Volume CCLIV- Godzilla, the Witch and the Wardrobe
For the Week of 6/29/10
Videoport works tirelessly to provide the deepest selection of films, best customer service, and lowest prices, all right in your own neighborhood, Portland. Should you choose to ignore us in favor of some soulless internet entity that might as well be selling socks as movies, well, that’s between you and your gods…
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 ‘Wallander’ (in Mystery/Thriller). I love Kenneth Branagh. That is the answer to the question, “Do we really need another British mystery show?”, by the way. (But seriously, doesn’t it seem like everyone should have been murdered already by now? With all the BBC mysteries, only the detectives should be left, murdering each other and the survivors solving the murders. My money’s on ‘Prime Suspect’‘s Jane Tennyson to be the last woman standing, incidentally). Anyway, this series,
based on a series of novels, and in Sweden, does as they all do, with the world-weary detective dealing with people being all murder-y and awful, and the plots being just clever enough for your smarter wife to figure it out ten minutes before you do (if you’re me). What makes this one so memorable is my man Ken. I was shocked to find out some time ago that British critics aren’t especially fond of Branagh; me, I think he’s one of the greatest Shakespearean actors and interpreters I’ve ever seen, and I was personally upset when he and ex-wife Emma Thompson broke up because of my selfish desire to see them produce a generation of brilliant Shakespearean babies. And he’s great as Kurt Wallander, possibly the most rumpled, saddest-eyed, least-clean-shaven, most jaded cop in the history of Sweden (I imagine). Separated, consumed by his job, no personal life, and trying (and, to his mind, failing) to take care of his bright teenaged daughter, his creeping-towards-dementia dad (very nice to see David Warner again), and the ever-in-peril Swedes, Wallander is smart, and dogged, and very, very affecting. Branagh’s main fault (according to tightassed British critics who need to stop genuflecting at the altar of Sir Laurence) is an excess of emotion, a willingness to sacrifice subtlety for emotional impact (they are incorrect, but still…), so this performance should keep them happy at least. Branagh’s Wallander lives in a slough of sadness, and self doubt, and, appropriately, the performance is generally in the lower register. Sure, I’d rather see Ken doing more Shakespeare (in fact, I think the British government should subsidize him to put on every single play), but he’s very, very good in this show. For those of you looking for a new British (ok Swedish, but they’ve got British accents, thankfully) murder fix, Ken’s your man.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests you check out some dames (in Classics). I love me some noir dames. Rita Hayworth as Gilda, who can never quite get a zipper to close. Lana Turner, shining with cheap allure in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Gloria Grahame, a lonely gal In a Lonely Place, a gal who likes your face. Bacall as a sour rich girl with a sweet center in The Big Sleep. Mary Astor, by turns fluttering and fierce in The Maltese Falcon. And — sigh — the noir-iest of the noir dames: Barbara Stanwyck with her patently fake platinum hair and her saucy ankle bracelet gleaming like a fishhook in Double Indemnity.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (in Comedy). Lessons for teenagers from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off! 1: Compulsive liars make the best friends! All the telltale signs of charming manipulation and heartless exploitation notwithstanding, Ferris isn’t a budding sociopath or a budding narcissist or a budding anything — he’s your best buddy! 2: The end justifies the means. Lie, lie, lie… if it’s for a good cause, which is to say, for your own entertainment. 3: Crime is awesome! Hacking, auto theft, impersonating a police officer — these aren’t serious offenses but merely youthful hijinks! 4: Taking advantage of your socio-economic privilege = REBELLION!
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Grease (in Musicals). Lessons for teenagers from Grease! 1: Your friends don’t really like you, they like having another person who clicks into place in the clique. Hide your true self. 2: Hiding your true self isn’t enough to make you desirable; to mate successfully, you must actually discard your true self in favor of a completely constructed persona. 2a: If you’re a girl, you must also put out. But if that leads to pregnancy, you’re on your own! 3: Pregnancy scares can last for an entire school year — roughly nine months. 4: Nostalgia has no place for persons of color. 5: Slumber parties are arenas for backbiting, humiliation, and ritualized social indoctrination. (note: If your social circle follows rules 1-4, then rule 5 is totally accurate.)
