VideoReport #235

Volume CCXXXV- Rodan With One Red Shoe

For the Week of 2/16/10

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Videoport gives you five or ten free bucks (with our fantastically-generous savings plans). Videoport gives you unparalleled movie selection and customer service. Videoport even gives you free parking. Ask us for more examples of how awesome we are.

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 Pontypool (in Horror). From indie director Bruce McDonald (The Tracey Fragments, Hard Core Logo) comes Pontypool, a deliciously taut, intelligently told thriller that breaks all the rules of zombie outbreak films, starting with the most important one: there are no zombies. What do I mean? If a zombie film has no zombies, what the heck does the word even mean? Well, exactly. Grizzled veteran actor Stephen McHattie exercises his gruff charm and silky-rough voice as washed-up radio host Grant Mazzy, who starts the morning with announcements of missing cats and snow day rosters, and ends it as the lone broadcaster detailing a mysterious outbreak of violence and illness. The tale is a masterpiece of mediated storytelling: Mazzy and his crew are glued to their helm in the radio station, receiving updates from reporters and civilians in the field, which means that the tension is built by voices and words, not gruesome action scenes. And it works. Not only does it work; the tension becomes a self-feeding cycle as it gradually dawns on the radio troopers that their reports may be compounding the disaster. This is a lean, elegantly economical piece of storytelling that builds to a horrific crest by allowing us to invest in the players, to piece together their relationships and characters and to imagine for ourselves the horrors offstage… and then the action starts to spill over.

Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)

>>> Dennis suggests The Longest Yard (in Action). The original, obviously. While he’s never gonna win an Oscar (although I thought he was actually a legitimate nominee for Boogie Nights), there was a time when Burt Reynolds was not a much-parodied laughingstock, but a relatively respected actor. Especially before Hal Needham got a hold of him and he started to coast on smarm, cars, and countrified, corn-pone humor, Reynolds turned out some solid, macho character work in films like Deliverance and this grubby, profane prison flick. In it, Reynolds is Paul Crewe, a former hotshot NFL quarterback sentenced to hard time for drunk driving, among other things. Once incarcerated, Crewe finds himself being forced by the corrupt warden to helm the prison’s football team in a big game for big bucks, all the while becoming more sypathetic to his fellow prisoners’ plight. It’s a contrived set up, I suppose, but Reynolds is actually really good as the spolied yet conflicted former star. (Plus, he’s genuinely convincing as a football player; he was as college star at FSU and was actually drafted by the Baltimore Colts.) You can see that it once was not such a laughable idea that Reynolds was considered for the same roles as Paul Newman, at least for a while; he’s got charisma, and, at least at this point in his career, he wasn’t always content to just coast on it. Plus, the climactic, absurdly-violent big game against a team made up of the guards, is as rudely-entertaining as the one the concludes MASH, and the film’s even got a great last line/scene. Forget the Sandler version (although Sandler also has proven himself a capable dramatic actor when he’s not being so damned lazy), and check out the real deal.

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Beetlejuice (in Comedy). See it again because: 1. you forgot that Michael Keaton was so ribald and nasty and hilarious! 2. You love doing the Banana Boat dance with the possessed guests. 3. Little Goth Winona is so darned cute. 4. Catherine O’Hara! 5. Alec Baldwin is all sandy-haired and genial, as if the studio was grooming him for golly-gee romantic comedies.

Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests High Fidelity (in Comedy). If you’re looking for a romantic comedy you can stomach, try High Fidelity, starring that twinkly-eyed icon of the rom-com, John Cusack, in a skillful adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel. It’s funny but honest; it’s touching and sweet and infuriating and frank; it has a killer soundtrack and Jack Black. Who could ask for anything more?

Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).

>>> Dennis suggests allowing your kids to monkey around, unsupervised, with your laptop. Oh, what’s that you say?- kids have neither the judgement, manual dexterity, or experience to handle your delicate, valuable equipment with care and respect? Huh, weird. Perhaps you could extrapolate that fact out to the handling of our DVDs…

Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Paranormal Activity (in Mystery/Thriller). The Blair Witch Project is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. The whole POV horror idea has been done before and since (Quarantine, The Last Broadcast, Cloverfield, REC, Diary of the Dead) to greater and lesser effect, but it’s a solid concept; horror (despite what gorefests like the Saw and Hostel franchises keep troweling on) thrives on what you don’t see. The limited perspective of a character’s view through a camera is, at least in theory, a tension-ratcheting goldmine where we, sharing the characters’ uncertainty and vulnerability, have the living crap scared out of us. Utilizing only the handheld cameras of two of it’s characters to tantalize and toy with us, The Blair Witch Project is utterly, queasily terrifying. Paranormal Activity, which uses a similar two camera setup, is…adequately scary. Also like TBWP, Paranormal Activity employs essentially nonprofessional actors and was a shockingly-successful ‘little movie that could’ semi-blockbuster, and that’s all well and good; unfortunately, it doesn’t rise to its forebear’s heights, but it’s good for some eek-y fun. The story of a pretty unlikable young couple dealing with the titular unexplained hoodoo by tracking around their soullessly-Pottery Barn-y home with a a pair of cameras, the movie has to be effective working around its actors, unfortunately; a lot of people singled out the admittedly douche-y boyfriend for most of the criticism, but I for one find the female lead possibly the most boring haunting victim since Catherine Zeta Jones in The Haunting remake. (The lovely Ms. Elsa S. Customer, with whom I watched this one as part of our horror movie Valentine’s tradition- I know, I am very lucky- said it was like watching Meadow Soprano vs. a ghost.) The film does take advantage of its chosen technique’s inherent possibilities with some nicely heebie-jeebie-inducing goings-on (I especially went weeeeaaaauhhhhh at some unexpected under-the-covers action), but it doesn’t do much with the characterizations, it doesn’t build tension (it just piles up startlingly-similar scare scenes), and, ultimately, it’s just not in Blair Witch‘s league. I especially felt like the nighttime camera, which goes into sped-up time lapse mode until it gets to the requisite next scare was pretty by-the-numbers. Still, it’s scarier than the next five Saw sequels combined, I’m sure.

