VideoReport #236

Volume CCXXXVI- Rodan Who Came to Dinner

For the Week of 2/23/10

Videoport gives you a free movie every day and, since we’ve got, oh, all the movies ever, you’ll never run out of choices.

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.)

>>>Dennis suggests Jubilee (in the Incredibly Strange section/The Criterion Collection). Sort of. I mean, I love things that are unabashedly creatively bananas, and I continue to applaud those kooks at Criterion for continuing to toss an unexpected screwball in giving their deluxe releases of the occasional out-of-its-tiny-little-mind film (see also: Equinox, Sweet Movie, Schizopolis, WR: Mysteries of the Organism, Science Is Fiction, By Brakhage, and others). That all being said, Jubilee is about as bananas as they come, a relic of early 80s punk England coupled with cult director Derek Jarman’s stylistic nutjobbery to form a compellingly-repellant bit of autuerist amateurism. It all starts when Queen Elizabeth I (the creepily-toothed Jenny Runacre), along with her court magician and her requisite dwarven woman servant, summons up an angel (a pastily-made up talking mime in a black unitard) in order to, well, she’s never that clear. What happens is Her Majesty and the gang are transporter to a slightly-more awful version of Thatcher-era England where an even-more fascist British government seems to rule the world, at least partly due to its co-opting of youth and pop culture, and generally weirdness. The urban landscape’s a burned out wasteland, roamed by wastrel youth gangs and painted punkers, none more painted nor wasted than the girl gang of the imperious Bod (also played by Runacre), who like to make long-winded proclamations of the punk worldview (they’re not very fond of things). In the middle of all this, we get lots of grubby non-gender-specific sex, some oddly unappealing nudity, dream sequences, endearingly-amateurish performances, and the occasional punk number by the likes of Adam Ant, The Slits, Siouxsie and the Banshees, flamboyant performance artist Orlando whose veiny bald head threatens to split open like a Monty Python cartoon when he flashes his impossibly huge, gold-capped smile, and the truly terrifying Toyah Wilcox as the buzz-cut, dyed red-head grinning little goblin punk Mad. What’s it all mean? Well, yeah. There’s some Godardian wall-breaking, some anti-establishment polemics, some weiners and boobs, some over-the-top production numbers, a score by Brian Eno. Weirdly, for such a legendary, seminal punk film, I don’t get the idea that Jarman was particularly impressed with punk or what it had to say (see April’s Tuesday review for more punk skepticism); he seems more at home with the Queen and her magician (Rocky Horror‘s Richard O’Brien) as they wander the land, making sad, poetic proclamations about it all. Still- keep the freakshow coming Criterion!

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

>>> Dennis suggests the magic that is Mid-Week renting! (See what happens when no one sends in a Tuesday review for the VideoReport? This is what you get…[send all reviews to denmn@hotmail.com!]) Sure everybody comes in to rent movies on the weekend; you don’t have work (unless you’re, you know, us), all hopped up on freedom and cheap hooch, and you want an armload of movies. We get it. But here’s a neat idea: rent your weekend movies during the week and avoid the wild-eyed rush, the desperate crush, the, um, frenzied flush! Try this, come in on a weekday, take advantage of our daily specials to get a free movie, extend your rentals to a week (for just 69 cents more) and you’re all set through the weekend. Plus, everything’s in! Think ahead, my friends, and be the early worm, and the ant and not the grasshopper, and all that stuff.

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests La Femme Nikita (in Foreign Language). If the phrase “foreign film” conjures up the image of dour Swedes lamenting the sadness of the winter night and smarmy Frenchmen in cigarette pants, this whip-smart action movie will change your outlook. Director Luc Besson brings us the story of Nikita, a teenage addict whose petty crimes escalate and whose self-control deteriorates until she is seemingly beyond help and beyond hope. She in given a choice that is no choice at all: train for a secret assassination squad or die in prison. The result: a resentful, viciously temperamental young woman with weapons, murderous skills, and no real freedom. It’s a fast-paced and taut thriller that hides a complex morality tale and a sweet romantic drama inside its engine.