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Dennis suggests that teaching kids about responsible DVD handling (especially with DVDs from an independent local video store) will mean less chance that you’ll have to replace that cracked crystal egg statue after your teenager has held a fundraising hooker party in order to pay off the damage he/she did to your Porsche. I’m just sayin… (see Sunday’s review for details…)
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 The Breakfast Club (in Feature Drama). Lessons for teenagers from The Breakfast Club! 1: Forced accidental interaction may temporarily erase the otherwise stringent borders of social stratification… but only temporarily. 2: You and your peers are equally disenfranchised and alienated. Put-upon outcasts, don’t roll your eyes at the relatively small problems of the privileged, pretty, or popular people who enforce your ostracism. 3: Girls, never forget that you must conform to a rigidly narrow beauty standard; your spiky, eccentric personality should be subdued beneath a veneer of make-over lipgloss and shy smiles. 4: If you’re the bookish nerd, you have to do all the work while the prettier people hook up. And you’d better like it. 5. Open rebellion and dignified dissent are impossible; resentful half-hearted acquiescence to the status quo is the best solution.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Risky Business (in Comedy). This early 80s blockbuster is often remembered through a haze of nostalgia, painted as a seminal coming-of-age tale, a cheerful sexual romp, the bawdy tale of a bright-eyed boy (Tom Cruise) who shakes off the shackles of upper-middle-class repression and learns to stop and smell the roses. Even Joel’s most innocent sexual fantasies devolve into nightmares of being persecuted by his parents, neighbors, and the police. When sexual liberation finally does arrive (in the form of Rebecca De Mornay’s hooker with a heart of gold), it looks like a dream sequence… because in Joel’s tightly inhibited little world, this might as well be a dream. It’s hard not to sympathize with the kid; he’s not very bright, not at all funny, and frankly sort of charmless, but his parents and friends expect him to perform far beyond his abilities. Surrounded by these unmeetable
pressures, Joel is unable to cut loose and be himself. But here’s the dark truth at the heart of Risky Business: Joel never learns to be himself, he just learns to be a sneakier, more exploitative version of the soulless entrepreneur his parents want him to be. This movie is about learning to embrace the deepest, most avid appetites of the id, and about avoiding the consequences of indulging those appetites. It’s a cynical reflection of the grabby, selfish Eighties ethos that tells you you can have it all, at any cost to others. Drive the forbidden Porsche — wreck it, even. Just don’t get caught.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (“It’s the next Harry Potter! It’s the next Harry Potter!” screams the makers of this young adult series about a boy magician…), Crazy: The Hank Garland Story (musical biopic about a legendary Nashville guitarist that hipper people than I are certainly excited about…), The Eclipse (acclaimed Irish ghost story about spooky goings-on at a writers conference; starring Ciaran Hinds), Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (a, one suspects, utterly-rockin’ documentary about the legendary Canadian power trio; sorry, I meant ‘rockumentary’), The Doors: When You’re Strange (narrated by Johnny Depp, it’s the week’s second rockumentary, this time about the legendarily-overrated American band), The Rolling Stones in Exile (it’s a rockumentary triumvirate! A three film rock block! A rock and roll triple feature at Videoport! We rock!), ‘Eureka’- season 3 (the sci fi series about a small town chock full o’ government-funded mad scientists continues), ‘The Closer’- season 5 (Kyra Sedgewick continues to be all spucky and crime-solvy and stuff…), ‘Warehouse 13’- season 1 (two government agents get sent to the titular secret facility where they deal with supernatural/ extraterrestrial doodads; any resemblance to the ‘X Files’ is purely coincidental), The White Ribbon
(the most anticipated foreign film of the year, this typically-unnerving film about cryptic and queasy shenaningans in pre WWI Germany from modern master director Michael Haneke [Funny Games]), The Crazies (in this remake of the George Romero horror semi-classic, government chemical jackassery causes a small town’s inhabitants to start with the chopping), Don McKay (Thomas Haden Church stars in this indie thriller about a former janitor returning to his hometown…and some deep dark secrets), Creation (Paul Bettany stars as Charles Darwin, as he discovers the theory of evolution…which most Republican candidates for office claim not to believe in), Hot Tub Time Machine (John Cusack, Craig Robinson, and Rob Corddry take a stab at Hangover-style guy comedy success with this with this tale of three middle aged guys transported back to their teenaged glory days by the titular, well, hot tub time machine, I guess…).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Pretty Bird (indie comedy about an eccentric group out to invent a rocket belt is directed by indie hunk Paul Schneider [All the Pretty Girls] and stars Paul Giamatti and Billy Crudup), A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory (Williams was a filmmaker who recorded the goings on at Warhol’s Factory and then disappeared; this documentary reveals what he saw…), One Deadly Summer (the young, impossibly-alluring Isabelle Adjani starred in this 1983 French thriller about a young woman trying to get revenge on the men who, long ago, raped her mother), the Criterion Collection, via Videoport’s owner Bill, brings us three, count ’em three classic studies of postwar alienation from Japanese master director Shohei Imamura: Insect Woman, Intentions of Murder, and Pigs and Battleships, Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story (narrated by Patricia Clarkson, this documentary tells the story of the Federal Writer’s Project, a depression-era documentation program that spawned writers the likes of Jim
Thompson, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, and John Cheever), Dogfight (now that this great little film, a heartbreaking sort of love story starring Lili Taylor and River Phoenix, is finally out on DVD, there’s really no excuse for you not to see it), The Crossing Guard (Jack Nicholson, David Morse, and Anjelica Huston are in full agony mode in this searing Sean Penn-directed film about a grieving father obsessed with killing the drunk driver who killed his child), The Fly (deluxe 2-disc edition of the completely-brilliant and disgusting David Cronenberg horror remake, starring Jeff Goldblum), The Cry of the Owl (excellent Irish actor Paddy Considine stars in this film version of the Patricia Highsmith mystery [The Talented Mr. Ripley]).
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Freddy vs. Jason, Blood Diamond, Rush Hour 3, Elf, The Orphanage, Pride and Glory, Any Given Sunday, Gods and Generals, Music and Lyrics, The Bucket List, A Christmas Story, Get Smart, Million Dollar Baby, The Fugitive, Michael Clayton, Hot Tub Time Machine, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, The Shining, Firewall, The Aviator, Ocean’s Eleven, Body of Lies, Alexander Revisited, Final Destination, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Crazies (2010), Dumb and Dumber.
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