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Amelie (in Foreign Language). Trying to show that you’re a romantic so-and-so, even after Valentine’s day is over? This movie is up to the challenge — better than a half-price heart-shaped box ‘ chocolates! Audrey Tatou is Amelié, the winsome waitress who spends her free moments anonymously engineering seemingly serendipitous events for her oblivious neighbors in Montmartre, Paris. The film indulges in the magical-realism school of storytelling, embroidering elaborate, improbable flights of fancy with a winking narrator’s voiceover and our ingenue’s knowing looks to the camera. It would be insufferably twee if it weren’t so luxuriously textured and beautifully told, with enchanting vignettes, marvelous acting, and the barest undertone of dark comedy (as expected from the director who also brought us the deliciously grisly Delicatessen).

New Releases this week at Videoport: Black Dynamite (hilarious blaxploitation spoof stars Michael Jai White [Spawn] as the baddest, sexiest, most deadpan action hero of the year), Law Abiding Citizen (the legal system doesn’t work! The only justice to be had comes from good ol’ vigilante justice! So goes the theme of this right-wing vengeance flick starring Gerard Butler as the MacGyver-y bereft dad out to set the liberals aright, and perhaps on fire, while Jamie Foxx lets criminals go free just because he believes in that pesky Constitution), Good Hair (Chris Rock and a host of black entertainers take an insightfully-humorous look at the sociological history of African American hair), Women in Trouble (Carla Gugino, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Showgirls’ Elizabeth Berkley, Josh Brolin, and others star in this sexy comedy which has been compared to the works of Pedro Almodovar; it’s probably not that good, but that’s a great recommendation), Coco Before Chanel (Amelie‘s Audrey Tatou cements her place as your mom’s favorite actress as she portrays the younger years of the titular famous fashion designer), Halo Legends (animated anthology series set in the Halo videogame universe).

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: ‘Immigrants: L.A. Dolce Vita’ (animated comedy about two Eastern European immigrants to Los Angeles trying to make it, and make it with chicks; Hank Azaria does one of the main voices), Revanche (one of two contemporary films the Criterion Collection thinks highly enough of to give the full Criterion treatment, this one follows an Austrian small time crook, his prostitute girlfriend, and a small town cop, all miserable and caught in life’s merciless clutches), Hunger (the other new Criterion release, this searing biopic of legendary IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands stars the excellent Michael Fassbender [of Inglourious Basterds]), ‘Head Case’- season 2 (the continuing ethically-shaky psychiatric adventures of a shrink whose own instability doesn’t keep an impressive roster of famous real-life actors from seeking out her advice), Sita Sings the Blues (indescribably odd and charming animated tale follows the Hindu goddess Sita as she follows one man and is abducted by another, all the while singing about it all in jazz standards from the 1920s), The People Speak (massively star-studded documentary examines the social, racial, class, and gender issues of America through the lens of the book A People’s History of the United States by the late, great Howard Zinn), Downhill Racer (just in time for the Vancouver games, Videoport’s third addition to the Criterion Collection this week is this 1969 sports film, starring Robert Redford as an Olympic hopeful in some sort of winter sport…), Vision Quest (remember Matthew Modine? Sort of? Well this high school wrestler movie was the film that made people think he was going to be the next Tom Cruise; it’s probably for the best that there’s only one…), Les Miserables (the [thankfully non-musical] adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush), ‘The Whitest Kids U’ Know’- season 2 (the mediocre sketch troupe returns [after the massive failure of their reprehensible big screen debut Miss March]).

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Law Abiding Citizen, The Rundown, Revanche, Sunshine Cleaning, A Scanner Darkly, L.A. Confidential, The Proposition, Heathers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Galaxy Quest.

“Krush Korner”- an exclusive VideoReport film essay by Videoport customer B.S. Eliot

1. Matthew Grey Gubler- This prim and proper Ph.D-collecting profiler is criminally cute on TV’s “Criminal Minds”.

2. Patricia Arquette- From confusing femme fatale in Lost Highway to adorably sleep-deprived psychic super-mom on “Medium”, she does it all.

3. Rutger Hauer- When I think cyber-punk (and I often do), I think bleach-blonde bio-mechanical eye candy Roy Batty from Blade Runner (p.s. the dove? His idea! The “tears in rain” line? Also his!!)

4. Mariska Hargitay- “Law & Order SVU”‘s detective Benson, TV’s sexiest cop on TV’s unsexiest show.

5. Gael Garcia Bernal- God invented the 5 o’clock shadow for this chico muy guapo, who is at his cutest/silliest/all-around heartbreakingest in The Science of Sleep.

6. Mia Farrow- As the androgen-chic mother-to-be in Rosemary’s Baby she is possibly the most beautiful girl ever captured on film.

Got a list of your favorite cinematic crushes or literally anything else even remotely movie-related you want the world to know about? Just drop them off at Videoport or send them (or your movie reviews) to us at denmn@hotmail.com, our Myspace page http://www.myspace.com/videoportjones or our movie blog http://www.videoportjones.wordpress.com! And, hey, since we’re in super-plug mode, be sure to check out Videoport Jones’ guest spot in Justin Ellis’ weekly movie blog on the Portland Press Herald‘s web site!

Free Money at Videoport! $20 buys you $25 in store credit! $30 buys you $40! No catch, just free money!

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