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

>>> April suggests ‘The Tomorrow Show’ (in Popular Music). Tom Snyder knew nothing about punk and new wave but that didn’t stop him from having guests on his late night show that, quite frankly, seemed to amuse and frighten him. Gusts like Elvis Costello, The Jam, The Plasmatics, Iggy Pop, Joan Jett, Patti Smith, and the Ramones! The first episode is a roundtable discussion of punk and new wave with Joan Jett, Paul Weller, and Kim Fowley on the punk/new wave side and Bill Graham, Robert Hilburn, and Tom Snyder on the “what the f**k is punk/new wave?” side. At times funny, cringe-inducing, and informative, but really it’s just sad to see Joan Jett all hopped up on whatever she was on. I highly recommend this if you like any of these artists.

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests The Lion King. Hey, English majors everywhere, see if this sounds familiar: the dignified, righteous king dies of an apparent accident, which is in fact a cannily planned murder. The young prince is left to carry the anxiety, guilt, and traumatic memory with only the assistance of his uncle… who planned the brutal murder. That’s right: it’s Hamlet on the veldt.

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests you rent these movies that’ll make you want to rent more movies! (See what I did there?) First. there’s no better guide through the history of movies than Martin Scorcese; encyclopedic in knowledge, enthusiastic and insightful, the world’s (possibly) greatest director has brought us two documentaries A Personal Journey Through American Film With Martin Scorcese and My Voyage to Italy (both found in Videoport’s Documentary Arts section) where Marty brings takes a tour through the histories of both American and Italian film and explains which films informed his artistic worldview. As he narrates each doc in his inimitable fast-paced, jittery style, his enthusiasm for his favorite films (all illustrated by a wealth of pertinent clips) is infectious and endearing. Next, take a voyage to the significantly wackier history of the Australian film industry in Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation. A sexy, saucy, sleazy, violent journey through the birth and utterly uncouth and entertaining flourishing filmmaking Down Under, this one will send you scurrying for a pencil to jot down the titles of some completely disreputable antipodean movies. Then, to round this out, stay right there in the Documentary Arts section and rent A Decade Under the Influence, director Ted Demme’s well-compiled celebration of the American film industry of the 1970’s which he argues, quite convincingly, that that was the highest point of American movies, a decade where maverick directors such as Altman, Coppola, Scorcese, Bob Rafelson, Terrence Malick, Hal Ashby, Monte Hellman, and others were given the freedom to follow their individual artistic visions and produced a truly astounding crop of classic films. Renting these movies, in addition to reawakening your love of cinema, will also do nothing less than send you into a movie-renting frenzy which is, you know, good for us…

>>>For Sunday, Videoport customers Jason R. & Carol C. suggest Sugar (in Feature Drama). I really liked Half Nelson, but I put off watching Sugar (the writer/directors’ followup). This was largely due to the fact that a). I am not much of a baseball fan and b). even less of a fan of sports films , with their obligatory training montages and BIG GAME. Now I see how foolish I was. This is a great movie, as much about human relationships and social structures as it is about baseball. They even throw in a TV on the Radio song to hook all of the sports-hating/depressing music-loving hipsters.

