Volume CCLXIV- I Was a Teenage Bad Lieutenant
For the Week of 9/7/10
Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. We will also give your dog a cookie. (But not your child, weirdly enough…)
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 The Room (in Incredibly Strange.) In the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ movie category, there are a lot of pitfalls to true enjoyment. Even the movie mockery experts at ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ (or Portland’s own Geek Chorus) are occasionally defeated in their schadenfreude by a movie that simply defies all attempts to make it entertaining, on any level. Sometimes a bad movie is too boring (see the MST3k episode on Ring of Terror), or too self-aware of its own badness (Catalina Caper), or just so bad that it just makes you too sad and logy to successfully make fun of it (Monster a Go-Go.) But then there are those movies…movies so gloriously inept, so filled with completely-unfounded confidence in their own significance and quality, and/or just so off the charts insanely awful that they inspire a sort of irresistible, giddy anticipation. And when a movie somehow combines all three of those qualities, well, you’re in for something special. Manos: the Hands of Fate, Showgirls, new challengers like Birdemic and Troll 2. And, of course The Room. Oh sweet lord, The Room. Long championed by celebrity funnymen like Patton Oswalt, Paul Rudd, and Will Ferrell, this misbegotten love triangle melodrama’s legend has grown to near-Rocky Horror Picture Show proportions, with audience participation midnight screenings cropping up all over the place. I attended the show last week at Geno’s (home of the Geek Chorus and sponsored by Tristan Gallagher’s Fun Box Monster Emporium) and…we may have a new champion. The brainchild of a truly mystifying foreign-y fellow named Tommy Wiseau, The Room is, on one level, just a crappy, Playboy Channel-quality softcore thriller, with Wiseau’s nice fella betrayed by his bored girlfriend and his best friend. On the other hand, oh my god… Auteur Wiseau, with his absurdly-muscular beefiness (his sex scenes look like a woman being humped by a butcher shop), his craggy-yet-puttylike face (he looks like an embryonic Gene Simmons), his unidentifiable European-y accent
(someone at the screening described it as being similar to Peter Stormare’s Logjammin‘ accent in The Big Lebowski), and writer’s penchant for a utterly bewildering repeated motifs (pictures of spoons, guys throwing footballs, red roses and silk dresses, superfluous and unnecessary green screen backgrounds), along with the script’s near-hallucinatory non-sequiturs, characters that appear out of nowhere and return there just as quickly, and ludicrous dialogue suggests nothing so much as an actual alien who, watching earth TV for a few weeks, decides to make a movie and walk among us. I was drunk of course, and in a bar full of like-minded film geeks all tingly with anticipation, and that’s probably the best way to see The Room (I can’t imagine what you’d feel like if you just rented this one all unexpecting and just popped it in looking for a good drama; I think your head would explode.)
