VideoReport #258

Volume CCLVIII- Bad Lieutenant vs. Good Will Hunting

For the Week of 7/27/10

Videoport gives you a free movie every, single day. How can you argue with that? You can’t, that’s how.

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.)

>>> Videoport Customer Robyn S. suggests Howl’s Moving Castle (in Anime). I just finished watching Ponyo. It wasn’t a terrible movie, but it’s still the worst thing I’ve seen by Miyazaki. First off, The art was a pale shadow of his usual stuff. I found it lacking real depth and detail that

Someone didn't like 'Ponyo'...and we should respect her opinion, no matter how crazy it may be.

one usually expects from studio Ghibli. A few times during the film, I noticed the animation going all wonky; with characters’ bodies bending in strange ways that weren’t explained by the plot. Speaking of the plot, I found it to be very sparse, with only the main characters being filled in very well, and the ancillary characters only sketched a bit. I have no idea why Ponyo’s father acted the way he did, other than out of some sort of paternal protectiveness. I haven’t been this clueless about character motivation in a Miyazaki film since that chopped up version of Nausicaa that made absolutely no sense whatsoever. The thing that bothered me most? The garbage. There was garbage everywhere in the ocean. Normally when Miyazaki does that he’s all like “Look at the garbage, it’s awful!” and in this movie, it was like “meh, it’s the ocean, it has garbage in it w/e, look at this crazy fish!” and I’m all like “Miyazaki, don’t you care about da earf no more?!?!” Seriously, man. Get it together! You’d be better off watching Howl’s Moving Castle; I watched it just a couple of weeks before I watched Ponyo. The awesomeness of Howl’s made Ponyo seem even drabber in comparison. It’s a tough balance to find, that mix between mysterious and just not explaining anything. Howl’s nailed it, as I was entranced, but didn’t leave the movie feeling like I was seriously missing something. And the animation was waaaaayyy prettier.

Editor’s note: One hates to dispute a loyal customer who was nice enough to send in a review (follow her lead by sending yours to denmn@hotmail.com, by the way), but I LOVE PONYO!!!! Ahem. Thank you for your contribution, Robyn.

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

>>> Mark Magee suggests The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming! (in Classics). The Russians Are Coming… is a great time capsule movie; it depicts a time long since past when the only true villains the United States had to worry about were the Russians. The film was released in 1966 at the height of The Cold War. The idea of a Russian sub accidentally

This is Mark. You'll be hearing from him a lot from now on.

running aground or purposely invading a small New England coastal community was not too far-fetched. This film takes a semi-humorous approach to the hysteria that evolves from such a landing. It is often very funny, very sweet and very moving and is full of excellent performances. A stand-out is Alan Arkin. He gives an Oscar-worthy turn (he was nominated but didn’t win) as the leader of the Russian landing party. His Lt. Rozanov could have been an over-the-top stereotype, but he gives the character realism and he truly is the highlight of the film. Some of the great character actors of the day make up the funny supporting cast (Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters and Paul Ford especially). There are many amusing vignettes and the film (although slowly paced) builds to a very affective climax. Some consider Russians.. too idealistic and saccharine but given it’s time, it gave American audiences a very different perspective of their Soviet counterparts. Not portrayed as soulless villains, the Russians were seen as regular human beings just like us and according to the well-made documentary in the Special Features, Russians.. was a hugely popular film in both the U.S. and Russia. An excellent film with an overall hopeful message about ‘getting along’ with all our neighbors.

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

>>> Dennis suggests the Foreign Films that Freaked Him Out the Most (in Foreign Language). With snappy, glib, mini-reviews! Enjoy! And remember…yikes!

1. Irreversible. Pretty much the biggest day-ruiner you can rent, this Gaspar Noe-directed,

The only still you can find for this movie online that doesn't make your soul cry.

Monica Bellucci-starring/victimizing told-in-reverse shocker of a thriller not only has the single most harrowing extended rape scene in movie history, it’s also loaded down with such deliberately-disorienting and nauseating cinematic tricks as spinning cameras and (I’m not kidding) a low-register, almost subliminal sound running through it designed to make you feel sick. Oh, and as horrifying as that one scene is, there one right near the beginning that is just as bad, but that no one ever talks about! Enjoy!

2. Visitor Q. (In the Made in Japan section). Director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition) is no stranger to, well, freaking me the freak out (those two films I just mentioned could be on this list just as well), but with Visitor Q he seems to have perfected his ‘freak Dennis out’ formula, even without resorting to the over-the-top gore and violence of those movies. Sure there’s some violence in this twisted, satirical family tale (Mom is a mass of bruises from the beatings her teenaged son routinely gives her), but here it’s coupled with hefty helpings of incest, prostitution, rape, voyerurism, and, well, poop, all laced with dark (and often kind of effective) dark comedy seemingly designed to make me feel ill. Enjoy!

