VideoReport #241

Volume CCXLI- Videoport: Beyond Thunderdome

For the Week of 3/30/10

Videoport has the best selection of movies anywhere, the lowest prices, the best customer service, and we give you a free movie every, single day. Oh, and we give you free parking. All the smart people rent here.

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 Lost Highway (in Mystery/Thriller). Take home David Lynch’s neo-noir mindbender and you’ll get: a murderous modern fable on the dangerous slide from love to violence; a twisted meditation on postmodern anxiety over the individual’s inability to retain ownership over their own memories and internalized identity in the face of modern narrative and media; an adolescent abstract of Woman As Inscrutable Object; a messy muddle of a story turned inside-out around itself; the languorous Patricia Arquette cast as the femme fatale, complete with a redheaded version of Barbara Stanwyck’s hairstyle from Double Indemnity; a disheveled brunet Bill Pullman doing his very best Kyle MacLachlan impression as the suspicious husband; a weirdly intimate glimpse of David Lynch’s own furniture, which was used on the interior set; a soundtrack featuring David Bowie, Brian Eno, Lou Reed, Trent Reznor, and a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song performed by Marilyn Manson; a sneaking suspicion that Michael Haneke’s Cache got a flash of inspiration from a scene in Lost Highway; a serious case of the creeps from Robert Blake’s indelibly disturbing cameo as The Mystery Man; really, really mad at me for suggesting you watch this, whether you love it or hate it.

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

>>> April suggests Diary of a Lost Girl (in Classics). The second pairing of director G.W. Pabst and actress Louise Brooks is the story of a pharmacist’s daughter (Brooks) who is seduced by her father’s assistant and winds up pregnant. When she refuses to marry the child’s father, the baby is sold to a midwife and Brooks is sent to a girls’ reformatory. Overwhelmed by the horrors of reform school, she eventually escapes and enters a brothel. Heavy subject matter for a film made in 1929. It’s too bad Brooks never made it in talkies (this one’s a silent film), but you can hear her first speaking role in a bonus short included on the DVD called Windy Riley Goes Hollywood (directed by Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle) and man! What a beautiful voice she had! P.S.- If anyone is interested in joining my Silent Film Enthusiasts Club, email me at pepi.lederer@yahoo.com.

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (in Comedy). [warning: this review contains spoilers for FBDO and for Fight Club.] Seasoned viewers, try this. Re-watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off through the Fight Club lens and consider a question: what if Ferris only exists in Cameron’s mind? Think about it: cheeky, charming, happy-go-lucky Ferris Bueller is a fantastical alter ego for anyone, but an especially apt one for somber, staid Cameron Frye. Cameron is sickly; Ferris only fakes sick so he can have the time of his life. Cameron clams up around the lovely Sloane; Ferris grabs her and kisses her, tickles her silly, makes her laugh and smile and yearn and worry over him. Ferris smashes Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari; Cameron takes the blame for it. In Ferris’ own words, why does he orchestrate this whole adventure and bully Cameron into playing hookie? “Cameron really needs a day off!” Early in the film, a crucial scene has Cameron splitting a persona (Sloan’s dad) in two, with Cameron performing the voice and Ferris appearing as the body. When the droning teacher calls role (“Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”), he skips straight down the roster to Cameron’s name (“Frye? Frye?”). Why? Because he’s only calling one name, over and over: Cameron’s name is Ferris’ name. Throughout the film, Ferris is identified with a dummy and an audiotape. This is hardcore Bergmanesque, Lynchian symbolism, my friends. So… this thought experiment is a fun way to look at a familiar favorite, and it points out the dichotomous natures of the two characters quite nicely. But does it work as a literal interpretation? Um… no, not really. We see Ferris interact with his family members, we see that Ferris is known to teachers and students and — especially, notoriously — to school officials, we see Ferris engaging with strangers all over Chicago, while Cameron hardly seems to be noticed by anyone, even by his reputedly overbearing (but actually totally absent) father. Hey, hang on — we may have another theory here: Cameron as Ferris’ alter ego, the shrinking cringing core of Ferris’ exuberant outer shell.

