Volume CCLXVIII- The Bad Lieutenant’s Guide to the Galaxy
For the Week of 10/5/10
Videoport. We love movies. You love movies. Let’s get these two crazy kids together.
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 The Wrong House (in Horror.) As an avid horror fan and an admirer of indie films, I felt obligated to watch and review The Wrong House. Let’s be clear: this locally made feature is as much a grindhouse flick as it is a suspense movie. The Wrong House delights in its torture and carnage, and there’s never much doubt where the story is going. The set-up: five young friends camping in the Maine woods get up to mischief when they break into a cheerful rural house — a cheerful rural house that contains a creepy trophy chest and a torture room
equipped with tools, restraints, and anatomy posters. Not to put too fine a point on it, they have stumbled onto… the wrong house. Duh-duh-DUH! But our heroes are too duh-duh-dumb to accept that fact, even when the house’s owners tell them themselves. Predictably, mayhem ensues. The non-professional cast do their best, but all the college-kid set-up is pretty weak sauce, thanks in part to rambling chit-chat that bogs down the real story. The stand-outs here are writer-producer Susan Stevens and writer-director Shawn French as Sue and Steve, they manage to radiate both suburban normalcy and a gleeful menace, as if they’re not only completely mad but thrilled to pieces about it. Sue is brightly blond, briskly chipper, and chillingly direct when she delivers her first few threats. French’s performance is the best in the film. Many horror villains rely on brawn, bluster, or outright repugnance, but French makes his slim, lanky frame work for the character. Steve seems patently unthreatening and easy-going… until suddenly he doesn’t. French exudes a deceptive affable ease, but his lean face and predator’s grin flick into vicious intensity with lightning speed. It’s not only the performances that make their scenes the strongest, but the writing; though the dialogue is sometimes hackneyed, every scene with these two keeps the story in motion. The film’s best moments are the in-between stages, after Sue and Steve have identified the intruders and before they take action. The polite, pleasant way that the killers stalk their prey, their easy confidence, and the insidious slip-slide into menace are far scarier than any of the violence to come. (A spoiler-rich endnote: The movie has some real problems of motivation and characterization. Not for Susan and Steve, I hasten to say — in the film’s first few moments, we learn that they’ve chosen a lifestyle best summed up as “nutbar insane,” and their actions follow the broken logic of that choice pretty tidily. No, the motivational problems spring from the apparently normal characters. Why do they cheerfully break into a home? Why do they not notice that the home’s appurtenances suggest the owners might be a little… off, even dangerous? Who steals dealer-level quantities of drugs and expects no repercussions? Why return to the neighborhood? Yeah, there are some real problems here. Still, there are some valuable nuggets of anxiety and horror to be found here, and maybe more for a real fan of gore.)
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests sending in your own movie reviews to us at the VideoReport! Just email them to email@example.com, our Facebook page ‘Videoport Jones’ or drop them off here at the store! Remember, only you can prevent us from padding out this space with filler because we don’t have a Tuesday review this week!
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>>The new Videoport Wednesday movie deal? Yup. You can rent four movies for seven days for seven bucks every Wednesday at Videoport. (Plus, you know, lets not forget about the regular, still awesome Wednesday rental special…)
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests The Eclipse (in Feature Drama.) Apart from really liking this gently scary Irish drama, I was grateful to it. There are those of you out there who want a nice, scary movie, but don’t want, you know, gore, viscera, bile, slime, eyeballs, or more gore, and there are a limited number of those out there. ( My list: The Others, The Innocents, The Haunting (1963 version only), Don’t Look Now, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1979 version- [there’s some slime]), The Legend of Hell House, I Walked With a Zombie.) In The Eclipse, the eminently-dignified Ciaran Hinds (you might recognize his shovel-faced visage as Caesar on ‘Rome’) plays Michael, a recently-widowed father and failed writer who volunteers at a local writer’s conference as a driver/dogsbody, at least partly as a way to deal with his grief. In that capacity, he finds himself driving both a
peerlessly-douchey and successful American novelist (Aidan Quinn, acting peerlessly-douchey), and, more promisingly, a pretty and talented writer of delicate ghost stories (High Fidelity‘s Iben Hjejle-making it two out of three stars of this film whose names I have absolutely no freaking idea how to pronounce). Michael’s drawn to the pretty writer for obvious reasons, sure, but also because he’s been having decidedly-spooky visions at his house. It’s a nice set-up, and it’s carried off with such dignity all around that the scares, when they come, are that much more effective. Michael’s palpable grief, and his inherent rationality in the face of the inexplicable, grounds the movie solidly in the real, and his relationship with the refreshingly-not-stupid Hjejle is both touching and realistic, too. As for the scares, well, sure, a couple of them are sorta cheap, but they still made me jump (and, as a horror movie veteran, I do not jump easily), and the first appearance is enduringly creepy, and the last is both that, and beautifully-moving. And here’s to the director Conor McPherson, who stages the expected “investigating the suspicious noises” scenes with a delightfully-fresh hand; moving a camera before you expect, or after, and having someone move into the frame before, or after the audience expects- just so deft and refreshing. A well-acted, smart, and restrainedly-affecting ghost story.