3. Sweet Movie. (In the Criterion Collection). From Yugoslavian movie madman Dusan Makavejev (WR: Mysteries of the Organism, The Coca Cola Kid) we get…this. A nigh-incomprehensible, relentlessly-offensive, deliberately-provocative, and all-around-nauseating comedy following the sexy (kind of), sticky (often), and gross (always) adventures of

You probably shouldn't even search for images from this.

two women, one a disillusioned, frequently and inventively abused beauty queen, and the other some sort of temptress/pirate, each of whom gets up to the most bizarre sexual shenanigans you can possibly imagine (unless you’re Ken Russell). Sound sexy? Ummm…the situations usually start out that way before getting…different. There’s some politics in there too, if you can ferret it out from underneath all the drippy sexcapades, some involving John Vernon, Animal House‘s Dean Wormer! A head-spinning, stomach turning erotic freak show. Enjoy!

-(Sure there are some others that give me the intermittent heebie jeebies, like most of Catherine Breillat’s movies, Man Bites Dog, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, In My Skin, The Piano Teacher…but they just weren’t sick enough to make the cut. Sorry foreign guys…but keep on trying! And you, out there, send in a review of your freakiest movie experiences [or anything else, for that matter] to us at denmn@hotmail.com!)

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

>>> Dennis suggests that Thursday at Videoport is the perfect time to take a chance! Look at that Thursday special: rent one, get one free from anywhere in the store. And, since this is Videoport we’re talking about here, that means anything in the history of world cinema. Think about it; you’ve come in for the one movie you just had to have, say Leap Year (we’re not here to judge you). Why not take advantage of the freedom of the Thursday deal to find something to compliment it, like another romantic comedy, but maybe one from another time (like 1937s wonderful The Awful Truth). Or maybe a romantic comedy from another country, like maybe France’s Love Me if You Dare. Or why not spice up your romantic movie mood by pairing it with the saucy and explicit British romance 9 Songs? Or, hey, you could decide it’s better to gave some serious contrast, like from the undeniably-still-thrilling-even-though-its star-is-a-woman-hating-bigot-loon The Road Warrior? Or you could take a chance on the first disc of that TV series all your friends won’t stop pestering you about, like ‘The Wire’, ‘Dexter’, ‘Six Feet Under’, ‘Psych’, ‘Generation Kill’, or something? Or just ask one of your friendly Videoport clerks for a recommendation, since they walk around thinking they know everything? Or, you could just close your eyes and pick one… Thursday is the time to take a damn chance!

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

>>> Dennis suggests that teaching your children proper DVD handling now will prevent you from having to go with them to an English prison after they’ve been falsely accused of being IRA terrorists and the corrupt police implicate you along with them. Sure, they might get nominated for an Oscar, but is it really worth it?

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis2/The Rage suggests ‘Jersey Shore’- season 1 (in Feature Drama). Sure, I laugh along every time Regan imitates my accent or calls me an Austrian. But inside, every time, a little piece of Dennis2 is dying. See, I’m just trying to fit in. To belong. And now the perfect show comes along to help me out. The first season of ‘Jersey Shore’ currently is my guiding light in this fascinating country. And what a treasure it is! You throw eight Italian-

This is all of our faults, somehow. Pray for The Rage...

American young people together in a house next to the ocean for a few weeks, add a camera crew, sit back with your notebook and watch the magic happen. I mean, these are some special people; they hold nothing back. And by being completely liberated from any possible form of censorship, they are all these walking goldmines for anyone interested in how this brand of people operates. Their lingo, their manner, their style- I have never seen anything like this. Funny, too. Calling ugly women “grenades”? Writing it down. Learning. Fitting in.

Editor’s note: Oh dear god. What have we done, as a culture? Dennis2 was once an unfailingly-polite, gently accented, sweet and gangly Dutchman. And now…he’s one more DVD away from sprawling, rude t-shirt pulled up over his sunburned beer belly, on his front stoop, chain smoking generic cigarettes and tossing the butts at stray cats. We have all contributed to this. We are all guilty…

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests The White Diamond (in Documentary). This is a Werner Herzog documentary so, if you know his documentary style, you both know what to expect and

"Your obsessions are my art. My obsessions are my art. I just like obsession, okay..."