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

>>>Dennis suggests renting on Thursdays, for pity’s sake! There, right up above us there, check out the Thursday special. See? Rent one, get one free from anywhere in the store! Holy crap! Not only is that a great deal, but it’s also the way to ensure you’ve got the movies you need for the weekend. Here’s what’cha do- come in on Thursday, grab the hot new release you really want to have for the weekend when friends are coming over for that wine and cheese soiree/beer bust/basement fight club. Then pick a second (non new release) flick to complement the new one (an earlier film from the same director/star, more of the same unrelenting bloodshed, or The Big Lebowski, which goes well with anything). Then, ask your favorite Videoporter to give you the extended 3 day rate on the new release (if you’ve chosen one)- that way, you get two movies, right through Sunday night at 11pm, for just $5.24. Or, if you stayed away from the newest latest, for just $3.50. See, now you’ve got your weekend all set, you avoided the crowds, everything you wanted was in, and all is well in the world.

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Monsters, Inc. During a family visit, your editor and I snuggled down on the sofa to watch Monsters, Inc, with nieces and nephews from toddler to teen. We figured the littl’un would love it, the teens would yawn and text, and the avunculars would doze off. WRONG. We all giggled and guffawed and cringed and cooed together:the broad strokes of story and character were perfectly clear to the tiniest niece, but the whole film is richly embroidered with subtler touches for more sophisticated palates and laced through with allusions to warm the heart of any movie geek. Pixar knows how to make a movie that engages viewers of every age and warms your heart without making you ralph.

