Volume CCXLVI- The Imaginarium of Dr. Milton R. Friedberg, DDS
For the Week of 5/4/10
Videoport doesn’t have a clever way to say it this week- we’re locally-owned, independent, inexpensive, knowledgeable, helpful, and have the best selection of movies anywhere. Choose Videoport. We’re awesome, we’re local, and we think you should 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.)
>>>Mikaela K suggests Blood Tea and Red String (in Animation). I saw Blood Tea and Red String as I was walking past the animation section one day (coming from the anime section, which is right next to it), and the cover of the box immediately grabbed me. It was a couple of white mice wearing fancy clothes sitting at a table, playing cards, with teacups filled with red stuff next to them. Guessing from the title that the red stuff must be the ‘blood tea’, I wondered what the ‘red string’ part of it means. The style looked a bit creepy and disturbing, which is precisely what drew me to it. Sketchy-looking albino mice drinking blood? Looks awesome! Despite the awesomeness, it was still a very odd film. (Editor’s note: Can there be spoilers for a film that’s essentially incomprehensible? Well, if there can, then SPOILERS AHEAD!) In a nutshell, it’s these mice who commission a doll from these crows. The crows make the doll (which is pretty creepy looking) but decide to keep her. The mice, when the crows return their money and refuse to hand the doll over, get pissed and steal her back in the middle of the night. In the morning, the crows
discover she’s gone and figure out what happened. Three crows decide to get her back, and set off on foot after the mice, who have an advantage, as they are in a carriage pulled by a turtle (okay, maybe not so much of an advantage). The mice make it home first, and they play a game of cards while drinking the blood tea. The card sequence is very interesting. It goes on for what felt like ten minutes of these two mice picking a card off one deck, looking at it, putting it with the other cards in their hand, and selecting another card to put on the other pile. All the while, one mouse is sitting with the doll on his lap, letting her sip the tea, which makes blood run over her face, which doesn’t help her already-creepiness. Oh, and all the cards are blank, which just makes it even more weird. Once the never-ending card game is over, one mouse ties the doll to himself and ‘dances’ with her, which is really weird. Then the two mice who were playing cards get into a fist fight over who won the game, which is actually very entertaining. One mouse ends up hitting the other in the face with a spoon repeatedly, while the mouse who’s infatuated with the doll is just dancing. It’s very odd. The crows, meanwhile, are on their journey to retrieve the doll. They come across an old castle thing, and in it there’s a lovely garden with flowers and a waterfall and some nice looking yellow fruit. One crow is examining the waterfall, another some flowers, but then once of them just has to try the fruit. He eats it, and the others are wary at first but give in and try it too (biblical reference, anyone?). They put a couple in their bags to save for later, but then their vision blurs and they start acting high (the special effects to show it was like they were on drugs were awesome and totally realistic. Not.) and then some plants eat them. Not to worry, though, because a magical frog comes wearing a yellow robe and bearing an awesome staff! He blasts open the plants and saves the crows (that was really the biggest WTF? moment of the movie. Once second the crows are getting eaten, and then out of nowhere a frog just appears and there’s a BLAM noise and then he puts these pink things that look like dead shell-less hermit crabs into the plants [and by the way, I’m not even going to try to explain the hermit crab thing. I don’t think I can explain it]). After he rescues the crows, they still haven’t recovered from their high time, and I don’t know about you but I find wasted crows hilarious. A whole bunch of weird stuff happens after that (the spider/bird/human thing will blow your freakin mind. Especially when it hatches.) which I will not go into detail about or else you might get turned off to the movie. Now that the lovely summary’s done, we can actually talk about what it was really about. Well actually, I can’t really tell you. I’m not sure if it was about anything. The crows, in my opinion, are the good guys, despite them having stolen the doll first (even though they did make her. I’m torn on who’s really at fault here). The mice seem a bit ruthless, except the one who’s infatuated with the doll, who cares about her well-being more than who possess her. He, along with magic!frog, are the true heroes of the story (though opinions may vary with who watches the film). Oh yeah, and did I mention there was no dialogue? Yeah, it’s pretty much forest noises, cawing from the crows, squeaking from the nice, awesome sound effects from the frog, and music provided by one crow’s flute. It definitely adds to the weirdness. So yeah, this movie may disturb you in some ways, but it’s really quite good. It took director Christiane Cegavske 13 years to make (it was stop motion puppets or something, did I say that already?), and I think that with that knowledge you will be impressed. The introduction and very last scene are the strangest (and might make you more cautious of cake) but do tie in to the movie. I think. With this movie, you can’t really be sure of anything.