Volume CCXLVIII- The Shambling, Uncoordinated Dead
For the Week of 5/18/10
Videoport says a fond farewell to Movie Gallery, which announced it’s shutting down completely. Sorry, fellas, but we warned you not to mess with us…
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 The Blair Witch Project (in Horror). An early example of the now-popular “found footage” sub-genre of horror film, The Blair Witch Project is still one of the most effective, leanest, downright scariest little chillers you’ll stumble across. It hits so many notes and draws the audience in by drawing out a curious mix of emotions: the city-dweller’s fear of being lost in the woods, the sheer primal terror of Something In The Night, pure mundane frustration and irritation at the petty squabbling, fury at the gall and hubris of one’s companions, and — most affectingly — a deep twinge of empathy and sorrow as the trio get more lost and more hopeless. Oh, and BWP does one thing that many recent found-footage movies have overlooked: it sufficiently explains why the heck they keep carrying around that unwieldy camera, even when they’re rushing around in a panic.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Road House (in Action). Whew, Road House. MST3K‘s Michael J. Nelson calls it “the Fanny and Alexander of bad movies.” Roger Ebert said “Road House is the kind of movie that leaves reality so far behind that you have to accept it on its own terms.” They are not wrong. Watching Road House is a bit like watching Last Year at Marienbad or Synecdoche, N.Y., if those movies were a little more nonsensical and, oh yes, risibly awful. The only way to engage with Road House is to accept that it takes place in its own universe, a world that is cosmetically and physically indistinguishable from ours, but where our social and legal norms do not apply. Let’s examine the social, economic, and legal forces at play in this world, shall we? Dalton, our hero, is a
famous Zen bouncer. Patrick Swayze conveys the “Zen” part by delivering his lines with a blank, Keanu-esque lack of affect. [In this universe, evidently “Zen” = “vacantly stupid.” Also, in this (presumably also pre-internet 1989) universe, there are famous bouncers. How do the throngs of fans learn about the top-notch bouncers? In bouncer-specific magazines and journals? Playbounce? Bouncer Homes and Gardens? Can you pick up Bounce Fancier at the news stand*?] He’s so renowned that a club owner from a smallish Missouri town pays Dalton $500 a night to come oversee the bouncing squad at his seedy smalltown roadhouse, “the kind of place where they sweep up the eyeballs at closing time.” [In this universe, a smallish town can provide enough low-life-loving heavy drinkers to support an enormous bar — so enormous that it requires a half-dozen full-time bouncers.] Dalton moves to town and finds a fully furnished residential loft space above a nearby barn, conveniently within view of the home of his nemesis, the evil liquor distributor, mwah-hah-hah (played with growly relish by Ben Gazzara, mwah-hah-hah) who will eventually start killing people with startling sang-froid. [In the rural Missouri of this universe, residential housing is notably rare — a whole town has only two houses — yet the few available spaces are lavish and the unhoused never remark upon their homelessness. Also, smalltown businessmen harbor personal grudges to such an extent that they routinely commit or incite others to commit murders. Also, though this universe has police sirens, they have no actual police force.] The whole scenario has an uncanny sense of being both familiar and deeply foreign, a potent sense of the Unheimliche. Compounding the audience’s cognitive dissonance are several images and outtakes that make little social sense in our world: an all-but-nameless love interest (Kelly Lynch, listed in the IMDb credits as “Doc”) who remains fully clad and blankly impassive during the big love scene, only to showcase her boobs and butt for the soulsearching midnight chat; a bucket-o’-blood dive bar refurbished into what looks like an Applebee’s/rollerdisco where the local bourgeoisie clamor for a table; the venerable Sam Elliot smilingly unbuttoning his trousers well past the point where most venerable actors would stop unbuttoning, for goodness sake!; “Pain don’t hurt”; a trophy room that might as well be a museum; a polar bear attacking a bad guy. You can watch it in muted confusion or hollering hilarity; there’s little middle ground for Road House. I’m telling ya, if David Lynch had directed Road House, film students would be discussing in hushed tones surrealist leaps, its measured ambiguity, its self-contradictory pseudo-pacifist theme, and its sojourns into Magical Realism. But he didn’t, so instead we watch it with hoots of derision and hilarity.
