VideoReport #252

Volume CCLII- sex, lies, and optical disc storage media

For the Week of 6/15/10

Videoport has the best selection of movies anywhere. We’ve also got the best prices, the most knowledgeable staff, and great daily, moneysaving deals. It’s not bragging if you can back it up…

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 checking out the local filmmaker shelf in the ‘staff picks’ section in the Middle Aisle at Videoport. Maine filmmakers are thriving, and Videoport loves ’em all! Check out scruffy, locally-made gems from filmmakers like former Videoporters Allen Baldwin (Twelve Steps Outside) and Christian Matzke (Nyarlathotep, An Imperfect Solution), Videoport customers like Kate Kaminski (A Pagan Place, The Barghest) and Frank Menair (Projectotrain), and Mainers who’ve moved onto the big time like Kyle Rankin (Pennyweight, The Battle of Shaker Heights, Infestation), Todd Verow (Vacationland), and Dana Packard (Mr. Barrington). And check out the hottest-renting Maine movie of the moment, Shawn French’s horror film The Wrong House. Videoport loves local filmmakers!

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (in Classics). Rent it for two good reasons: 1. It’s a tremendous film. Starring Humphrey Bogart, and Walter Huston, directed by John

If he gets our quote wrong again, we shoot him, yes?

Huston, awarded Oscars for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, nominated for Best Picture, Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a grinding, wry, viciously funny exploration of greed and mistrust universally hailed as a great example of masterful storytelling. It has as much gravity as a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. Reason 2: Get the darned quote right: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I DON’T HAVE TO SHOW YOU ANY STINKING BADGES!”

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

>>> Miss Alex suggests Coup de Torchon (in Foreign/the Criterion Collection). Tavernier sets Coup de Torchon adapted from Jim Thompson’s Pop. 1280 in French West Africa 1938, where police chief Lucien Cordier, played by Philippe Noiret, inverts his perceived role as village idiot by strategically killing off those characters who think he is incapable, soft, and incorruptible and incapable of ‘dirty work’. Tavernier concocts a poisonous cocktail of noir-esque violence, clichés of a spaghetti Western, French colonial African style, with buffoonish clowning as Cordier poaches and disposes of living human trash through cold killings, calculated rendezvous, and disguise of stupidity and base humor. Isabelle Huppert’s Rose, his lover, and Stephane Audran’s Hugette, his wife, are either insatiable, deceitful, and vain, and even Anne, Irene Skobline, contradicts him, is inaccessible, burdensome in her attentions, so in the end, women are reduced to the criminal, venomous, and disposable. Men are moving targets in this carnival shooting gallery; they too, are excessive, damaged, and contaminated where good and evil never reconcile. Cordier kicks Rose’s dying husband after he shoots him, and says ‘You, you won’t have a boring death.’ And ‘This hurts me more than it hurts you.’ The heartless automatic eye of the camera pans, seizes, and holds hostage innocent African children crouching near enormous trees, as they dutifully recite the French anthem, and colorfully clothed locals in the open market to emphasize how we exoticize and colonize the cultures of others with our gaze, our greed, our preferences, and our contempt. The only African characters are soldiers and servants, whose names have connection to calendar days, who carry the dead, sweep the dirt, serve drinks, and suffer beatings or death, and are dumped in rivers for white men’s drunken shooting games. Their lines are limited, if not dismembered. We trample lives and decide who lives and dies with little regard for humanity. Exhumed from the dirt and excess of colonial values, racism, hypocrisy, hierarchy, and human waste, Cordier delivers the message that ‘all crimes are collective, and we participate in each other’s crimes’.  Sublime visual poetry collides with the scatological, as Tavernier and his striking cast send us on a chase for bodies dead or alive, naked, in underwear, suits, or tribal dress to search for what is cloaked and buried within the body, our most sacred power object that holds infinite truths.

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

>>>Dennis suggests Cheech & Chong’s Hey, Watch This! (in Comedy). I was not a hip kid. (Shocker, I know.) Truthfully, when I first heard Cheech and Chong, it was at a friends house on vinyl, and I really had no idea what they were talking about. I’d heard of marijuana, sure, but had precious little

It's great to be back toget...hey, what was your name again?

