VideoReport #267

Volume CCLXVII- The Absent-Minded Bad Lieutenant

For the Week of 9/28/10

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Videoport has low prices. Videoport prides itself on a knowledgeable staff and great customer service. Videoport has the best selection of movies anywhere, and is a proudly-independent, locally-owned business. And, Videoport, unlike some unconscionably-crappy and bloated mega video chains, didn’t file for bankruptcy this week- psych! (All remaining Blockbuster customers are welcome to come on home to Videoport…we still love you.)

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 says more “Dexter,” please! (In Mystery/Thriller). And I mean exactly that: I. Want. More. DEXTER. More murder or excruciating restraint from murder, more of Dexter’s exterior life at home and work, more interior monologue about how hard it is to Act Like The Humaaaaaan,

It's Dexter! And...others...

more delicately nuanced acting and understated comic timing from Michael C. Hall, and more zooms of his simian face. In short, MORE. DEXTER. Less of everyone else. The bureaucratic and romantic vicissitudes of the rest of the cast might interest me, if only they could interest the writers first; those sideline stories are embarrassingly sloppy, sketchy, and shallow, and almost as embarrassingly badly acted. But if that’s what you have to do to fill up the hour, Showtime, then I’ll take it: just give me that hour, and the next one, and the next one.

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

>>> Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests An Affair to Remember (in Classics.) I resisted seeing this film until a few years ago because of the reputation it got in the film Sleepless in Seattle, as

Grant totally looks like he wants to beat up Tom Hanks right here...

silly as that sounds. Seattle sort of trivialized Affair as a movie only women could relate to and men couldn’t understand. I’m so glad I gave Affair a chance because it really is a great story. It is a tad melodramatic at times but it is also smart, funny and beautfully acted and directed. The quality of dialogue between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr is just not written anymore for film; as the couple flirts with each other with very witty retorts, you can actually see them fall for each other. Granted, it was made in 1957, but it’s very refreshing not to see them immediately jump into bed when they first meet (their first kiss is actually off camera but beautifully filmed). The first half of the film is my favorite part, but the final tearjerking scene is still a classic.

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

>>>Dennis suggests jumping right on this new Wednesday rental special! Check this: rent four non-new-release movies for seven days for seven bucks! It’s the perfect way to give us less money! Hey, wait…

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Gone Baby Gone (in Feature Drama.) It’s hard to sum up why I

It also has a great poster.

found Gone Baby Gone so effective and affecting, because a lot of its virtue is quiet, ambiguous, hard to pin down… much like the film itself. The story in a nutshell: A pair of unglamorous PIs (Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan) go looking for a four-year-old girl, hoping their unofficial questioning will dig up a trail the police can’t find. This is a story we’ve seen before, and it’s usually better suited to movies of the week. But Gone Baby Gone (from the novel by Dennis Lehane) has a rare sense of subtlety and gravity, crucial when handling such potentially exploitative material. It doesn’t fall back on any of the usual cinematic clichés: no perfect home life in the background, no slaveringly obvious pervert hanging around the playground, and — most strikingly — no attempt to inflate our innate anxiety over the child’s fate. First-time director Ben Affleck respects his audience enough to know that our own fears on her behalf are more dreadful, more harrowing, and more indelible than any frantic speculation the characters might spout. Famously Boston-native, Affleck paints a grubbily accurate picture of a hard-scrabble Southie neighborhood, and of a family life that is anything but heartwarming. Amy Ryan (The Wire, The Office) really gets to show her acting chops as Amanda’s sullen, slatternly, drug-addicted mother; Ryan delivers a searingly unsympathetic portrait devoid of the cheap villainy or bathetic mush of so many bad movie mothers. Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan are similarly well-used; they’re not heroes, just a couple of work-a-day investigators floundering around way out of their depth. Gone Baby Gone manages to combine a wry, tense crime thriller with a depressingly realistic look at negligence and poverty, and it raises some troubling and nuanced moral questions.

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 that phone call, years from now, where a solemn voice sadly informs you that your now grown child has, tragically, just been added to the cast of the still-running ‘Jersey Shore.’

