport-given right to experience it.”

JE: “Oh Sam Rockwell you have a strange combination of comic energy and intensity that always goes down smooth. I feel like I am in a small club of people who seriously enjoyed the oddity that was ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,’ which was also propelled largely by Rockwell. Heck he made watching ‘Charlie’s Angels’ somewhat bearable. Yes, even with 2.5 very attractive women in the mix it was Sammy that made me stick around. The other part being Bill Murray. ANYWAY, ‘Moon’ had what I would call a stealth release over the summer, which as you can expect is a TERRIBLE time to set free an independent sci fi movie. With giant robots, super heroes and all other kinds of big budget shenanigans running free during that time Sam’s adventure got lost in the shuffle. As you said Jonesy this flick has a very serious Twilight Zone/Outer Limits feel to it, which is to say it plays on that line between science fiction, thrillers and commentary. If you are the type of person who likes sci fi that is not watered down, go see this. If you are a person who likes watching an actor completely and utterly take over a movie, go rent this. If, like me and my esteemed colleague, you enjoy Sam Rockwell, go rent this. I guess what I’m saying is you should really be renting this right now. Go.”

The Hurt Locker

VPJ: “People are very excited about this! It’s a shoo-in Best Picture nominee! I wish I’d had time to see it! *Cough* In lieu of faking my way through a half-assed review of this purportedly-gripping Iraq War (the current one) drama about a thrill-addict bomb disposal expert, I’ll just offer one highly irrelevant factoid and then pass this over to you, Justin. Star Jeremy Renner, who’s also getting major Oscar buzz, guest starred in an episode of ‘Angel’ once; I thought he was fine and never thought I’d hear his name again. Shows me…”

JE: “Jonesy you and your quirky Whedon-related trivia. We could spend the better part of two days playing six degrees of separation in the Whedon-verse. But we’ll spare the readers that…for now. This film has a case of the ‘critically-acclaimeds,’ which is to say it is heavy with praise from critics and all other types of smart people. This may not be a bad thing. But unlike the two of us, all those smart people have the power to collectively shift public opinion in certain moments. By all indicators ‘The Hurt Locker’ is a unique war movie that looks at a contemporary conflict through ways we don’t often see as moviegoers or civilians. War flicks typical take on the everyday soldier as the hero, the kid from Iowa or the hardened vet. But here we have a group of guys who arguably have one of the worst jobs in an area filled with terrible jobs. What does it take to not only do a job like that but survive the physical and psychological dangers that go along with it? This is just part of what makes ‘The Hurt Locker’ a compelling movie and one that most people should watch and come to their own conclusions.”

Halloween 2

VPJ: “What do you want me to say? Director/rocker Rob Zombie has the reputation of a ballsy rebel filmmaker (and, while I think he’s got a lot to learn before he can be considered a ‘good’ filmmaker, I do have to admire his willingness to go right over the top), and that’s all well and good, but what to make of his penchant for remakes and sequels? Not exactly the maverick move, is it Rob? Even though he’s taking on his (and one of my) hero’s horror classics, well, it’s still a remake, and therefore highly unnecessary, especially when he misses the point so entirely. We don’t want to see Michael Myers as a sad widdle kid, all abused and stuff. Michael Myers just is, he just does, and that’s what makes him scary. Anyway, Zombie’s plowed on and remade the second Halloween movie (which Carpenter didn’t even direct), with Big Mike slashing his way through a hospital in search of his prey, and yeah it’s bloody, and the death scenes are amped up, and there are a few decent jumps (Zombie’s got some skills), and old pros Malcolm McDowell and Brad Dourif are always welcome, but the whole thing remains utterly unnecessary.”

JE: “Pat I’d like to solve the puzzle: ‘He did it for the money!’ Sorry, but as the unapologetic horror non-fan I’m gonna have to say that not only is this remake unnecessary but the original remake was too. I think I’m not taking too much of a stretch saying we’re in the same camp when it comes to remakes. The question is always ‘Why? A thousand whys?’ I mean we’re beyond the point of questioning the depths (or lack of) creativity and original storytelling, right? At this point we’re onto remaking remakes aren’t we? I’m waiting for someone to remake, oh, I’m sorry, ‘re-imagine’ this blog with Jack and DVDport Johnson! Remakes are about as useful as a dog helping you with a Mad-Lib.  And they make just about as much sense. The good remake is the exception that makes the rule, right? Or is that an oxymoron?  So when we come back to the question of ‘Halloween 2’ I’m not being too cynical when I say CA-CHING! Rob more than likely has his eye on bigger, gorier and ghastlier projects, which is good for him. But don’t expect us to tolerate an infinite loop of retreads. Which reminds me, have you seen the trailer for the ‘A-Team’ movie…”

