Volume CCLIII- Pat Garrett and Godzilla the Kid
For the Week of 6/22/10
Videoport has lots of new and previously-viewed DVDs (and tapes) for sale. Plus, we can order any DVD you want and you get a free movie for buying it from us (rather than some faceless, soulless internet chain we could mention). Double-plus, we don’t charge you shipping and we’re pretty sure you get into heaven for choosing 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.)
>>>JackieO suggests ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (in Horror). For a lot of people, many great things are rendered completely unenjoyable by their fans. I’ve met a person who will never know the wonders of The Big Lebowski because after coworkers have quoted from it ad nasuem to him, he has no desire to have anything to do with it. And through no fault of Bob Marley’s, I hate the man (sorry, the “legend”) and what I’m told is his good music due to the ubiquitous posters in college dorms, and fanboys who had just learned their first few chords on acoustic guitar singing “Redemption Song” complete with Jamaican accent. Please. Worst of all, I’m guilty of this backfiring of fanboy over-enthusiasm too. My coworker Regan will probably never watch a frame of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” because some years ago I used to say things to her like, “I can’t believe you don’t watch this show!”, or, “What’s your problem?”, and, “It’s so good!” which have a way of sounding like “Hey, dummy, what the hell? Why are you making such a stupid mistake, moron? Join my cult before I kill you, you idiot.” I wish to apologize. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been rewatching “Buffy”, and I must say, you naysayers have a point. The first season is an even dozen episodes of cheap monster make-up, bad special effects, and overwrought high school drama delivered poorly by mostly inexperienced actors who seem to be slowly learning their craft as they go. I felt so sorry for them all as I winced and groaned my way through those first three DVD’s. At least the jokes where good. The cast, crew, and writers somehow got to keep their jobs after that mess, and the show quickly found its legs and its voice (and a noticeably bigger budget) in its second year. Honestly, I don’t know why you would tough it out for those first twelve episodes, but if you do you will be rewarded with a well-executed, better acted, clearer vision of a promising idea. And Spike. Spike comes along in season two. I can’t believe you don’t watch this show!
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Sweet Charity (in Musicals). Can the sordid, flippantly-told story of a dancehall floozy’s exploitation and blindly persistent optimism be adorable? If it can, this is it. Shirley MacLaine cuts loose as the adorable gamine whose innate good cheer and hopeful nature haven’t yet been snuffed out by the sad, seedy work. MacLaine has the perfect combination of sweet and saucy for the part, making the most of Neil Simon’s screenplay. Perhaps my favorite sequence is “Hey, Big Spender,” a fantastic use of director Bob Fosse’s trademark provocative choreography. In this number, the roster of desperate, dead-eyed dime dancers (notably including Chita Rivera) flatly spiel out their rote come-ons to a promising john, offering him “some fun” in a tone that promises nothing but the dreary satisfaction of an appetite. They writhe and undulate invitingly, but all the while their faces remain as impassive and blank as automatons. It’s an appalling and viciously effective counterpoint to Charity’s dogged high spirits.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests World’s Greatest Dad (in Comedy). Bobcat Goldthwait and Robin Williams. If you rolled your eyes a little there, maybe I can’t blame you. The Bobcat (although his gimmicky early standup was a lot smarter than its reputation) quickly became a laughingstock (Hot to Trot, anyone?).
And Williams…after too many inane comedies and mawkish dramas to mention (not to mention a standup/interview persona so self-impressed, so manically-self-indulgent) that I’ve been saving a smack to the head with his name on it since Bicentennial Man. But Goldthwait has directed Shakes the Clown and Sleeping Dogs Lie, two utterly-weird and genuinely affecting/effective films before and, well, Williams can be very good indeed, when he has a good director to rein him in and keep him focused. And now, with World’s Greatest Dad, he has not only created one of the best comedies of last year, he’s announced himself as a significant American director and reminded us that Williams is a damned fine actor under all the nonsense. Williams plays a decent, schlubby high school teacher and single dad to the worst, most hateful little teenaged creep I’ve ever seen (played with unpleasant believability by the little guy from the Spy Kids movies). Even though he’s perpetually put-upon, Williams’ dad tries ceaselessly to reach his sweaty, mean, dim-witted, internet-porn-addicted offspring until…well, that’s the thing. I won’t say any more about the plot (which is a handicap in trying to get you to see it, but, well…). I will say that the movie takes unexpected turns, and takes incredible chances with the audience’s sympathies, and it pulls them all off with a satirical aplomb. The impressionability of teenagers, knee-jerk reactionariness of people in general, the quest for fame, and good old American dumbness all get taken out for a ride, but the whole enterprise is grounded in an ultimately humanistic and clever script (by the Bobcat), and a revelatory, moving central performance (from Williams). Not bad for a couple of laughingstocks.