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (in Feature Drama/ The Criterion Collection.) Videoport’s Criterion section continues its reputation for eccentric awesomeness is reconfirmed this week with the Criterion release of this mysterious, moving 1983 POW drama from Japanese master Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses, In the Realm of Passion, Max Mon Amour, Taboo). It’s 1942, and, in a Japanese POW camp, levelheaded, diplomatic interpreter and British officer Lawrence (the ever-welcome Tom Conti) walks a delicate line; as the bilingual voice of reason, he tries to convey the concerns and complaints of the Allied prisoners to their Japanese captors, all the while attempting to navigate the particularly-stringent code of honor of the camp commander (a

Casting two gorgeously-androgynous rock stars? Genuis.

striking debut performance by avant garde musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.) Into this uneasy detente comes stubborn Major Jack Celliers (another striking performance by David Bowie) whose unwillingness to play by the carefully-negotiated rules of the camp brings reprisals, unrest, violence (including a shocking form of torture that makes for great cinema), and the repressed fascination of the commander. It’s part POW movie, part enigmatic character piece, all layered with the typical Oshima psychosexual intensity. Conti’s trademark Scottish hangdog wit, a strong early turn from cult actor/director Takeshi Kitano/Beat Takeshi as a friendly guard, and the brilliant alchemy of casting Sakamoto and Bowie, whose strikingly-similar physicality and presence bring the film a whole eerie level.

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Léon: The Professional (in Mystery/Thriller.) Léon (Jean Reno) keeps quiet, keeps fit, keeps himself to himself. And with good reason: Léon is a hitman. He’s brisk, efficient, and unflinchingly brutal. Most of all, he is solitary, with only his Japanese peace lily for company… until the little girl next door needs his help. In most hands, this would shape up as an artificially heartwarming tale of transformation, but director Luc Besson lets his characters show their rough edges. Matilda (a very young Natalie Portman) is a tough little heartbreaker, facing the world with her pointy little chin defiantly raised. Even as she

Gary Oldman's a great, hammy villain, by the way.

charms and bullies him, Léon keeps his taciturn gruffness. New York City itself becomes a character in this small-scale action story, its bustling streets turning blankly away from the violence and sorrow that plays out in them. There are a few bright moments of warmth, but no saccharin cheer here; in fact, the movie gets downright grim at moments, though it also boasts some absolutely masterful action scenes. Don’t be misled by the urchin-in-distress plotline. Léon: The Professional is tight, vicious, and beautifully crafted.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Iron Man 2 (the first Iron Man was one of the few superhero movies that actually got it right; can director Jon Favreau, (mega)star Robert Downey Jr. and new pals Mickey Rourke and Don Cheadle recapture the magic? Umm….), Get Him to the Greek (spinoffs are the devil, but this tenuously-connected adjunct of the hilarious and charming Forgetting Sarah Marshall which follows the druggy, dissipated shenanigans of rock star supporting character

More Casey? 'kay...