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests A Bridge Too Far (in Classics.) This is a big film. Everything about it is large in scope; the production values, the complicated story and its literal cast of thousands (including a huge list of 70s A-list stars). The film tells with meticulous detail the unsuccessful WW2 mission called Operation Market Garden. It’s goal was to end the war by Christmas ’44 and continue the momentum of the successful D-Day invasion. Bridge shows that through human error and ‘acts of God’, the plan was doomed from the start. Director Richard Attenborough takes his time telling the story but it is never boring. It is full of great battle/action scenes, moving vignettes and although most of the stars are in cameo-like appearances, excellent performances. James Caan, Sean Connery, Eliott Gould and Ryan O’Neal are standouts. Another plus is the great score — one of the best war film themes I’ve heard; both poignant and rousing. A beautifully made epic.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests you use our HUGE, AMAZING NEW WEDNESDAY RENTAL SPECIAL TO GRAB AN ARMLOAD OF MOVIES! (Sorry about the all-caps there, but it’s all still pretty new and exciting.) That’s right kids, there’s a new Wednesday special in town! Here’s the deal: pick out any four (non-new release) movies, and get them for seven days for only seven bucks. Yeah. It’s a savings of, well, a lot and it’s ideal for, say, catching up on that TV series you’ve been meaning to watch. Or becoming an expert on that star or director by watching four of his/her movies at a time in one, big, four-movie lump. Or, hell I don’t know, just grabbing four random movies- it’s just a really good deal. (Oh, and, of course, our regular Wednesday deal- rent one, get a free one from the Foreign or Comedy sections to go with it- is still in effect. That’s a separate deal, so don’t go trying to get cute…)
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests, in honor of MacGruber‘s release this week, you subject yourself to a ‘based on an SNL sketch’ movie crapfest! Why? Well, mocking things can be fun (see Monday’s review), and, as a long-time SNL fan and apologist) there are always at least a few laughs to be had, even in the worst of the worst. Here goes, worst-to-best:
1. It’s Pat! Actually you can’t rent this legendarily-laugh-free big screen adventure of Julia Sweeney’s androgynous titular character, because our tape died a long time ago (it may have just imploded, causing a comedy black hole) and we’ve never replaced it. No one seems to mind…
2. A Night at the Roxbury. I love Will Ferrell, but watching him play second banana to Chris Kattan in this shrill, unpleasant, unfunny expansion of a one-joke sketch makes me understand why some people hate him. When guest ‘celebrity’ Richard Greico gets more laughs than you in a scene, that’s not a good sign.
3. Blues Brothers 2000. Oh Dan Aykroyd, why? In addition to desecrating his best pal’s grave by ill-advisedly resurrecting their near-classic comedy as a bloated, derivative zombie movie, the film demeans the brilliant Joe Morton (as the black guy who has to be taught the meaning of the blues by old, white Canadians. Also unavailable (and unrequested.)
4. Coneheads. Danny, again, really? Apart from the three top spots on this list, I can’t think of a worse idea than making this movie, unless it’s to replace Larraine Newman with a nondescript be-coned hottie, or to have the movie turn serious in the middle(?) with Jane Curtin’s Prymaat giving her daughter a straight-faced mother-daughter talk about date rape(?!?!). I swear, Dan Aykroyd used to be funny…watch the early episodes…he was funny.
5. Superstar. I tire of Molly Shannon’s Mary Katherine Gallagher Catholic schoolgirl character almost immediately, so watching her spazz out for 80 minutes wasn’t going to go well for me anyway, but the fact that this was directed by The Kids in the Hall‘s brilliantly-funny Bruce McCulloch just makes me sad. Ferrell has a few funny moments.
5. Stuart Saves His Family. Senator Al Franken’s self-help guru Stuart Smalley was intermittently funny in small doses (sensing a theme here?) and his inevitable big-screen expansion actually coasts along on Franken’s performance and some good gags until, (again!), someone decided ‘Hey, Stuart needs to seriously confront the substance abuse issues that have plagued his family all his life…’ Yeah, he doesn’t need to do that…(Only on VHS- but Jeremy once got Franken to autograph it.)
6. The Ladies Man. Shut up, I think SNL all-time utility man Tim Meadows’ lisping, smooth-talking radio love guru Leon Phelps is kinda funny. It’s a pleasant, unadventurous, harmless little movie, with the unassuming Meadows’ low-key charisma (and another funny ‘doing a friend a solid’ supporting role from Will Ferrell) carrying things along. Again, shut up.
7. Wayne’s World 2. ‘O! What a falling off was there!’ You said it Hamlet. Wayne’s World‘s freshness, inventiveness and charm curdles in its inevitable sequel to repetition, sluggishness, and laziness. There are still some laughs, but the chemistry that buoyed the original has gone flat.