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Andy suggests Svengali (in Classics). John Barrymore is Svengali- composer, hypnotist, con artist, and all-around creep. In this excellent 1931 horror classic, Barrymore hams it up to the extreme, which is very entertaining to watch, but makes the whole movie hard to take seriously. What I love about the movie is the set design, obviously inspired by the German Expressionists, and the theatrical special effects and lighting. The story, while interesting and involving, doesn’t resonate across the decades the way Dracula and Frankenstein do, which may account for why Svengali isn’t remembered as fondly as those other classics. Or maybe it’s Barrymore’s silly beard.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Jar City (in Foreign Language). How many murder mysteries have you seen in your life? A thousand? A million? It’s like, “Are the any other stories?” (It’s like watching TV and wondering if anyone works anywhere but police stations, law firms, or hospitals?) Of course, some murder mysteries stand out. Maybe it’s a good performance, or a neat twist ending, or some free-form weirdness/kinkiness in the mix. Well, Jar City rises above the sea of bodies due, essentially, to novelty. I mean, how many Icelandic thrillers have you seen? Unless your name ends in ‘dottir’, then it’s probably not a lot. In this one, beleaguered middle-aged detective Erlandur (Ingvar Sigurosson) is coping with a drug-addicted wastrel daughter, a lonely bachelor existence, the uniformly depression-inducing Icelandic weather, and, oh yeah, a murder. See, there’s this dead guy and…well, it’s just an excuse to get things
rolling, but some unique Nordic touches add a disorienting, vaguely-menacing atmosphere that ups the interest level. In addition, there’s some additional creepiness involved in a subplot about the government compiling a genetic database of everyone in Iceland (which seems pretty easy since there appear to be about 250 people in the whole country), a solid lead performance from the dour-but-dogged Sigurosson, and even some comedy (mostly at the expense of Erlandur’s hunky younger partner, who’s studied in America and gets punched in the face a lot). Plus, you get to see the hero chow down on a dinner of boiled sheep’s head, complete with eyeball!
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>A Videoport customer overheard in the Comedy section recently suggests that you do not rent The Great Buck Howard (in Comedy). “I just want you to know that this is the worst movie I’ve ever seen in all of my 61 years of movie-watching.”*
*Editor’s suggestion: Get out more. We’ve seen things that would’ve killed you long before you hit 61.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> April suggests The Incredible Mr. Limpet. If you’re not into Don Knotts, then you are not my friend. Don Knotts is so fab, you could never reach the level of fabness that he is. In Mr. Limpet, he plays a guy who can’t get into the army, but after taking a trip to Coney Island he is magically transformed into a fish. How cool is that? Super cool! He then uses his fishy voice to help the navy battle the Nazis. Go Don Knotts go!
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests FREE SLEAZE (in the Incredibly Strange section- where else?). Anyone who knows me knows I loooove sleaze. Vintage sleaze especially. So, when I’m looking for old-timey sleaze my first stop is always with those crazy cats at Something Weird Video who, in addition to preserving (gods bless ’em) some of the worst, dirtiest, most disreputable long lost sleaze of yeasterdecade, also love to pack their DVDs with a seemingly random assortment of shorter sleaze…you know, just to say thank you. For example, take the Something Weird DVD release of Night of the Bloody Apes (described accurately by the IMDb thusly: “This cheap Mexican horror film is a remake of Cardona’s Doctor of Doom (1962), spiced with nudity, medical footage, women wrestling, and cheap gore shots”. Sounds great, of course… but check out all the extras SWV has tossed onto the DVD like particularly-sweaty loose change:
>>3 Minutes of Gory Outtakes from “Night of the Bloody Apes”
>>Theatrical trailers and TV spots for “Night of the Bloody Apes” and “Feast of Flesh,” Plus Bonus Schlock-Around-the-Clock Trailers for “Face of the Screaming Werewolf,” “The Flesh Eaters,” “Flesh Feast,” “Invasion of the Flesh Hunters,” “Blood Spattered Bride/I Dismember Mama,” “Shiver Shudder Show,” “Tender Flesh,” “Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory/Corridors of Blood” and more
>>A Gorilla goes gaga for a Stripper in the Burlesque Novelty Short Subject “Gorilla and the Maiden”
>>Rita Martinez, “Champion of Mexico,” takes on Clara Mortensen in the Wrestling She-Babe Short Subject “The World’s Championship Women’s Wrestling Contest”
>>Girls meet the Apeman in the 1920’s Nickelodeon Nudie >>Short Subject “Artists’ Paradise”
>>Two Apes battle for B-Movie Supremacy in the Hairy Short Subject “White Gorilla”
>>Ghastly Gallery of Ghoulish Comic Cover Art with Horror Audio Rarities
I mean, holy crap! Thank you, Something Weird Video, for making our lives just a little bit sleazier!