Aldous Snow [Russell Brand is a revelation] is a surprisingly-funny, if juvenile, comedy), The Killer Inside Me (late-blooming leading man Casey Affleck [see Thursday’s review] is pretty much completely riveting and chilling as a psycho cop in this adaptation of the typically-nihilistic Jim Thompson novel [see After Dark My Sweet and The Grifters for more riveting noir-ism]), Perrier’s Bounty (whoa! This British gangster movie that no one’s ever heard of has a great cast: Cillian Murphy, Jim Broadbent, Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson. Damn, maybe we should all watch it…), Videocracy (documentary about the kooky way the Italian public goes nutty and acts like idiots about celebrity culture…oh, those kooky Italians…), Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (another cool animated team up from DC’s superhero odd couple…this time vs. Darkseid!!!), ‘Family Guy: Partial Terms of Endearment’ (I’m just gonna say bad stuff about this show now: I hate it. But you guys seem to like it, so here’s a DVD release of an episode about abortion that was judged ‘too controversial’ [weirdly not judged ‘too unfunny’] to air…on the FOX network), ‘CSI’- season 10 (Laurence Fishburne is back, classing up this repetitive, yet enduringly-popular show where you get to see close-up, slow-mo viscera shots galore), ‘Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations’- season 5, part 1 (the dude eats weird stuff…), ‘Party Down’- season 2 (this improv-heavy series about the hangdog, beleaguered staff of a catering company is freaking hilarious. It just is…), ‘The Cleveland Show’- season 1 ( hey! It’s a spinoff of that show I hate! The ‘Family Guy’ show! And it was the only show of its inaugural season, on any network, to feature a black lead character! And that character was voiced by a white guy doing a funny ‘black guy’ voice! I hate America!), Babies (it’s a documentary about babies. Many babies. They’re cute. You’ll watch it.), Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky (she smells real good and makes pretty clothes, he makes the music, they loved each other, your mom will want to watch this…), I’m Gonna Explode (acclaimed Mexican film about a high school Bonnie and Clyde on a road trip), Good (the ever-unsettling Viggo Mortensen stars as an apolitical literary professor whose book about compassionate euthanasia gets picked up by an influential political group. Yeah, it’s the Nazis…), ‘Human Target’- season 1 (series, based on a DC comic, about dude who takes the place of people other people are out to kill), Stomp the Yard: The Homecoming (syncopated, synchronized dancing will solve all your problems), and, do you know Fangoria magazine? It’s that mag dedicated to horror movies, gore, and horror movies, and now they’ve got a direct-to-DVD horror movie series to deliver the gore…and then to write about it. You’ve got: The Haunting (lady lost her baby so she moves to a spooky old house which, shockingly, turns out to be haunted…), Road Kill (requisite dumb, annoying 20-somethings get run off the road by a three-trailer 18 wheeler and find bad stuff [possibly gory] inside), Hunger (psycho traps requisite annoying, dumb 20-somethings in a dungeon and watches what they do when he denies them any food; psst…some of them eat each other…), The Tomb (based on the Poe story ‘The Tomb of Ligea‘, this one actually has some real stars in its tale of a writer under the spell of a bewitching lady: Wes Bentley, Michael Madsen, Eric Roberts…they’re still famous, right?), Fragile (speaking of almost-celebrities, this one, about a children’s nurse dealing with a seemingly-haunted hospital stars the former Ally McBeal, and current Mrs. Harrison Ford Calista Flockhart; I wonder if Harrison dropped by the crappy, direct-to-DVD locations in Spain? I wonder how many people pitched him a script?), Pig Hunt (what more do you want to know? It’s called Pig Hunt!), Dark House (requisite young woman [albeit one who witnessed a massacre at one point] returns to the same house, which is now a haunted house attraction; this one at least has the ever-awesome genre star Jeffrey Combs [Re-Animator]), Grimm Love (and the last one stars Felicity herself, Keri Russell, as a graduate student being drawn into the world of the cannibalistic serial killer she’s studying for her thesis; she may leave it off her resume.)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (the Criterion Collection brings us all this weird, mesmerizing WWII Japanese POW film; see Saturday’s review for the tantalizing details…), Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (Lance Henriksen narrates this documentary examining the, well, it’s all there in the title…), Dead of Winter (effective 80s thriller starring Mary Steenburgen and Roddy McDowall about a [perhaps gullible] actress lured to an isolated mansion for an audition), Beneath Clouds (Australian road movie about a half-Aborigine girl and an escaped con traveling across New South Wales), The Pedro Infante Collection (four films [Los Tres Huastecos, The Seminarian, Marias Islands, That’s Pedro Infante] starring the beloved, late Mexican movie idol), The Cat in the Hat: Wings and Things (It’s Dr. Seuss, what more do you want?), Salt and Pepper (Rat Pack buddies Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford star in this awesomely-awful-looking spy flick about a pair of swinging nightclub owning secret agents; even if you don’t rent it, I recommend checking out that face Sammy’s making on the back cover; it may be the strangest thing I’ve ever seen), The Knack- and How to Get It (spazzy, funny swinging-60s comedy about a loser trying to discover the titular knack with the ladies, snappily directed by A Hard Day’s Night‘s Richard Lester), Loch Ness (Ted Danson searches for Nessie; yes, Videoport has that now), The Girl With Green Eyes (1964 Irish drama about a young woman [Rita Tushingham] who becomes involved with an older man [Network‘s Peter Finch]), Look Back in Anger (Richard Burton stars in this adaptation of the John Osborne ‘angry young man’ play about, well, an angry young man…).