8. MacGruber. After a ten year gap, there’s a new SNL movie. Did they learn any lessons? Well, no,
not really. This one, about the surprisingly-rude adventures of Will Forte’s titular inept agent is still pretty lazily-written and stretched wafer-thin over feature length, but Forte’s unjustly-self-aggrandizing a-hole bomb-defuser is occasionally, crudely, laugh-out-loud funny, and there are a few original gags. Also, there are welcome flashes that villain Val Kilmer may have rediscovered his sense of humor. Slightly above-average!
9. Wayne’s World. When this came out it was like a global paradigm shift: “SNL movies don’t have to diminish your soul!” The adventures of Wayne and Garth (Mike Myers and Dana Carvey) two amiable manchildren who host a goofy cable access show out of Wayne’s basement, Wayne’s World is reliably original, charming, funny, and even a little bit smart. I get a big, goofy grin just thinking about it. Still holds up to this day.
10.The Blues Brothers. Sure, technically the Blues Brothers weren’t a sketch per se (they were strictly a musical guest) but, well, shut up and never try to out SNL-geek me, mister! Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi successfully captured their weird, symbiotic comic chemistry in this huge, loud, ramshackle comedy musical which just freight-trains along daring you not to be entertained. Along with the brothers’ truly engaging deadpan anarchism, the movie can boast a soundtrack’s-load of truly memorable musical numbers from Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, Can Calloway, and John Lee Hooker. Even the Brothers enthusiastic blues amateurism is pretty damned entertaining, largely thanks to their handpicked, and awesome, professional backup band. A rollicking good time in spite of its origins.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Dennis suggests that teaching your kids responsible DVD handling now (especially those from a beloved, independently-owned local institution) will prevent you from realizing, years later, that your now grown child has committed fraud on a nationally-televised game show and that now your family’s good name is going to be further besmirched when Robert Redford makes a mediocre movie about it. Trust me…that will happen!
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 ’30 Rock’ (in Comedy.) On its surface, “30 Rock” looks like an easy-going, faintly-wacky send-up of the workplace sitcom, and maybe a self-congratulatory pat on the back from liberals to liberals… but below the surface, “30 Rock” packs a mighty sting. Beneath its glib writing and wacky laughs, the show comments scathingly on the racism, sexism, and ageism of the entertainment industry. Jenna is a 30-something actress clinging
to the last vestiges of youth, begging her body and face to hold up for one more year. Almost every tv show stars actresses with this fear creeping up in their futures; few shows ever address the issue.“30 Rock” also attempts a constant balancing act with its writing for the madcap star/comedian Tracy Jordan (and for Tracy Morgan, the madcap star/comedian portraying him). Tracy — the character, not the actor — is both a perpetuation of and a comment on the few and often stereotyped roles for actors of color in mainstream media. Note: I’m not persuaded that the writers’ balancing act is entirely successful, but hot damn do I love seeing Tracy Morgan on a roll.) But week after week, the character who gets skewered the hardest is Liz Lemon, the supposedly sane center of this zany world. Liz is a mordant portrait of comfortable liberal privilege. She firmly self-identifies as a committed liberal, a feminist, an anti-racist, and an intellectual, but when her principles collide with convenience, expediency, or plain old social discomfort, she caves and takes the easy, unprincipled path. The show knows Liz is mired in her weaknesses: she knuckles under to the patriarchy, to corporate interests, to her own unintentional racism and xenophobia, to the most banal of mass-market infotainment. [An exchange between Liz and Tracy’s long-suffering wife Angie (Sherry Shepard) cuts cleanly to the core of Liz’s anxieties and prejudices: Liz compliments Angie on a new piece of jewelry, adding “Bling bling! That is ghetto fabulous!” Angie coolly retorts, “This belonged to Brooke Astor.” It’s a perfect illustration of how Liz — like so many of us — allows her racial and social preconceptions to shape her perceptions. It’s also a brilliantly delivered joke at Liz’s expense.] Despite Liz’s desire to ingratiate herself with Angie, Liz fails, as we know she will… because she can only attempt to relate to other women through stereotypically feminized topics (jewelry, dating, Oprah) and because, when speaking to any non-white character, she imposes her own unconscious racism upon the conversation. Liz Lemon is a portrait of easy mediocrity, socio-economic privilege, and social fear overcoming an abstract belief in social equality.
