VideoReport #260

Volume CCLX- Paul Blart: Bad Lieutenant

For the Week of 8/10/10

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. If anyone has a problem with that, well, I guess you don’t have to take one…

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 Primer (in Sci Fi). SPOILER-Y!! The action starts as I imagine most great discoveries start: when someone notices something unexpected in the lab or at the workbench. Huh. That’s odd. And down the rabbit hole you go. Primer broke my brain, and I loved every minute of it. This shoestring indie (written and directed by Shane Carruth, who also appears as a chief character)

I'll just put this thing into the thing...and then, well...

is the rare sci-fi film that focuses on the sci. Two engineers tinkering in a garage come up with an invention… um, of some kind. Unlike splashy big-budget blockbusters, Primer is a film of ideas, not of spectacle. The restricted budget works in its favor: the clodgy cardboard-box aesthetic is weirdly persuasive, because it conjures up the grubby nuts-and-bolts reality of engineering. More crucially, instead of using splashy effects, this film focuses on the dynamic that arises between the characters, and on the consequences of their actions. To say more than that would be to risk a spoiler… and in any case, the proceedings get indescribably convoluted amazingly fast. It’s a little hard to follow even before the events get confusing; Carruth’s characters talk like engineers, not like expositional devices, and Carruth does us the courtesy of assuming we’re smart enough and attentive enough to keep up. It’s disturbing, it’s dizzying, it’s delicious.

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

>>> Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests A Wedding (in Classics.) This is one of Robert Altman’s lesser known films but it definitely deserves an audience. Similar to Altman’s Nashville in its satire of American society, Altman shows us the wedding of a young couple and the reception that follows. We meet the many dysfunctual members of the groom’s and bride’s families (one priviledged,

Lesser Altman? Still better than most anything else.

one not) and find out about the many skeletons in their closets. One of Altman’s trademarks is his overlapping of dialogue, which make his films seem so real. Althought there is a script, much of the dialogue is improvised by the very talented cast. There are about 40 different speaking parts in the film and you really get the feeling that you are there milling around with the other guests at the party; eavesdropping on the multiple conversations. The large and diverse cast (another Altman hallmark) includes Carol Burnett, Mia Farrow, Lauren Hutton, Pam Dawber, Paul Dooley and Lilian Gish. Altman films definitely are an aquired taste (it took me years to really appreciate his work), but they are always entertaining, able to make an important statement on American life and are great for repeat viewings.

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests A Mighty Wind (in Comedy). Do you remember the breathtaking moment in 1984’s This Is Spınal Tap when the founding members perform a lovely a cappela version of “All the Way Home,” a skiffle song from their early days? A Mighty Wind captures that sweetness and wraps it up in satire. This 2003 mockumentary from Christopher Guest purports to tell the story of

The Folksmen/Spinal Tap.

three once-prominent folk groups now gathering to memorialize their late mentor and producer. The characterizations and songs are eerily well-drawn. Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Guest himself (the trio made famous as Spinal Tap) appear as The Folksmen, a fictional fusion of folk groups like The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Jane Lynch and John Michael Higgins head the New Main Street Singers, a second-generation pop-folk neuf-tette that make their bread & butter playing to bored crowds at amusement parks. Mitch and Mickie (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) are the sweethearts of the folk world, once madly in love but now face to face for the first time in decades. Here, Guest manages the delicate balance that characterizes the finest satire: he knows his subject inside-out and understands what makes it great as well as what makes it absurd. We’re treated to a loving send-up of folk excesses all swaddled sweetly in the lovely music (much of it written by the cast). Mitch & Mickey’ beautiful theme “A Kiss At the End of the Rainbow” received an Academy nomination for Best Song — and deservedly so — but I’d argue that there are even finer songs in this film. A particularly fine example is The Folksmen’s “Never Did No Wanderin’.” At first listen, it’s perfect piece of folk music: haunting, mournful, potent, stirring. But then the lyrics sink in and it reveals itself as a deliciously witty indictment of folk’s cozy niche in the hearts of comfortable well-heeled suburbanites. It’s a wicked bite of parody and a fantastic song all rolled up together, indivisible.