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: The Killer Inside Me, Iron Man 2, Get Him to the Greek.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. To echo the lovely Ms. S. Customer..

    Holy crap is the writing on ‘Dexter’ awful.

    Oh, and the acting.

    Except for Michael C. Hall, there is not one, single acceptable performance on this entire, massively-overpraised series. I love Hall, and his acting, even when couched in overwrought, underthought narration (at times) is beyond criticism.

    But the rest…

    Oh, holy hell.

    1. Erik King (Doakes) is, simply, the worst actor on television. His bug-eyed, flared-necked, stentorian-toned “I don’t trust you Morgan!!!” presence just makes me giggle, he’s so bad. Seriously, the worst actor on TV.
    2. Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter’s TV sister and real-life wife) is TV’s dumbest cop, and, perhaps, second-worst actor on the show. Wide-eyed, blustery, and unforgivably stupid, I have never, once, reacted to her appearance onscreen with anything but a put-upon sigh.
    3. David Zayas. Again, sigh. As Dexter’s doggedly-earnest Hispanic pal, this big, dumb dog of a guy is just a bore all around. Every word he utters rings hollow and flat (although his inability to pronounce the letter ‘r’ is sort of cute.)
    4. Lauren Velez. I feel really bad about this, since I have great affection for Velez’s movie debut ‘I Like It Like That’, but her role is dreadfully-written, and her performance as the boss-lady is both overwrought and flat. Neat trick.
    5. C.S. Lee. His horndog Dexter pal in the crime lab is both repulsive and boring. Neat trick.
    6. Julie Benz. I love Benz’s Darla on ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’, and she comes out on top of the decidedly low-piled supporting heap. But, as Dex’s criminally-unobservant girlfriend, she’s gotta play dumb so often, and so persistently, that it’s hard not to just think she’s, well dumb. And boring. But mostly dumb.

    I could go on, about the insultingly-stupid subplot about Velez’s replacement’s man troubles, or… hell, I just don’t have the energy. Watch the show for Hall…and that’s it…

  2. Oh, but in season 2, Keith Carradine’s professionalism as a visiting FBI investigator stands out like a quasar in the midst of all this nonsense; he’s a guest star worthy of sparring with Hall.

  3. I maintain my position: for a show with an ethnically and racially diverse cast, it’s startlingly racist.

    The white characters (Dexter, Rita, Brenda, Harry, Paul, Rudy, Lundy, even boring skanky Lila) get some depth, complex and nuanced motivation, and somewhat careful writing — as careful as the writers of “Dexter” can manage, anyhow.

    Characters of color tend to get one simple overlying motivation and repeated slogans rather than dialogue: I’m a sweet guy who likes the ladies! (Angel), I’m a creepy creepy creep and a sexual harasser! (Masuka), I’m an angry guy and I DON’T TRUST YOU MORGAN! (Doakes).

    The women of color get particularly short shrift, though I’m hoping that LaGuerta’s lack of definition as a character (at the mid-second season mark, which is how far we’ve watched) will eventually play out into the fuller role that actress Velez deserves. Particularly noxious was the [early second-season spoiler here!] completely man-crazy, jealousy-enraged female Lieut who allowed here obsession with her no-good fiance to derail her first ENORMOUS MURDER INVESTIGATION. Appallingly sloppy, broad writing.

    But Michael C. Hall is so good. If he were reduced to starring in a series of margarine commercials, I would sit down and watch them all in a row.

  4. Okay, now that we’re well into the third season, either the writing is improving or my standards have fallen. I’m now entertained by entire episodes, rather than tapping my foot impatiently until Dexter re-appears.

    Three huge improvements:
    1. the I-Am-A-Murderous-Murderer sequences and the office-wide procedural sequences are better integrated, with storylines that interweave more naturally.
    2. The secondary and tertiary characters have been fleshed out much more solidly, especially Angel and Matsuka.
    3. [spoiler alert] Doakes is gone. Phew!

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