New Releases this week at Videoport: The Damned United (Frost/Nixon’s Michael Sheen is great once again, this time playing a lesser-known [to non-British football fans] real-life figure, infamous soccer coach Brian Clough in this biopic), The Box (from cult director Richard Kelly of Donnie Darko [yay!] and Southland Tales [no so much!] fame comes this trippy thriller; it might star Cameron Diaz, but the real star’s the premise- a financially-strapped couple are delivered a box which, they are given to believe, will give them a million dollars if opened, but will also kill some random person they don’t know…dum-dum-DUMMMM…), The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh directs this oddball, real-life tale of a corporate whistleblower, played by a cheerily chubbed-out Matt Damon, who might be blowing the lid off of evil corporate shenanigans, be lying, be utterly nuts, or maybe a little from all columns), The September Issue (documentary follows the creation of the titular issue of Vogue magazine as it is harried into shape by eccentric editor Anna Wintour), Everybody’s Fine (an overqualified cast including Robert DeNiro, Sam Rockwell, and Drew Barrymore star in this low-key comedy about a recently-widowed, somewhat out-of-it dad [Bobby D.] who decides to just show up unexpectedly at each of his four grown kids’ homes across the country where, at least in theory, hilarity ensues), Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (look real quick and not too closely! It’s about teen vampires, based on a series of books! That’s sort of like Twilight, right? The ever-watchable John C. Reilly makes an odd choice for the centuries-old vampire who turns a hunky teenlet into the titular undead lackey), ‘Nurse Jackie’- season 1 (Edie Falco moves on past The Sopranos as the star of her own acclaimed series, plying the titular, conflicted nurse lady), Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day (if you are unfamiliar with the words ‘Trailer Park Boys’, go to Videoport’s Comedy section [under ‘t’ genius], rent the first disc of the Canadian comedy series, laugh a lot, rent their first movie, then rent this one; there- now your life is a happier, sillier place…), ‘Project Runway’- season 6 (since so many Videoport customers love this show, based on how well it rents, I am surprised [happily] that so few of you come into the store dressed in tattered leather party dresses studded with feathers), Eleven Minutes (speaking of ‘Project Runway’, this documentary follows the trials and thimble-ations [I’m sorry] of one of the show’s winners as he attempts to break into the fashion world), Motherhood (Uma Thurman recently tried out the whole ‘wacky mom’ genre; how did it go? Well, had you ever heard of this movie before?), Sorority Row (Bruce and Demi’s kid Rumer Willis has joined the family acting business, as a potential slasher victim in this ill-received horror flick; it’s who you know…), Flame and Citron (Videoport’s technical guru and WWII expert Jordan swears by this Danish war film about the two most infamous anti-Nazi assassins), ‘Superjail’- season 1 (sometimes Adult Swim brings you solid gold [Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Frisky Dingo, Sealab 2021] and sometimes you get horribly stupid, willfully ugly crap…), Three Blind Mice (Australian dramedy about three Aussie sailors, on leave in Sydney before being shipped to the Gulf, deciding whether to go AWOL, find a hooker, of just crack some Fosters).

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Examined Life (noted smarty-pantses like Cornel West, Slavov Zizek, and others lend their big brains to this documentary which attempts to revitalize the field of philosophy), G.B.H. (Monty Python’s Michael Palin costars in this satirical British series about the comical/horrifying efforts of a scheming politician), The Good Mother (Diane Keaton stars as a single mom, trying to raise her daughter while boinking Liam Neeson; does that make her a “good mother”? Watch it and see…), Ballet Shoes (three British orphan girls struggle to achieve their dreams; the only reason anyone wants to watch it- one of the orphans is Hermione from the Harry Potter movies), Blood on the Flat Track: The Rise of the Rat City Rollergirls (roller derby documentary!!!), Swedish Auto (indie film with Lukas Haas’ mechanic romancing ‘Mad Men’‘s January Jones), Texasville (just in time to join the ranks of the Jeff Bridges tribute shelf in the middle aisle [he’s gonna win Oscar this year- guaranteed] comes the DVD release of this somewhat unnecessary sequel to The Last Picture Show), The Magic Christian (another long-awaited DVD release, this time of this nutjob-but-hilarious 1969 comedy about the richest man in the world trying to show that people will do absolutely anything for money, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Star), Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (new stuff from the genuinely-cool animated DC Comics series; find it in the kids section), Sister Act 2 (because you’ve been bad…), Jubilee (from the Criterion Collection comes this insane punk cult film from director Derek Jarman; see the Monday review for the insane details).

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: The Phantom, Sukiyaki Western Django, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I Love You Man, The Running Man, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.

And now this bonus, online-only content!: Hi, guys.  Um…rent Videoport…

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