Volume CCXLIII- The Revengenating
For the Week of 4/13/10
Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. we’ve also got great prices, a knowledgeable staff, and the best selection of movies anywhere. Nope, we’re not joshin’…
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 sugests ‘Twin Peaks’ (in Mystery/Thriller). This groundbreaking TV show turns twenty this month, and it’s hard to remember how bleak the television landscape was before David Lynch’s sojourn there. He showed us that TV could be more than radio with faces: it could be cinematic, could be transgressive, could be art… and that viewers would clamor for it. Lynch and Mark Frost stepped boldly into territory that had been largely
unexplored by TV writers. (Remember that this show debuted in an era when Murphy Brown having a baby out of wedlock caused a stink with viewers. Now consider that “Twin Peaks” introduced, for example, a cross-dressing FBI agent [David Duchovny] who is completely comfortable with his sartorial choices, who is not a problem or a joke or a figure of fun, who is just one more quirky person in a cast full of quirk.) “Twin Peaks” is a revelation, in part because it’s freed from the tyranny of the narrative. In most shows, every moment must move the plot forward. In “Twin Peaks” (the show and the town), things move at a slower pace and odd digressions are not only allowed but encouraged. “Twin Peaks” embraces homey mundanity, which makes the deep horror more jarring and effective. And there are terrible horrors in that town, and deeply tangled personal tragedies, compulsions, and secrets. It is, in effect, a soap opera without the sudsy, fluffy, forgettable qualities. Without “Twin Peaks” breaking the trail, we might not have had the grand sweeping drama of “The Sopranos” or “The Wire” or the freewheeling nuttiness of “The X-Files” or “Lost.” If the show looks dated to you now, remember that it looked dated then, too, in the most intentional way: Lynch was creating a town out of step with time, a place where the archetypes of movie world lived and breathed their daily lives and steeped themselves in contradiction: the cool mysterious FBI man, the girl next door, the glad-handing dandy with a finger in every pie, the biker with the soul of a poet, the fading beauty queen, and especially the girl in trouble: Laura Palmer.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (in Action/Adventure). As a movie pitch, it’s a natural: two slick, charming outlaws (played by two talented, beloved, and bankable Hollywood golden boys) make their living robbing banks and cracking wise. There are a lot of strikes against this little doodle of a movie: it’s a period piece but it’s steeped in the tone, the tenor, the zeitgeist not of the 1890s but of the late 1960s; it’s sloppy and soppy and slapsticky; don’t get me started on the cutesy-cute bicycle scene. But despite its faults, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a popular favorite, and with good reason. Newman and Redford set the gold standard for buddy movies with their winningly easy bantering and bickering, their twinkling good looks, and their bold capability punctuated by bouts of cheerful haplessness. They swagger and patter and swindle and shoot ’em up, and it’s a big mess of fun for everyone. Watch it for the first time or the hundredth time and see what I mean.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests The Sting (in Comedy). As the lovely Ms. Elsa S. Customer pointed out, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was an immensely enjoyable doodle, and so is this, Newman and Redford’s four-year-later reteam, where (as slightly less awesome movie critic Pauline Keal put it) “they swapped mustaches”. As a pair of Depression-era conmen pulling a big scam on a scary big fish (the brogue-ishly-menacing Robert Shaw), N&R prove, once again, a pleasant, flip, and decidedly odd comedy-adventure team; seriously, the charisma chasm between the two has always puzzled me. I mean, Newman’s the twinkly balls (feel free to steal that phrase), while Redford is, and has ever been, an enigmatic, pretty blank. Seriously- who can point to a Robert Redford performance and say, “that rocked me”? Anyway, The Sting is a decidedly fun, if minor, entry in the ever-entertaining “scam movie” genre, with Newman, as the aging, boozy con legend Henry Gondorff looking to pull off one last big score with the reluctant help of Redford’s “cocky and reckless” (and awesomely-monicker-ed) Jake Hooker. (I throw in the adjectival quote marks due to Redfords innate inability to show much in the way of either, or, you know, fire, arrogance, humanity or gumption…I really do not get the man’s appeal). Couple it with a nice (if stagey) sense of time and place, some juicy character bits (Robert Earle Jones, Kenneth McMillan, Ray Walston, Dimitra Arliss), and some nifty sleight-of-plot (along with that damned [and anachronistic] ragtime score that you won’t be able to flush out of your brain), and you’ve got a fun evening.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>April suggests you continue to bask in the forgotten glories of silent film with City Lights (in Classics). A Charlie Chaplin romantic comedy! Charlie’s Tramp falls in love with a blind girl who sells flowers on the streets. I guarantee you will laugh ’til you cry! I f-ing love this movie. Chaplin made it in 1931 when silents were on the outs and talkies were all the rage. Thank goodness he didn’t give in. P.S.: If you want to join my Silent Film Enthusiasts Club, please email email@example.com or find our group under Videoport Jones’ Facebook page!