In the Loop

VPJ: “Savagely funny political satire from England, with a British political aide’s off-the-cuff comments about the inevitability of an armed conflict providing the impetus for furious, devious political maneuverings from both American and British politicians and military men, both hawks and doves. It’s a Brit ‘Wag the Dog,’ but meaner and a little smarter, and it can boast one of the years most entertaining character performances, by Scottish actor Peter Capaldi (he was the gentle Scots oil exec in my favorite film of all time ‘Local Hero,’ way back when), playing the most hilariously and ferociously foul-mouthed screen character in a good long while. He’s great, the movie’s sly, funny, and thought-provoking – what are you people waiting for?”

JE: “Satire? The British? NOOOOOOOO! Jonesy you know no one will be able to understand what the hell they are saying half the time! It’s like that time you tried to convince me Blackadder was funny and all it was is guys speaking gibberish in poofy outfits! I say NO! Actually, on second thought, I say yes. Here’s why: The Brits dry (also mean, as you said) comedic sensibility is a joy to behold because it walks to the line of that polite/restrained aspect of British culture and then subverts it or obliterates it all together. They are never ones to hit you over the head with plot themes or jokes like, say, much American entertainment. With ‘In the Loop’ we get all of that mashed-up with the Brit’s take on political and military culture here in the U.S. of  A. So instead of getting ‘Lions for Lambs’ or ‘Rendition’ you have a film that plays with themes of politics and war with the strange glee of a knife juggler. I too am a fan of Peter Capaldi, who is a ‘that guy’ if you watch enough British TV shows and mini series, but let’s not let that overshadow the biggest casting surprise of this movie: Anna Chlumsky! Yes, that’s right the star of ‘My Girl’ and ‘My Girl 2’ has resurfaced! Also, James Gandolfini is in this one, but so is ‘MY GIRL!’ Where has she been?”

I Can Do Bad All By Myself

VPJ: “Tyler Perry’s back and all girdled up again as sassy, moralizin’ Medea in yet another (he does churn ’em out, doesn’t he?) churchy morality play. This time about Medea forcing Taraji P. Hensen’s absentee singer mom to stop carousin’, drinkin’ and whatnot, and to take her children in hand. I haven’t seen this one, nor will I (one and a half doses of Perry in my life have been more than enough). I understand that his success is inspirational to some people, and I guess he’s basically harmless, but if I want to be lectured to for an hour and a half, I’ll take my lessons from someone much, much more talented. Hensen’s very lovely, though.”

JE: “You know you raise a very valid point. We’ve ragged on Tyler Perry from time to time for being more than a little sanctimonious in sensible pumps. But Perry clearly occupies a special place in some people’s hearts and DVD collections. Maybe not inspirational or even aspirational as a person, his stories fill a need some movie goers are looking for. Sure it may seem a little milquetoast and predictable to us, but as you say it is mostly harmless. He’s not ginnin’ up any bad feelings (he seems to actually be in the business of good feelings) or encouraging the youth of America to do dangerous stunts. And hey, he was OK in his small role in ‘Star Trek,’ so that has to be worth something, right? Now on the other hand if we’re talking about his awful TV shows that’s another issue all together.”

LIGHTENING ROUND! And the rest this week: Passing Strange (Spike Lee directs this filmed version of a Broadway musical), Fame (They really are gonna live forever. I blame the whole “High School Musical” mania for reviving this) The Burning Plain (The writer of “Amores Perros,” “21 Grams,” and “Babel” brings this similarly-wrenching tale of an estranged mother and daughter, played by Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron), Departures (Japanese whimsical drama about an unemployed musician who gets a job preparing corpses).

PARTING SHOTS:

– Why is Hollywood still remaking movies?
– Have you seen “The Hurt Locker?” Is it acclaim worthy?
– Could you recover from learning your sports hero is not a decent guy?
BONUS: Seriously, what happened to Anna Chlumsky?

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Published in: on January 12, 2010 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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