have no idea what to expect. In nonfiction movies like Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World (and as himself in Les Blank’s doc about Herzog Burden of Dreams), Herzog reveals himself endlessly intrigued (some might say obsessed) with the idea of eccentric (some, again, might say obsessed) individuals battling against nature, in all its (as Herzog might say) capricious, cruel beauty. In this one, he profiles Graham Dorrington, an excitable Brit who’s been, yes, obsessed since childhood with the idea of building his own tiny lighter-than-air flying machines in order to waft over the rain forest canopy. Like all of Herzog’s subjects and, perhaps, Herzog himself, Dorrington’s passion is simultaneously admirable, childlike, and foolhardy (Dorrington is haunted by the failure of a previous incarnation of his two-man blimp which claimed the life of famed nature photographer Gotz Dieter Plage.) It’s no secret why Herzog is drawn to such dreamers; idealists pursuing beautiful, impractical dreams beyond all reason…well, you get the idea. Needless to say, there is some stunning photography from the vantage point of Dorrington’s dream machines, and a typically haunting sequence where Herzog, exploring the heretofore unexplored-by-humans cave behind a massive jungle waterfall, explains that he will never show the footage he’s shot once its explained that the locals hold the cave sacred because it holds all their ancestral dreams. The White Diamond, like everything Herzog turns his camera on, becomes something weird and haunting and beautiful.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Clash of the Titans (whom the gods would destroy, they first make fight a bunch o’monsters (or something) goes the old saying, and this megabudget remake of the quaintly-poky 1980s mythological adventure flick is kinda fun, just like the first one; it’s got a chunkheaded hero [Sam Worthington] whose way more buff than Harry Hamlin ever dreamed of being, but just as dull], some way overqualified actors standing around in silly beards and looking vaguely embarrassed as the gods [Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes instead of Sir Laurence], and some monster fights that are cool if you forgive the fakeness [although I’ll take the original’s Ray Harryhausen stop-motion innocence over the CGI flash of this one any day]), Batman: Under the Red Hood (DC Comics continues its more grown-up animated film series with this dark tale of the Dark Knight being harassed by the titular bad guy, who seems to know an awful lot about him; ‘course I know his secret, being a big nerd and all, but I ain’t tellin’…; featuring voice work from ‘Futurama”s John Dimaggio and Neil Patrick Harris), Repo Men (in this sci fi/action/dark comedy/thriller/etc film, a good cast [Jude Law, Liev Schreiber, a totally-slimmed-down-and-badass-looking Forest Whitaker] play operatives of a future company which will sell you replacement organs…and then bloodily take them back if you can’t make the payments), The Art of the Steal (documentary about Dr. Albert Barnes who amassed a 25 billion dollar art collection and then stipulated in his will that it could never be shown anywhere but in his own, restricted Foundation’s building; now curators are trying to have his will broken so that the paintings can be seen by the general public; the ultimate battle of art vs. commerce or a stingy, bitter old crank trying to keep his purty pictures away from the grubby masses, even from beyond the grave? You decide…), Vincere (Italian drama about the secret lover and illegitimate son of Benito Mussolini who, and I don’t want to spoil anything here, was not so nice), Home (the ever-intriguing Isabelle Huppert stars as the mother of a rural brood living an idyllic life out in the country until civilization arrives to complete the unfinished highway running right through their weedy paradise), Don’t Look Up (a film crew unearths old footage of a woman’s murder and then things start getting freaky in this horror flick with a surprisingly-overqualified pedigree of stars [Eli Roth, Henry Thomas, Lothaire Bluteau, Kevin Corrigan] and director [3 Extremes‘ Fruit Chan]), The Job (check Videoport’s Action section for this darkly comic thriller about a young couple who get more than they bargained for when they accept a mysterious job from a sinister dude [the ever-untrustworthy Joe Pantoliano]; look for Ron Perlman’s big mug on the cover!), Neighbor (from the plot description: “A mysterious new girl arrives in a posh suburban neighborhood and quickly sets out to terrorize the town. As she starts breaking into homes and torturing the occupants, they begin to realize that she isn’t just another girl next door.” Understatement?).

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Videoport brings you Tom Selleck, in all his mustache-y, late-middle-aged glory as the Mystery/Thriller section can now boast all of his “Jesse Stone” mysteries, with Selleck twinklingly portraying Robert B. Parker’s fictional small town sheriff in Thin Ice, No Remorse, Night Passage, Death in Paradise, and Sea Change, Crackie (indie drama about a young girl who finds the love she doesn’t get from her deeply-troubled family in the titular, little doggie), Pretpark Nederland (Videoport’s [Dutch] Dennis says this documentary about the Netherlands’ tourism industry made him long for home; the box features a shirtless guy covered in chocolate…draw your own conclusions…), Altamont Now (take a disaffected, furious rock star who was born during the titular rock festival [documented in Gimme Shelter], throw him in his missile silo secret hideout with a former child star, some disaffected types and a faux documentary crew, all of whom may be in hiding from nuclear armageddon, and what have you got? Why, this new addition to Videoport’s Incredibly Strange section, of course!), Yo Gabba Gabba: The Dancey Dance Bunch (the incomprehensible kids show is back!).

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Clash of the Titans, Repo Men.

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