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> “So shiny! So round! I think I’m gonna smear my horrible, sticky little fingers all over it before i roll it down the stairs. And then I’ll poop on it!”- your child when left unsupervised in a room with one of our DVDs. Seriously- not for kids.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Super Troopers (in Comedy). Super Troopers, the second film by comedy troupe Broken Lizard (Puddle Cruiser, their first, was a scruffy little college doodle) fairly burst with an offhand, originally-oddball comic sensibility that promised they would become a comedic cinematic force to be reckoned with. They have not. Their subsequent films (Club Dread, Beerfest, and this week’s The Slammin’ Salmon) have revealed Broken Lizard to be completely satisfied with being the beery, amiable, aim-for-the-middle
chucklehounds at the movie party. I watch their movies, and now I laugh about three times in the requisite ninety minutes and smile indulgently at the rest, but I’m ready to write the boys off as also-rans, which’d be fine, if I didn’t have Super Troopers to compare their pallid recent work to. A rambunctious, low-rent comedy about a group of Vermont state troopers more interested in indulging their collective appetites for pranks and harmless silliness than in busting the meager criminals of the Green Mountain State, Super Troopers, while filled with much silliness, raunchiness, and all-around tomfoolery, skates effortlessly on the low-key charisma of its cop quintet, despite the fact that the Broken Lizards are decidedly-uncinematic and endearingly ordinary. There’s Erik Stolhanske (Rabbit, the rookie, cheerfully playing along with the guys’ hazing in order to just hang around with them), Steve Lemme (slyly charming as Mac, the handsome one), Paul Soter (as Foster, the goofy redhead, whose self-deprecating humor makes him the film’s unlikely-but-likeable romantic lead), and, as the film’s co-breakout characters, Kevin Heffernan and Jay Chandrasekhar. Heffernan’s Rod Farva is hilarious and indelible as the gang’s loser, the self-important, humorless jerk every comedy needs, and Chandrasekhar’s mustachioed Thorny, the most sensible, yet undeniably kinky, of the guys, has an effortless screen presence and peerless deadpan timing. Aided immeasurably by old pros Daniel Von Bargen and Brian Cox, the Lizards have (this one time, to date) crafted a uniquely-funny, eminently-quotable (you’ll never hear the word “shenanigans” again without thinking of Super Troopers) comedy classic. Which is why The Slammin’ Salmon‘s slackly-paced, bland ordinariness bummed me out so much…
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (in Foreign Language). Like a more twinkly, elegant Quentin Tarantino, director Ang Lee took a thoroughly disreputable genre (in this case, the martial arts, chop socky film)and deconstructed it, distilling its essential elements with wit and poetry, and turned it into something timeless, into art. The standard Shaw Brothers elements are there: revenge, treachery, a magic sword, impossibly acrobatic fight scenes, epic romance. But, in Lee’s masterful hands, it’s all transformed; it’s about those things, and, gloriously, it’s about the power of movies to make those things more than what they are. Here’s how he did it: 1. The actors. There are no two more magnetic actors in world cinema today tha Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh. Trust me on that. As two superwarriors bound together by a love they daren’t speak (and all that stuff), they make every action, word, and glance irresistibly weighty; whether shooting longing glances at each other, glaring at some miscreant, or kicking ass, these two define screen presence. Throw in the impossibly-exquisite Zhang Yiyi, holding her own, and also kicking a surprising quantity of butt, and you’ve got the movies’ most elegantly-dangerous triangle. 2. The fight scenes. Lee, aided immeasurably by legendary fight choreographer Woo-ping Yuen (he did The Matrix) (and his actors, who clearly worked their asses off in preparation), has crafted the best fight scenes in movie history. Yeah, I said it. The lovely Ms. Elsa S. Customer, watching it for the first time
recently, was distracted by the heavy reliance on wire work in the fights (where the main characters demonstrate the supernatural ability to perform superhuman feats of agility, even short bursts of flight); I still love her anyway. As I tried to defend the soar-y shenanigans* as a sly send up of the martial arts convention where the truly enlightened martial artist is able to manifest such powers (and other film geek babblery), what I was really thinking was, “they are flying exactly how I do in my dreams, where a sudden leap from rooftop to rooftop results, not in busted kneecaps, but a graceful, sustained soaring, only to land like a cat and then take off again”: (I can be a bit of a big girl sometimes). Anyway, Lee’s fully aware of the conventions of this kind of film and he, employing peerless performances, special effects, and witty choreography of violence, heightens and refines them into something completely unforgettable. The perfection of about six separate cinematic arts.