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer gingerly suggests Tideland (in Incredibly Strange). First, let’s all take a deep breath. Oooookay, here comes the disclaimer: this film is unsuitable for younger viewers. Heck, it’s not suitable for most mature viewers, either; it’s dark and dreamy-dreary and almost horrifically tense. This is not the romping fable of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen or the zany madness of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or even the mercurial dark whimsy of The Fisher King. It’s big and bleak and dangerous. Some films touch on controversial matters; Tideland lingers there. 10-year-old Jodie Ferland delivers a remarkable performance as Jaliza-Rose, the bright, sweet, resilient child of two squalling drug addicts (Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly, both note-perfect in their wildly different ways). From a rundown house in an isolated corner of Texas, Jaliza-Rose explores both the prairie outside and the ever-darkening interior landscape of her imagination. Soon enough, she meets her neighbors, one of whom who develops a (much reciprocated) affection for Jeliza. Some factions accused Tideland of joking about pedophilia, which is a gross misrepresentation of the film’s plot and tone. [spoiler: the relationship portrayed would be sickly sweet between two children; between a child and an adult, it is intensely uncomfortable, even jaw-droppingly incongruous, but never prurient or lascivious.] The film is a devastating exploration of the darker side of childhood and particularly of the childish imagination, and it feast itself of Jaliza-Rose’s squalid surroundings. Consciously or otherwise, Tideland is an homage to Alice in Wonderland… but here, it turns out that the rabbit hole leads exactly where you’d expect: to a gritty, dirty darkness.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Leap Year (the ever-spunky Amy Adams is back, spunkin’ it up all over Ireland in this romantic comedy about a spunky lass intending to spunkily propose to her intended on February 29th [get it?], only to find her spunkiness tested by the charms of a Gaelic innkeeper. Spunk!), Nine (just to be confusing, here comes another film called Nine, this time not a post-apocalyptic animated film, but another lavish and overrated musical from Chicago‘s Rob Marshall; at least it stars Daniel Day Lewis…), Tooth Fairy (oh, Mr. The Rock…I’m still rooting for you to turn this faltering movie career around, but a family comedy about a cocky Hockey star forced to take over as the actual, sigh, tooth fairy, well…I’m still hoping, big guy…), Hamlet (maybe you’ve heard of it? Well, this one is a double treat for a sci-fi/Shakespeare geek like me, starring as it does Doctor Who himself David Tennant as Hamlet and Captain Picard/Patrick Stewart as Claudius; nerd-gasm!!!), District 13: Ultimatum (call it parkour, call it freerunning, it’s all just absurdly-athletic Frenchies jumping off buildings, over walls, and through (closed) windows in this action sequel; there might be a plot in there somewhere, perhaps something necessitating jumping), Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola made The Godfather, The Godfather Part 2, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now…which is the only reason anyone would still care about his new movie starring Vincent Gallo as a once-promising writer going mad in Buenos Aires), Choking Man (the lovelorn fantasy life of a lonely Ecuadorean dishwasher in Queens makes up this new release from the Film Movement series), Race to Mars (speculative science fiction about the 2030 space race, between China and the US, to discover life on the red planet), The Blue Tooth Virgin (what happens to the friendship of two writers when one has to tell the other that he doesn’t like his pal’s new script? Awk-waaard. On an unrelated note that actually makes me want to see this, a supporting character is played by Amber Benson, who played Tara on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: One From the Heart (Francis Ford Coppola’s decline began with this overblown-but-interesting love story, which can boast an original Tom Waits score), Oresama (real-life Japanese pop star Miyavi plays himself in this fantasy adventure musical thingy, which was both written and directed by two other one-named guys), Tokyo Sonata (moving drama from acclaimed director Kiyoshi Kurosawa [Cure, Pulse, Bright Future] about the dissolution of a typical Japanese family when the dad is laid off), ‘Iron Man’- the complete series (just in time for the summer sequel, Videoport brings in this animated superhero series), Growing Op (dark comedy about a kid trying to have a normal childhood while his parents are pot dealers; costarring Rosanna Arcquette), The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Werner Herzog’s version of the true story of Hauser, who appeared in 19th century Germany with a wild story to tell), Heart of Glass (more early Herzog, this one an enigmatic drama about a glass blower whose death, without having passed on the secret to his legendary ‘ruby glass’ throws his village into turmoil), Mine (heartbreaker of a documentary from the Film Movement people about the contested fate of Hurricane Katrina dogs), California Dreamin’ (Armand Assante stars in this dark war comedy about a NATO train delayed in a small town while trying to deliver humanitarian supplies to Kosovo), Knee Deep (Attention Mainers! This is that documentary about the kid from Farmington who, after years of neglect and forced labor on the family’s farm, tried to kill his Mom; The Way Life Should Be!), Blue Blood (the late Roy Scheider starred in this neo-noir about murder amongst the wealthy in the Hamptons), Pressure Cooker (stern-but-caring cooking instructor whips some poor kids into shape in this culinary documentary), 20th Century Boys 1: Beginning of the End (Crazy Japanese manga-based action about a group of friends who find the evil cult they made up in stories as children suddenly real…and up to all manner of evil shenanigans).
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Tooth Fairy, Tetro, Nine, Leap Year, Jumper, Australia, Tombstone, Dune (the David Lynch version), Armageddon.