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

>>>For Saturday, James, for the last time, suggests Death at a Funeral (in British Comedy). I feel that I have recommended Death at a Funeral too many times. If you have not seen it, I am sorry. I will never push this film on anyone else. That’s it. I mean, how many times can I tell people how I hurt myself laughing? It’s directed by Frank Oz (What About Bob?) and stars Alan Tudyk (‘Firefly’) AND Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent). If you have seen it, do me a favor- recommend it to someone who hasn’t. Because, I’m done. James out.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Tyson (in Documentary). I still remember the night, high above Bowdoin College, nestled in beery camaraderie in Coles Tower when my friends and I saw the impossible. We’d all gathered to watch the Tyson fight on HBO, and we were primed for nothing less that another Iron Mike slaughter, especially when his opponent was the little-regarded Buster Douglas who, as the pre-fight puff piece informed us, was a nice, polite guy whose mom had just died, whose wife had left him, and who was very broke. We made jokes, and wished him well. And then he uncorked an uppercut that made the invincible Tyson’s head look like a commemorative Tyson bobblehead. I cannot over-stress how earth-shattering this was. It’s not like were fans of Tyson, exactly; even in the pre-rape-conviction, pre-Holyfield-chomping, pre-“I’m gonna eat his children” halcyon days, we were more afraid of Mike Tyson than we were admiring of him. He was unnerving, and he was terrifying, and we begrudged him our admiration, largely because we didn’t like him, and it looked like he was destined to be proclaimed the greatest boxer of all time. After the Douglas loss, and the subsequent freak show his life became, I think we were all a little relieved; not only was the terrifying Tyson human, he was a complete, f-ed up mess. Now, after checking out director James Toback’s (Fingers, Black & White, When Will I Be Loved) documentary about his longtime pal Mike Tyson, well, of course I still think the man is a dangerous, impossibly-crazy mess, but I’m also even more intrigued by him than when he was kicking the world’s collective arse. Sure, Toback’s been Tyson’s buddy for decades, and his film doesn’t really press the former champ on certain issues, but Tyson himself is so nakedly honest about so many of his past misdeeds that additional grilling would be kind of unseemly. Tyson, rumpled, a little tubby (although certainly able to destroy me at will), and, as ever, speaking with that unnerving little boy lisp, talks about his awful childhood, his unquestioning love for his late former trainer Cus D’Amato, his temper, his unbridled womanizing (revealing that he has the raging clap when he won his first belt from a terrified-looking Trevor Berbick), his failed marriage to TV diva Robin Givens (for whom he has kind words), his prison time, conversion to Islam, the Holyfield ear-picnic, the face tattoo, and on and on. Yeah, Tyson makes a few excuses for himself here and there, and he is shockingly blunt when speaking of the woman he still denies raping, but I really got the feeling that I was watching a flawed, rage-filled man-boy trying desperately to bare his soul as a way to personal redemption. Or something. (His post-fight, in-ring comments after his last loss, to a journeyman Irish fighter, are kind of heartbreakingly sad and honest.) No matter what you think of Tyson, Tyson is an utterly fascinating movie.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr. is a kung-fu fighting, quippy Holmes in this fun but silly updating of the legendary detective from director Guy Ritchie [Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch]), An Education (the ever-excellent Peter Sarsgaard and Oscar-nominated newcomer Carey Mulligan star in this Nick Hornby-scripted tale of an ambitious but impressionable young girl who falls for an older man who may or may not be what he seems [he isn’t])), Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The (sigh) Squeakquel (you people have no idea how much of my soul just dies after typing that last word…), Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction (legendary, and legendarily-spazzy standup Williams is back; will his trademark nonstop riffing annoy the bejeebers out of everyone, or will it somehow be funny as it once was?), The Beaches of Agnes (legendary French filmmaker Agnes Varda [Cleo from 5 to 7, The Gleaners and I] directs this documentary retrospective about her life and work), Yella (German drama about a young woman fleeing her abusive husband and trying to make a new life in the West), Alexandra (Russian drama from the director of Russian Ark about an elderly woman traveling to visit her son at his army camp deep inside Chechnya), House Broken (Danny Devito’s still working, which is nice, I guess, but this direct-to-DVD comedy about a father desperate to get his two grown slacker sons to move out idn’t create much buzz, in the sense that no one’s ever heard of it and stuff), IMAX Under the Sea (more spellbinding undersea nature footage; you guys have an IMAX screen at your house, right?), The Baader Meinhof Complex (thrilling retelling of the 70’s terrorist group determined to undermine the new German democratic government), Tunnel Rats (during the Vietnam war, guys actually crawled into tunnels built by the Viet Cong in order to force them out; I’m sure infamously-inept director Uwe Boll [BloodRayne, Alone in the Dark] can be counted on to approach the subject with sensitivity…), The T.A.M.I. Show Collector’s Edition (a best of collection of the famous 1960’s rock show, featuring the likes of The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, James Brown, The Beach Boys, Smokey Robinson, and more!)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Beer Wars (fascinating, sudsy documentary about how the big beer companies are using typically-fascist/capitalist strongarmery in order to keep small, ‘gourmet’ beers off the market; on the one hand, I hate big jerk big business, but they do make beer….I’m torn), Drool (dark comedy starring the lady from Mulholland Drive who’s not Naomi Watts as an abused wife who accidentally kills her husband and goes on the run; interesting trivia- this film has the worst title of anything ever created by human hands!), Afghan Star (think those nutballs are desperate when they try to get on ‘American Idol’? Well this documentary shows how people in Afghanistan risked being killed by the Taliban just so they could appear on the titular game show), It’s All True (this documentary reveals the ways [this time] that director Orson Welles was screwed over by Hollywood studios whilst trying to complete a three part South American docudrama; includes the remaining restored footage of his short film Four Men on a Raft), Waveriders (surfers unite!), and Videoport (and the Criterion Collection) bring you three films from critically-lauded Portuguese director Pedro Costa: Colossal Youth (a three hour docudrama about the daily struggles of the denizens of a Lisbon slum), In Vanda’s Room (a three hour docudrama about the denizens of a Lisbon slum dealing with their home’s impending demolition), and Ossos (only half as long as the other two Costa films, this film about the miserable, poverty-stricken denizens of a Creole shantytown outside Lisbon nonetheless packs enough heartbreak for ten movies! Enjoy!).

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Red Cliff, Red Cliff 2, An Education, The Baader Meinhof Complex.

Get free money at Videoport! Pre-pay $20 on your Videoport account, and we’ll give you $25 worth of rental credit…pre-pay $30, and you get $40 worth! It’s that simple…

Write for the VideoReport! Send you reviews, essays, lists, or what have yous to us at denmn@hotmail.com!


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