>>>Regan suggests Rancho Deluxe (in Comedy). Cussin’ and f***in’, and Harry Dean Stanton? Yes please!
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis suggests The Family That Eats Soil (in Incredibly Strange). Let me explain… This movie is repellant. An amateurish, violent, sexually nasty, ramshackle, annoying, entirely gross excuse for a movie from the Philippines, and yet, I’m putting my name on it. I’m recommending it. Have I gone mad? Am I just a creep? Maybe. The movie starts with a claymation (actually more like play-doh-mation) graphic depiction of a rape and murder that’s equal parts juvenile, offensive, and satirically-
on-target, then shifts to a series of vignettes, each more unpleasant than the next, about the titular family who, in between meals of, yes, dirt, play out their individual tales of infidelity, brutality, actual cockfighting, a midget in a diaper, and general awfulness, all shot on truly hideous-looking video (and not digital video either.) Man. So what in the name of the film geek gods am I doing recommending you actually watch this freakshow? Well, first of all, it’s a freakshow- do I have to paint you a picture? And second, the director, an underground phenom in the Philippines, actually has some method to his willfully-gross madness. Take the explicit sequence where the family’s teen sister, naked on all fours, pantomimes being raped by an invisible assailant, pleading and berating her attacker (and then, in a later sequence, having an inner monologue wondering which of her relatives has fathered her secret baby, or the hallucinatory further sequence where she is gang-accosted by masked figures and defiled, etc)- yeah, it’s awful and sordid, but damned if it’s not also affecting, saying something about the victimization of Filipino women by men (like the opening succession of claymation a-holes, each more militaristic and brutal than the last). And there’s actually some wit in the faux subtitling of the family’s mom’s lurid talk show, where her voiceover narration about the drug and sex trades in the Philippines becomes a mocking indictment of her own sensationalism and hypocrisy. Alternately (or simultaneously) revolting, confusing, dull, and kind of clever, the movie portrays a world where no one and nothing is free from degradation, humiliation, and pain. The reviews on the DVD box compare this movie to Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q which, in a previous VideoReport, I called the most disturbing movie I’d seen at that time. The Family That Eats Soil isn’t quite in that league, but I get the comparison: each director is using the family unit to embody the worst, most hidden and ugly truths about the human condition. And this one, in its grungy, third-world awfulness, may even be more unnerving. Find it in the Incredibly Strange section, if you’re feeling disreputable…
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Dennis suggests allowing your young, constitutionally-irresponsible children to handle our DVDs all unsupervised and stuff…oh, wait- that’s something only a terrible parent would do. Forget I mentioned anything…
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Regan suggests We’re No Angels (in Classics). I know all the lyrics to the song ‘Sisters’ from White Christmas. Why? Because. My mother made sure to brainwash me with this film from a very young age. And with that came We’re No Angels. I’m sure by my first viewing, I was
shouting NO! NO! N-N-N-NOOO!! But I imagine a big part of being a parent is the power or the joy in forcing your offspring to do things they really don’t want to, whether it be sticking Trivial Pursuit pieces up your nose or watching old movies. I have photos of the former. Yeah, so this movie’s a riot. A dry riot. Humphrey, of course, is f***ing cool, but Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov really-are-darling. So adorable I want to punch their faces, because if I crush the adorableness, I will feel like more of a man. What? Forget it. Um…oh yeah, and the uncle is such a turd breeze! Like major douche miasma! So listen to your mother. Clean your ears. Watch old movies. Don’t backwash into soda bottles. And clean your a-hole real good. You’re welcome.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests The Stepfather (in Horror). Jerry Blake is a jovial, easy-going fellow with a modest but handsome home, a lovely wife, a booming business, and a dark secret. “Jerry” is a madman, a man obsessed with the bland, impossible perfection of happy home, a man motivated by the unending search for a brand of happiness never seen outside a Hallmark ad. He courts single mothers, endears himself (more or less) to their kids, and establishes himself as the idealized father figure he