*If you’ve seen Super Troopers, you’re giggling right now.
New Releases this week at Videoport: The Slammin’ Salmon (it’s the fifth film from comedy troupe Broken Lizard, the makers of the undeniably-hilarious Super Troopers [see Saturday’s review], and four other movies which are…deniably hilarious…), Pirate Radio (True story: when you couldn’t hear rock ‘n’ roll on BBC radio in the 60’s, a bunch of rambunctious dj’s set up illegal radio stations on ships off the coast; if that’s not the setup for a cool movie, I don’t know what is- throw in Philip Seymour Hoffman and Nick Frost, and it’s a must-see), Tenderness (Russell Crowe stars in this thriller as a cop obsessed with following around an 18 year old guy who he’s convinced is a serial killer; ever hear of this one? Me neither…but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, right?), Defendor (Woody Harrelson stars as the titular would-be superhero, a masked vigilante determined to clean up the streets, despite, you know, the fact that he gets beaten up…a lot), Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh (Joan Allen narrates this documentary about the titular poet who parachuted into Nazi Germany to rescue Jews?!?! I can almost guarantee that Angelina Jolie has optioned the film rights to this one already…), Happy Endings (how screwy is Rhode Island, anyway? When they’re not underwater, they, as depicted in this documentary, are, due to a simple technicality, have to allow prostitution in its massage parlors, as long as the naughty stuff is done behind closed doors. Way to proofread, Rhode Island…), Easier With Practice (indie drama about a struggling writer [the scared, blonde guy in The Hurt Locker] who starts receiving sexy phone calls from a mysterious woman and sets out on a road trip to figure out who she is).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Carny (hot on the heels of our getting some Lou Diamond Phillips horror movie of the same name last week comes Videoport’s acquisition of this cool, creepy early Jodie Foster flick about a young girl who runs away and joins a seedy traveling carnival; what? you think we meant to order this one in the first place and got stuck with the crappy Lou Diamond Phillips one? How dare you…), Crows Zero (from acclaimed and notorious Japanese director Takashi Miike [Ichi the Killer, Sukiyaki Western Django] comes yet another tale of insane violence, this time set in a tough high school beset with gangs and the Yakuza!), Tokyo Psycho Yatterman (what? One superviolent, utterly berserk Japanese cult film directed by Takashi Miike per week isn’t enough for the likes of you? Well Videoport’s got your back, as we bring you this, which I’ll let the IMDb describe thusly: “Every week, toy-shop owner Gan and his cute assistant Ai battled the evil Doronbo gang. The gang led by femme fatale Doronjo and her assistants-pig-nosed muscleman Tonzra and rat-faced mecha genius Boyacky-for pieces of the mystical skull stone, and every week the Doronbo gang failed (usually due to incompetence). Then there was a mushroom cloud, Gan and Ai did their Yatterman dance and the gang regrouped the following week to do it all over again.” Take that.), Love on Lay-Away (head to Videoport’s Musicals section to check out this new one about the residents of a ghetto brownstone looking for love).
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Night at the Museum, Serenity, Death Race, Pirate Radio, Dawn of the Dead (2004).