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 will prevent you from having to send an unstoppable cyborg killing machine back in time to protect them so that they don’t accidentally get killed by another unstoppable killing machine and thereby destroy your future. Seriously, who needs all that hassle?
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 Mary Reilly (in Horror.) Mary Reilly was something of a joke during its initial theatrical release, in part thanks to Julia Roberts’ deserved reputation as the brash, broad-smiling sweetheart of the Hollywood screen, and partly because the film itself was received as a mawkish, sentimental tale. But those reviewers underestimated director Stephen Frears (who has brought us such excellent and diverse fare as The Grifters, Dangerous Liaisons, My Beautiful Laundrette, The Queen and High Fidelity). Frears paints Mary Reilly as an overwrought Victorian intrigue because that’s exactly what it is; the film (and the novel) parallel and retell Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Mary Reilly assumes the viewer is familiar with the original tale, not just the cartoonish knock-offs so popular in the 20th century. Stevenson’s slim novella was a taut mystery story, a moralizing story of hypocrisy, and a
pre-Freudian exploration of the dangers of repression. The film builds on those themes by observing the sweet if priggish Dr. Jekyll (John Malkovich) through the eyes of a lowly housemaid in his respectable employ. Even I have to admit: Roberts is surprisingly effective as the meek, pallid maid, subduing her usual cheeky glee, and her pinch-faced Mary is convincingly raw-boned and diffident. Knowing the storyline, it’s still quite possible to feel a creeping sense of anxiety for her possible fate. It’s by no means a great film, but master director Frears knows exactly how to deploy an enveloping dread, heaving Freudian imagery, and occasional blasts of Gothic bombast. If anything, Frears is perhaps too faithful to the Victorian dank and drudgery; the story bogs down in its own melodrama, as Gothic tales are wont to do. Mary Reilly is at worst an interesting exercise and at best a dramatic counterpoint to your spoooOOOOooooky pre-Halloween viewing. Notable supporting cast include Michael Gambon, Glenn Close, Michael Sheen.
>>>For Sunday, Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (in Comedy.) Gene Wilder’s very silly send-up of the Sherlock Holmes genre. He plays Holmes’ (not) smarter brother, Sigerson who gets involved in a mystery involving an actress/singer (played hilariously by Madeline Kahn) that includes Holmes’ nemesis Moriarty. Wilder wrote and directed and although it’s not up there with Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, it’s very funny and off-the-wall. The cast is excellent; Marty Feldman and Leo McKern are hysterical and Kahn gets to show-off her very talented singing voice too. And how can you go wrong with Dom Deluise as an evil opera singer? The film is a lot of fun especially if you are a Holmes fan. Wilder’s commentary is very good too.