*The lovely Ms. Customer also suggested, in an admittedly boozy giggle-fit, a bouncerphilic magazine called Tossers, whether she remembers or not.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> April suggests Twins (in Comedy). OMG! I can’t get this movie out of my mind. It’s the best bad/good comedy I’ve seen in a long time. How could you not laugh at a film with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as long lost twin brothers? It’s even got Mrs. John Travolta and David Caruso! David Caruso! There should be more movies like it. For real.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>April suggests Anvil!: The Story of Anvil (in Documentary Arts). Anvil is this awesome Canadian band who should have made it big but never did, perhaps due to the fact that they’re just too nice to really push for what they dream of. They are humble metal guys who rock out to the max. And I heart them. I’d never heard of Anvil ’til I watched this documentary (lovingly made by an Anvil fan) but I’m totally gonna buy their music. Even if you’re not into metal music, this documentary is a must see. The cinematography is gorgeous! Their story is heartbreaking and inspiring- watch it!
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests The Wizard of Oz. Ahhhhh, how sweet. This classic children’s fare steeps me in nostalgic comfort, taking me back to the peaceful playfulness of my own childhood when AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHG FLYING MONKEYS AAAAAAAHHHHHG! I’ll be behind the couch.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests The Wrong House (in Horror). In case you guys haven’t heard, I got hired to write a local/indie movie column for the GO section of the Press Herald (sure, it’s a shameless plug, but, well, shut up…). In this week’s column, you’ll see a less-than-complimentary review of this film, a locally-produced, Rob Zombie-esque torture/horror flick from director/star Shawn French. I feel bad, but it’s not great. But there’s some good, nasty stuff in there, and French himself (the male half of a pair of married serial killers who go completely ape-poopy on the stoners who robbed their house) is a compelling and genuinely disturbing presence (enough so that a less-manly reviewer might feel little edgy panning his movie). Anyway, it’s better than at least half the stuff in the Horror section, and it’s local, and you should watch it, either by renting it from us, or by going to the screening, this Thursday (the 20th) right around the corner at the Nickelodeon. Horror fans unite- one of our Maine brethren has made a movie!
>>>For Sunday, the Anonymous Videoport Customer Who Occasionally Leaves Unsigned Reviews at the Store suggests Dune and the Sci Fi Channel miniseries Dune (in the Sci Fi/Fantasy section). Boy do I hate golf. It’s an endless list of rules, procedures, and protocols designed to make the simple pleasure of hitting stuff with clubs dull and tedious. You can’t drink on the green, those aren’t regulation golf cleats, whites only, etc. I may as well be at a school board meeting. It’s even worse on TV. Have you ever seen a tiny white ball against a background consisting of a blue sky? Neither have I, because it’s invisible. Do you know what’s great fun, though? Video golf. When golf is in video game form, the game worries about all the B.S. rules so you can play drunk and nude, all you need concentrate on is getting the ball in the hole and abusing your caddy or whoever is sitting next to you on the couch. My point is, sometimes the form which something takes can drastically alter its quality. Another good example is the novel/movie/TV series Dune. The story is about a young man named Paul Atreides who is a member of a noble family. Paul relocates to the desert planet Arrakis, AKA Dune where his father, Duke Leto Atreides, is to rule. Paul’s family is quickly overthrown by a rival family, the Harkonnens and finds refuge, along with his mother, with the native Fremen people. Paul is then accepted into the Fremen culture and becomes a messianic figure to them. He then unites the
disparate tribes in an effort to oust their foreign rulers. In a nutshell, it’s a religious epic by way of Lawrence of Arabia. The book is grand in scale, tackling themes such as ecology, religion, and human development. There is a lot of detail concerning culture, technology, subtle body language, and political maneuvering. Also, the book contains many alien terms that make it a tough read, so much so that I made a few false starts when I initially tried to read it, getting frustrated and restarting after 20 or 30 pages. (The edition I read contained a glossary so the reader could tell a Bene Gesserit from a Kwisatz Haderach.) The movie, for the sake of run time, had to excise much of the detail and truncate many of the grand themes. Still, I have a soft spot for the film. The sets and costumes are well done, the acting is over-the-top (and down the other side), and the effects have aged horribly. Jack Nance, chewing the scenery as Baron Harkonnen* and the general weirdness of it (David Lynch directed after all) make it a bit of a guilty pleasure. The TV series, on the other hand, was able to include much more detail because of the lengthier run time. It also benefitted from being made about 17 years later than the film, the effects are much better. However, I suspect the budget was stretched a bit because some of the sets look like crap. All that being said, I recommend Dune in all these forms. P.S.- Another book I’d like to recommend titled “The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made” by David Hughes contains a chapter about Dune. It details a version that would have been directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo) and conceptual designs by Jean Giroud, AKA Moebius, and H.R. Giger. Can you imagine? P.P.S.- Golf sucks.