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

>>> Dennis suggests Departures (in Foreign Language.) Every once in a while a larger number of people than expected will latch onto a foreign film for unknown reasons. It happened with Sin Nombre last year and it’s happening with this unassuming little Japanese dramedy right now. Not that we’re complaining, of course- we at Videoport absolutely love it when the general public (or, in this case the Videoport community which is more ‘awesome’ than ‘general’) shows some unexpected enthusiasm about a dark horse on the rental shelves. As to why this one has reaped its modest groundswell, well, it did win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2009, although that doesn’t necessarily translate into rental gold for ol’ Videoport (witness the lackluster response when 2008’s winner The Counterfeiters is mentioned). Word of mouth is important for a foreign/indie/utterly weird movie to gain any traction rental-wise, and that seems to be the case with Departures. Which makes sense. This gently comic story of a failed cellist who leaves Tokyo [with his smiling, adorable wife in tow], moves back in to his childhood home [a former coffehouse left to him by his mother] and ends up as an assistant to a kind, masterful old mortician is exactly the sort of sweet mixture of comedy and sentiment that people can’t help but like. Sure, there’s some gross stuff with the dead bodies, but it’s always matched up with sweet scenes of our hero dealing with his supportive but spooked wife, his childhood memories, his feelings of failure, and his taciturn but kind-hearted and eccentric new mentor (the charismatic, avuncular Tsutomu Yamakazi.) As a leading man, Masahiro Motoki maybe mugs a little too much at the beginning, but gradually gains some gravity as the film goes on, and his guileless, wide-open face is nicely expressive. A nice movie.

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

>>> Dennis suggests that teaching your kid about responsible DVD handling now will prevent your grandkids from having to band together to keep him from trying to take over the universe (after he’s been encased in black armor and sliced off his own grandson’s hand after dramatically revealing that he’s actually the grandson’s father.) That will happen…

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

>>>For Saturday, Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests Tom Jones (in Feature Drama.) A groundbreaking film in 1963, ‘Tom Jones’ captures the spirit of the classic Fielding novel in all its bawdiness and witty adult humor. The film was hugely popular for its realistic depiction of 18th century England in all its dirt and grime and its sexually open subject matter. Even though Albert Finney,

Saucy.

Susannah York and the rest of the cast are all excellent, the real star is Tony Richardson’s direction. It fits the subject perfectly; haphazard, comic, fast-paced and a little less sophisticated than serious period pieces. He uses many comic touches (sped up chases, characters speaking to the audience and creative special FX) and one can tell he truly enjoyed having fun with the content. The production values, locations and music are all excellent and enhance the mood of the film. ‘Tom Jones’ has gotten alot of flack for winning Best Picture of ’63, but given the time when it was made, I can understand its popularity and accolades. Tom Jones is still a classic comedy full of wit and great entertainment.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Together (in Foreign Language.) My theory is that somebody ran over director Lukas Moodysson’s cat after this movie. Hear me out. In his previous film (the delightful lesbian coming-of-age dramedy Show Me Love) and this one (about the culture clash when a battered wife and her two very modern kids come to stay with her brother at the contemporary commune where he lives), Moodysson displays a warm generosity of spirit

Warm in the cold.