New Releases this week at Videoport: THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (Yup, it’s here, and Videoport’s got many copies for you to 1. Watch [if you’re brave and/or a fan of freakshows], 2. Watch while eating [if you’re foolhardy and/or uninformed], or 3. Watch while you’re eating chocolate pudding [if you’re of an iron constitution and/or trying to win a huge bet that you couldn’t from some sadistic friends]), ‘Bones’- season 5 (they’re cute! They’re flirty in a will-they-or-won’t-they sort of way! They routinely handle decomposing bodies while doing so!), The Karate Kid (Hollywood continues to crane-kick our collective childhoods in this remake starring Will Smith’s kid and Jackie Chan), A Nightmare on Elm Street (I’d be mad about this, yet another 80’s remake, if I ever thought the original was any good; starring the resurgent Jackie Earle Haley), Splice (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley lend some indie cred to this tale of some morally-questionable
scientists who do the titular splicing and create a predictably-unpredictable, and unpredictably-sexy lady monster; from the intriguingly-weird Canadian who made Cube and Nothing), Bill Burr: Let It Go (here’s that special from that standup comedian I’ve never heard of you were waiting for; look for it in Videoport’s comedy section under the comedian’s last name [handy Videoport tutorial!]), The Secret of Kells (Oscar-nominated Irish animation!), 30 Days of Night: Dark Days (largely starless [sorry, Harold Perrineau], largely-unrelated sequel to the middling horror film transplants the setting from vampire-friendly dark Alaska to…Los Angeles?), Mid-August Lunch (charming Italian comedy about the broke Gianni who, living in a tiny apartment with his 93 year old mother and a pile of debts, accepts his landlord’s deal to cancel his rent…if he takes care of even more little old ladies), Woke Up Dead (Napoleon Dynamite himself, John Heder, stars in this zombie comedy [zombedy?] about a recently-deceased, even-more-recently-reanimated guy who decided to try and solve his own murder), Fade to Black (oddball mystery stars that slice of entertaining ham Danny Huston playing real-life sometimes ham Orson Welles getting involved in a murder while on location in post-war Italy), ‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!’- season 4 (are you in the half that finds these guys
groundbreaking, surrealist comedy geniuses, or the half that get the willies from their doughy, unappealing-ness and scream ‘I don’t get it!’ with great frequency? I’ve got a foot in both camps, myself…), ‘Scrubs’- season 9 (can a frequently-hilarious sitcom continue after most of its cast has moved on? Or does that beg the question, should it? Rent this and find out), ‘Stargate Universe’- season 1 (Videoport’s sci fi section brings in the first season of this spinoff from a spinoff from a middling sci fi movie from a long time ago; at least it’s got Robert Carlyle…), ‘Cake Boss’- season 2 (he makes cakes? And he’s a tough guy? Like a baker Tony Soprano? Whatever…), ‘Caprica’- season 1 (Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales continue the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ legacy in this prequel series about how they made the Cylons in the first place; it probably seemed like a good idea at the time…), Frozen (what would you do if you and two of your firends got stuck on a stalled ski lift and there was no one coming to rescue you for three whole days? Well, you’d make a thriller about it, of course…), The Oath (mesmerizing documentary about two men whose pre-9/11 meetings with Osama Bin Laden led them down very different paths), Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema (City of God– esque South African drama about some kids being drawn into that life of crime that those kids today seem to find so attractive), Mercy (Hollywood scion Scott Caan wrote this tale of a major player who finds that he doesn’t know as much about women as he thought; dad James agrees to a cameo to make things legit…)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: 1981 (French Canadian coming-of-age story about a young kid moving to a new neighborhood; find it in the Film Movement section in the middle aisle), Bomber (hey! Another Film Movement movie! This one’s about an old man taking a trip back to his native journey, driven by his ne’er-do-well son; check out that Film Movement shelf…good stuff there…), Penguins of Madagascar: I Was a Penguin Zombie (those animated scamps from Madagascar get their own spinoff DVD), Make Me Young: Youth Knows No Pain (the daughter of a plastic surgeon makes a documentary about America’s desire to make themselves look like plasticized golems in their quest for artificial youthfulness), Tell Them Anything You Want (Spike Jonze [who brilliantly visualized the author’s Where the Wild Things Are] directs this documentary about beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak), The Who: Live at Kilburn 1977 (It’s The Who; they’re awesome…you’ll rent it), Green Porno (the luminously-bananas Isabella Rossellini conceived of this artsy/educational/bat-sh*t-crazy documentary about the wide and very, very varied sex lives of various bugs, fish, and crawly things, all acted out by the lovely Ms. S. in huge, puffy costumes), All Boys (documentary about gay porn!), Piranha (the original, with the fishies eating the people!)
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (I dunno, it just called out for all caps…), A Nightmare on Elm Street, Grindhouse, Predator 2, Seven.
Get free money at Videoport! We’ve got credit deals that will make your movie-renting cash go even further: pre-pay $20, and you get $25 worth of rental credit! And $30 buys you a whopping $40 worth of rental credit!