desperately longs to be. But family life is rarely perfect, and Jerry cannot tolerate imperfection; when the inevitable stresses of life with children or teenagers arise, so do Jerry’s inner demons. In his search for perfection, he’s left a trail of murdered families and bloodied, smashed midsized homes in his wake. This sounds like the stuff of a shoddy Lifetime movie-of-the-week, somehow simultaneously boring and sensationalistic… and it should be. It would be, but for the compelling performance of Terry O’Quinn (Lost, Millenium, Alias). O’Quinn’s layered, intelligent portrayal shows Jerry as an amiable everyman who believes in deceptively simple values, who thinks that attitude and elbow grease can make a home perfect, who would use phrases like “elbow grease” and “stick-to-it-iveness.” Even the most shocking moments are enriched by his portrayal of Jerry as a cheerfully determined man with modest aspirations, the kind of can-do guy who doesn’t let circumstances get him down, goshdarnit. Even in The Stepfather‘s grimmest moments, it’s hard not to feel a grudging admiration for Jerry’s pluck. And this is the sly wit of the movie: it’s a subtle attack on the supposedly strong “family values” faction of Reaganite America. In most formula horror movies, and especially the slasher films of the 1980s that formed The Stepfather‘s milieu and matrix, violence is triggered in part by the unleashed sexuality and hedonism of the victims. In The Stepfather, the sexuality of both mother and stepdaughter (Shelley Hack and Jill Schoelen) is presented as perfectly normal and healthy, in no way threatening or perverse; it’s Jerry’s reaction to the norm that is perverse. Jerry is driven by an obsessive need to preserve his limited sense of perfection and purity, to preserve the patriarchy at all costs, to defend his rigidly narrow views about old-fashioned values and the sanctity of the family.
New Releases this week at Videoport: The Last Station (because Videoport customers are awesome, this period piece about the last days of Tolstoy starring Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren has been the most requested and anticipated movie of the week; we love you guys…), ‘Entourage’- season 6 (rich actor and his sponging friends series reaches its conclusion ), Remember Me (wan vampire lad Robert Pattinson stars in this sappy romance with a twist ending designed to manufacture tears [or righteous indignation, depending]; still, the Videoport spoiler policy remains in effect- regardless of your opinion of this, or any, movie, revealing a film’s ending results in immediate, ignominious expulsion from the store. No one who respects movies EVER spoils an ending for someone else…), Green Zone (Matt Damon reteams with Bourne director Paul Greengrass in this action-packed, righteously-indignant alternate history thriller where the first team sent searching for WMD’s in Iraq finds the truth [that the Bush administration was lying in order to whip a gullible, sheeplike public into war frenzy, thus condemning thousands to die for no reason] and comes out asking WTF?!?), She’s Out of My League (Judd Apatow discovery Jay Baruschel [‘Undeclared’, Knocked Up] tries to emulate the post-Apatow success of the likes of Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, and Seth Rogan with this romantic comedy about, well, you read the title…), ‘Hung’- season 1 (former Videoporter Jeremy [who writes the hilarious Videoport ads in the Phoenix] described this best as “that show where Thomas Jane has the big dink”), Lewis Black: Stark Raving Black (former Daily Show correspondent and professional yeller Black brings you his new comedy special), The Good Guy (the younger Gilmore Girl has to choose between two fellas in this romantic comedy of pretty people).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Clan of the Cave Bear (personal hero John Sayles occasionally does script work on super lame Hollywood movies in order to finance his indie masterpieces (like Lone Star, Matewan, The Brother from Another Planet, etc); why do I mention that in conjunction with this laughable caveman flick starring a laughably-prim and pretty Daryl Hannah? No reason…), The Family That Eats Soil (check out Thursday’s review…if you dare…), Red Desert (who brought you this pristine edition of Michelangelo Antonioni’s first, gorgeous color film? Videoport and the Criterion Collection, that’s who…), Bluebeard (French provocateuse Catherine Breillat [Fat Girl, The Anatomy of Hell, Romance] brings out this typically-button-pushing adaptation of the legend of the infamously-wife-chopping aristocrat), War Dogs: America’s Forgotten Heroes (Martin Sheen narrates this documentary about the brave puppies who in no way just did what they were trained and ordered to do in hopes of getting a cookie after, but instead fought for the American values they believed in so strongly), The Maid (Chilean drama about the struggles of a family’s devoted, decades-long servant to discover herself when faced with unemployment).
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: She’s Out of My League, The Last Station, Green Zone.