*Editor’s note: That was character actor Kenneth McMillan chewing the sets as the Baron. We can only assume the Anonymous One was in a Lynchian haze from watching the movie. (Nance [star of Lynch’s Eraserhead, plays the minor role of ‘Nefud’.)
Editor’s Second Note: I love you, Anonymous One, and this is a great review, but please feel free to email your reviews to us at email@example.com (and anyone else, too) so I don’t have to beerily try to transcribe your brilliant words at 2 in the morning on a Sunday.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Invictus (Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon star in this sports-ish drama about Nelson Mandela’s championing of the South African rugby team), Valentine’s Day (all the pretty people [Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, the two interchangeable Jessicas] are crammed into this omnibus smoochathon you’re destined to watch with your more touchy-feely half), The Spy Next Door (Jackie Chan [who’s at least 85 at this point] continues to try and kill himself for our entertainment; maybe next time, big guy…), Extraordinary Measures (Harrison Ford plays a wacky scientist who finds a cure for Brendan Fraser’s kids in that based-on-a-true-story medical thriller/comedy/tearjerker you were waiting for), The Messenger (Woody Harrelson got all kids of praise for his performance as a soldier whose job it is deliver death notices to the families of other soldiers), The New Daughter (ever heard of this Kevin Costner thriller about a father discovering his daughter’s all possessed and stuff? Well, me neither, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s awful, right? Anyone?), The Girl on the Train (Catherine Deneuve stars in this acclaimed French thriller about the titular vapid young woman who, for no particular reason, starts a racial incident), Malice in Wonderland (yet another ‘edgy’ alternate take on that there story there, this time set in modern-day London; find it in the Incredibly Strange section).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Beeswax (acclaimed comedy from mumblecore auteur Andrew Bujalski [Funny Ha Ha, Mutual Appreciation] about two sisters and their slacker lawyer buddy dealing, haltingly, with some issues), Tokyo Gore Police 1.5 (if this title doesn’t make you want to see it, there’s nothing I can say), Confessions of a Porn Addict (the sad-looking dude from that ‘Kenny vs. Spenny’ show stars in this one-hopes-not-too-autobiographical tale of a shlub trying to come to grips with his…addiction), Act of Violence/Mystery Street (Videoport brings you a double feature of Films Noir, collectively starring such manly names as Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, and the young, hunky Ricardo Montalban), The Barghest (from Portland filmmaker and Videoport customer extraordinaire comes this Maine-set horror movie! Find it in the Incredibly Strange section on good ol’ VHS!), Flicker (another indie horror film, this time made in Albuquerque, about some nubile campers tormented by the requisite backwoods psychopaths), Legend of the Tsunami Warrior (swashbuckling adventure epic has three queens enlisting the help of a sort-of Thai Aquaman against some evil pirates!), Curious George Goes to a Birthday Party (I’m gonna go ahead and predict some shenanigans with the cake…), ‘Dead Man’s Walk’ (yet another miniseries based on the Robert Duvall/Tommy Lee Jones characters from ‘Lonesome Dove’), December (1991 drama centering on the students of a prep school coping with the news of Peal Harbor is like a time capsule of ‘rising stars’ who didn’t, quite: Wil Wheaton, Balthazar Getty, Brian Krause, Jason London), The Wrong House (locally-made demented horror from Limerick auteur Shawn French; check out the premier at the Nickelodeon on Thursday!), Doctor Dolittle (the original, in the Kids section), ‘Legion of Superheroes’ (the DC comics 30th century teenage superteam gets its own animated series), Platinum Blonde (classic bombshell Jean Harlowe’s first film, a screwball newspaper comedy directed by Frank Capra).
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Crank, The Messenger, Extraordinary Measures, Collateral Damage, Daredevil, Crash, New Police Story (Jackie Chan),The Spy Next Door, The Untouchables, Old School, First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part 2, Rambo 3, Rambo (2008), Star Trek: First Contact, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Waiting, Iron Man.