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests writing for the VideoReport! If for no other reason than to avoid seeing me slather my opinions all over this newsletter, send your reviews to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or our Facebook page “Videoport Jones.” You’ll be glad you did…
New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘The Office’- season 6 (I could not be more excited about the release of a TV show; seriously- like to be unamused and unhappy? Then don’t rent this show…), MacGruber (SNL genuinely-funny guy Will Forte braves the crap-infested waters that are the ‘movie based on an SNL sketch’ ocean with this action comedy about the world’s worst, rudest, creepiest secret agent/bomb-defuser; how does he do? Well, way better than It’s Pat, certainly, and A Night at the Roxbury. It blows Coneheads out of the water, obviously, and is a marginal improvement over The Ladies Man and Wayne’s World 2…so, it’s, well, it’s…fine…[see Thursday’s review for more]), The Exploding Girl (indie drama about a young woman with epilepsy, home for college vacation, who pals around with a childhood friend and deals with, you know, stuff), ‘Chuck’- season 3 (so he’s a nerd secret agent or something? Weird. But I’m sure you fans know what you’re doing…), Killers (Ashton Kutcher [to whom I’m indifferent] and Katherine Heigl
[whose very existence I greet with the unbridled hatred reserved for when I find someone has slashed my tires] ‘star’ in this ill-reviewed comedy about an insufferable couple who suspect their neighbors are hit-people; I mean, “Rent the hell out of this! Videoport has spent a lot of money to buy multiple copies!’), Camp Rock 2 (grinning, warbling tweens!), ‘Brothers and Sisters’- season 4 (Hey! It’s that show in the Drama section…the one I don’t know anything about! Wait…I know Rob Lowe’s in it…), The Final Girl (new, lesbian-themed thriller from Bangor-based director Todd Verow [Vacationland]; find it in Videoport’s Pride section), Men for Sale (also in the Pride section, this documentary profiles 11 of the titular men who work in the Montreal sex trade), John Rabe (historical drama about the titular German businessman who saved 200,000 Chinese people during the Nanking Massacre; take that, Oskar Schindler! Steve Buscemi’s in this somewhere, too…), That Evening Sun (crusty old Hal Holbrook plays a crusty old farmer who returns home to his crusty old farm and gets all crusty when he realizes his family has betrayed his crusty trust), Solitary Man (a good cast [Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Jesse Eisenberg, Danny DeVito, Jenna Fischer, Richard Schiff, Mary-Louise Parker] cast but help out this indie drama about a successful used car salesman who sees his world slipping away due to his personal failures and a pesky, life-threatening illness), ‘Skins’- volume 3 (the saucy adventures of a group of omnisexual British teens continues).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Shaun the Sheep: Party Animals (like Wallace and Gromit? This spinoff features their wooly pal in adorably-clay-mated comic adventures), A Call Girl (check out the seemingly-permanent Film Movement shelf in the ‘Staff Picks’ section at Videoport for this new addition, a Slovenian drama about a the titular young woman who tries out prostitution and, perhaps predictably, gets in over her head), Living With Wolves (it’s a nature documentary about wolves…I have nothing further to add…), ‘The Best of Soul Train’ (awesome 3-disc set featuring timelessly-awesome performances from the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, The O’Jays, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Sly and the Family Stone, and on and on, my babies…), Hideous Kinky (the ever-scrumptious Kate Winslet stars in this 1998 indie film about a hippie mom taking her two young daughters on a more-than-a-little inappropriate erotic journey through North Africa).
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: MacGruber. Shogun Assassin, The Evil Dead, Solitary Man.
(And don’t forget to check out the complete, A-Z catalog of all our Blu-Ray movies on our movie blog at : https://videoportjones.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/videoports-blu-ray-list/)