idea what it did at the time (or, to this day, if my parents are reading). Still, I responded, in the way only a twelve year old boy can, to the silly songs, the goofy voices, and the pair’s goofy camaraderie. When I got a little bit older (and we got cable), I got more of an idea what they were on about from the still-hilarious Up in Smoke and the increasingly dire sequels. C&C’s main charm is their completely unpretentious hedonism, their singleminded quest for (pot addled) pleasure, and their obvious affection for each other, and it went a long way in glossing over the fact that, comedically, they were about as sloppy and juvenile as you get when you’re stoned literally every second. Sure, it’s still mostly awful, but it’s nice to know that, as this reunion concert film shows, even in their 60s, C&C still think weed, poop, and fart jokes are hilarious and that you needn’t grow up, at all, if you don’t want to. It’s nice seeing the duo clearly having fun again, after years of purported bad blood, Cheech’s emergence as a respected and successful character actor, and Chong’s recent (and ridiculous) nine month incarceration for selling someone a customized Tommy Chong bong. It’s also nice to see that Tommy Chong actually is still a functioning human- I was pretty worried about that.

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer would like to point out: John Hurt: an actor of fierce dignity, an Associate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, twice nominated for Oscars, and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He’s one of the great actors of our times. And he narrates The Tigger Movie. Check it out.

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

>>>For Saturday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (in Feature Drama). When I first heard that John Krasinski was helming a film adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s short story collection, I raised an eyebrow. The titular interviews are darkly funny, deeply unpalatable,

She is so surounded by hideousness right now...

and oddly decontextualized. That last one promised to be the trickiest part for an adapter: how do you string these performance pieces together into the kind of coherent narrative that almost any audience will demand? Delicately, that’s how… and, if possible, with an intelligent commentary on Wallace’s own excursions into metafiction and PoMo playfulness. The interviews are casually (and, it turns out, causally) strung together by the soft-spoken grad student at the film’s center, who collects the interviews, and Julianne Nicholson (who — huh, go figure — is best known for her appearances on “Law & Order”) does a lot with very little here. She’s curiously affecting, especially since her real role is that of listener. The men are the talkers, the talkers, the incessant talkers, and that’s part of what makes them hideous: their unstemmed volubility, their unexamined belief in their words, their self-appointed position as experts on women. A few of the hideous men: Will Arnett (“Arrested Development,” “30 Rock”), Chris Messina (Julie & Julia, Away We Go), Will Forte (SNL, MacGruber), Clarke Peters (“The Wire,” “Treme”), Josh Charles (“Sports Night,” Dead Poets Society, Threesome), Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, The Ghost Writer). In this company, it’s hard to pick a standout performance, but my money’s on Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: SVU”), whose airport tale of heartbreak is positively riveting. (There’s also one long interview with one not-hideous man (Frankie Faison), a segment that is beautifully rendered, gorgeously acted, and — unfortunately — rings utterly out of tone with the rest of the film in almost every way.) As a directorial debut, it’s cozily ambitious and largely successful, if defiantly quirky. As an adaptation, it’s a startling success. The only major mis-step comes in the last few minutes, with the introduction of a sketched-out framing device that undercuts much of the film’s power by removing the ambiguity of the interviewer’s focus.

>>>For Sunday, Miss Alex suggests O.C. and Stiggs (in Comedy). Some comment on the acquired taste of this film; it resides with other cult classics where bad fashion, pubescent, puerile plot, cheesy, cluttered backdrops, and forgettable lines collide. Altman’s junk food-film is a completely impossibly teen-comedy set in Reagan’s upper middle-class America during the 80’s grazes on and stares at the antics of O. C. (out of control) and Stiggs, who transform a vehicular corpse into the Young Frankensteinian “Gila Car” with a hydraulic lift with its combination eastern European looks, “frightening noise with the ugliness of poverty”, its own meta Ade soundtrack to horrify the world; they search for the perfect gift for Leonor Schwab’s wedding, journey to Mexico in inner tubes to find King Sunny Ade, and bring him back to do a concert, while perpetually stalking the Schawbs family. My favorite character is Jane Curtain’s Mrs. Schwab, has virtually lines, and on a stealth search for liquor she’s hidden in binoculars, Christmas ornaments, even the milk jug, anything. She has no lines, and her expressions and body language are impeccable. Tina Louise as a hot middle-aged woman in glasses is fabulous. This film blenderizes disco, Dynasty, shoulder pads, big hair, ugly station wagons, stores lined with processed food, rayon shirts, spandex, Rambo, Mrs. Pacman, Saturday Night Live, and all manner of early eighties crap-you-love-to-love. Altman’s creepy side is omnipresent even in the stupidity, and the humor is just not right.