that makes the films practically glow from the inside. After Together, though, Moodysson’s films have gotten nothing but bleaker, progressively: Lilya 4-Ever, A Hole in My Heart, and the recent Mammoth show a world defined by exploitation, cruelty, innocence destroyed, and a decided lack of hope. They’re all supposedly great movies, too (A Hole in My Heart hasn’t been released here yet), but I can’t recommend the two films from his ‘sunnier’ period enough. Together takes the potentially-sitcommy setup and avoids every cliche, every dramatic pitfall, every opportunity to create an outright villain in favor of a generous, but clear-eyed, examination of everybody’s motives and character. The mom’s a victim, sure, but she’s also not the nicest person in town, as her initial contempt for her brother’s lifestyle shows. The people in the commune (always easy targets for lazy jokes) are treated with utter fairness; their political convictions are treated with respect, and yet their foibles and occasional hypocrisy aren’t left out either. Even the sister’s brutish husband isn’t really portrayed as a complete bad guy. Add to that the best cinematic use of ABBA ever, and you’ve got a funny, wise, and genuinely touching movie. Lighten up again sometime, Lukas- we could use another movie like this one.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Date Night (comedy super-team Tina Fey and Steve Carell play a married couple who get sucked into a delightfully-silly action comedy on the titular night out; I’m watching it right now…it’s funny), ‘Stephen Fry in America’- season 1 (British comedian/actor/author/genius Fry, possibly one of the funniest people alive, takes a cab across America and is, one would assume, incredibly witty and wry at our expense), Wilco: Ashes of American Flags (everybody likes Wilco! Here’s their new concert movie! Your welcome!), The Good Heart (the ever-awesome Brian Cox [Super Troopers, L.I.E., Manhunter] stars in this acclaimed indie drama about a crusty old bartender taking in a young homeless man because, well, presumably he has a good heart…), ‘Trauma’- season 1 (Videoport brings you this already-cancelled ‘hot paramedics in San Francisco’ drama series), Multiple Sarcasms (Timothy Hutton stars in this indie dramedy about an unhappily married guy who decides to quit his job and write a play about how unhappy he is with his wife, his life, and everything; strangely, his family is displeased with him…), La Mission (Benjamin Bratt stars, in this film written and directed by his brother, as a custom car maker and former convict who tries to deal with his son coming out of the closet), Death at a Funeral (just an odd idea: remake a pretty-well-beloved British comedy from just two years ago in America, with all all-star, mostly black cast [Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Saldana], get the great character actor Peter Dinklage [The Station Agent] to play the same role he did in the original, and hire the never-before-notably-funny Neil Labute [In the Company of Men] to direct the whole thing; can this possibly work out?), The Joneses (David Duchovny and Demi Moore star in this satire about a seemingly-ordinary family who move into the suburbs in order to seduce their neighbors into buying the products they’re hired to represent), My Name Is Khan (a young Muslim man with autism has his behavior misinterpreted as shifty by authorities after 9/11 [a date used by bigots everywhere to legitimize their own jackassery] and heads off to try and meet with President Obama to clear his name.)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Tapped (the bottled water industry gets its own furious expose with this documentary revealing how stupid and wasteful it is; I mean, I’m guessing that’s its position on the issue…), The Thorn in the Heart (unsurprisingly odd documentary from ever-interesting director Michel Gondry [Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep] about the relationship between Gondry’s steely aunt and her mentally-ill grown son), Louie Bluie and Crumb (director Terry Zwigoff’s brilliant documentaries, the former about a legendary blues musician and artist and the second about infamous underground comics legend R. Crumb, get the deluxe Criterion treatment!), Children of Invention (two illegal immigrant children are forced to fend for themselves in a model home outside Boston after their mother disappears), The Cyclops (cult sci fi director Bert I. Gordon [The Amazing Colossal Man, Village of the Giants] just can’t stop making people huge! Here some people traipsing around in Mexico run afoul of the titular, 50 foot tall, one-eyed menace.)

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Date Night.

Extended Rates and Free Money!

Yup. Turn your 1 night rental (new releases) into a 3 night rental for just $1.75 more, and turn a 3 night rental (everything else) into a 7 night rental for just an additional 69 cents! And, buy yourself some free rental credit with Videoport’s pre-payment plans: buy yourself $25 worth of rental credit for only $20 or, if you’re feeling saucy, buy yourself $40 of rental credit for only $30!

Park for free at Videoport! Yup, just pull into any downtown parking garage and then ask for a Park & Shop sticker from your friendly neighborhood Videoporter and we’ll get you a free hour of parking therein. (And remember: parking meters are off after 6pm, Monday-Saturday and all day on Sunday, and the parking lot behind the building is open for free one hour parking after 5pm Monday-Friday and all day on the weekends).

Write for the VideoReport! Send in your movie reviews at denmn@hotmail.com or our Facebook page “Videoport Jones”! Or, you know, drop them off here in the store!

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