New Releases this week at Videoport: The Book of Eli (Denzel Washington tries to survive the apocalypse and best baddie Gary Oldman all the while protecting the titular, mysterious book in this post-nuke actioner that’s a little bit Road Warrior and, sadly, a little bit Postman), Youth in Revolt (slightly oversaturated funny lad Michael Cera revolts against his typecasting, playing his typical nice, inarticulate teen and his own suavely evil alter ego in this darkly comic teen sex comedy), ‘Family Guy’- season eight (you know, I’ve railed against this show (its lazy writing, its forgettable characters, its reliance on unfunny shock value) for nigh on a decade now; you guys enjoy- you know my feelings…), ‘Sanctuary’- season two (the further adventures of the British bureaucrats tasked with protecting and integrating England’s magical monsters into society continues in the Sci Fi/Fantasy section), When in Rome (blandly pretty, pleasant people Kristin Bell and Josh Duhamel try to drum up some charm in this romantic fantasy about a young woman who’s pursued by weird suitors after she steals their coins from a wishing well), Unthinkable (wait…a terrorist thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Sheen, and Carrie-Anne Moss and you’ve never heard of it until this direct-to-DVD release? Not a great sign, but the reviews [the ones I can find] say this is a pretty gripping little thriller about an FBI guy resorting to good old American Jack Bauer-esque torture to find out where some bombs are), Collapse (from the director of the ever-excellent American Movie comes another gripping documentary about an obsessive, troubled guy out to show the world that he’s right; except this time, the guy’s not trying to show he can make a low-budget horror movie, he’s writer, blogger, conspiracy theorist Michael Ruppert, trying to explain how we’re all doomed to social, financial, and environmental, well, collapse), Mary and Max (from the Oscar-winning filmmaker of Harvey Krumpet comes another sad and funny claymation story, a tale of the unlikely pen pal friendship between an 8 year old Aussie girl and an obese middle aged New York man; featuring voices from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Colette and Eric Bana), Happy Tears (Parker Posey, Demi Moore, Rip Torn, and Ellen Barkin add some star power to this oddball dramedy about two grown sisters returning home to care for their garrulous, incorrigible father [guess who plays him…] who’s succumbing to senility), Shall We Kiss? (charming French romantic comedy starring the ever-delectable Virginie Ledoyen [8 Women] about the impossibility of a ‘kiss without consequence’), Circle of Pain (undeniably badass, yet surprisingly-easy-to-beat-up, mixed martial arts fighter Kimbo Slice brings his beefy bullying to this direct-to-DVD MMA flick [where people get paid not to actually beat him in the ring]), Long Pigs (acclaimed and disgusting indie horror from Canada about a pair of documentarians following around a cannibalistic serial killer).

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Mystery Train (my favorite Jim Jarmusch film [which makes it one of my favorite films of all time], this multi-story, multi-character tale of one weird night in Memphis finally gets the super-deluxe treatment it deserves from the cinematic heroes at the Criterion Collection! Yeah!), MacGyver: The TV Movies (hoping to ride MacGruber‘s nonexistent coattails, this DVD packages together several of the latter-day exploits of that film’s Swiss army knife-wielding forebear), Burma VJ: Portrait of a Closed Country (shocking, gripping documentary, assembled from smuggled footage, about the 2007 mass protests by thousands of monks against their country’s repression and general a-hole-ery), Sex Positive (documentary about one of the unsung heroes of the safe sex movement, Richard Berkowitz, an S&M sex worker-turned AIDS activist), Cheech & Chong’s Hey Watch This! (reuniting after decades [they can’t remember exactly how long] the original Harold & Kumar show that even in their 60’s, pot humor, fart jokes, and generally-amiable silliness are still what the people want in this ‘greatest hits’ [get it?] concert film; see Thursday’s review…), Silent Movie (this endearingly silly Mel Brooks pseudo-silent comedy finally gets the DVD treatment!), Shaun the Sheep: One Giant Leap for Lambkind (the second DVD outing for the fluffy spinoff character from the classic Wallace and Gromit series!), Word Is Out (seminal 1977 documentary was one of the first to allow gay men and women to speak their minds onscreen), Troop Beverly Hills (Videoport’s owner Bill has finally caved to the inexplicable stream of requests that we replace this 1989 Shelley Long comedy; may god have mercy on his soul…), Inch’Allah Dimanche (from the people at Film Movement comes this French bummer about a Muslim woman moving to France and being oppressed by her a-hole husband, her a-hole mother-in-law, and racist a-holes in general), You Can’t Take It With You (DVD release of the John Ford-directed, Jimmy Stewart-starring classic).

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: The Book of Eli, Caddyshack, The Illusionist, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Youth in Revolt.

Published in: on June 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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