VideoReport #269

Volume CCLXIX- How the Bad Lieutenant Got His Groove Back

For the Week of 10/12/10

Videoport has the best selection of movies anywhere, we have the lowest prices, we give you a free movie every single day, we’re convenient, professional, and locally-owned. Portland, you got lucky…

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 Josh suggests Marathon Man (in Mystery/Thriller.) I don’t watch enough movies shot before the 80s, mostly on this old assumption from my childhood that “old is boring.” But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that a lot of new stuff is extremely boring (G.I. Joe, Iron Man 2,

 

Heebie-jeebies anyone?

 

and Sherlock Holmes, I’m looking at you), so I thought I should check some older movies out. If, like me, you’ve watched and loved Clerks the Animated Series and Gremlins 2, you may have realized that they were referencing something when they said “Is it safe?” They were referencing Marathon Man. And for a good reason. Marathon Man is f***ing awesome. First: Dustin Hoffman, Lawrence Olivier, Roy Scheider. If you aren’t sold on this movie yet, someone should slap you in the face. This 1976 film is notable for being the first theatrical release to use the steadicam… but you and I both know that’s not what really matters. It’s not the technology, it’s how it’s used. And oh boy, did they use it right. Let’s not mince words. Marathon Man makes supposed “modern thrillers” look like a joke. Ten minutes into the movie, I was on the edge of my seat. People too often say “the tension was palpable!” about far lesser films; which is too bad, because this film actually deserves the comment. John Schlesinger knows just how to use cinematography, scoring, and selective ambient sound to create a singular space of existential dread and isolation. They just don’t make them like this anymore, friends. When the credits rolled, I just sat and breathed. I was shaking from nerves. It was amazing.

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

>>> Write for The VideoReport! Send your reviews to us at denmn@hotmail.com or our facebook page “Videoport Jones”! Avoid Tuesday review shortages like this one!

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

>>>Dennis suggests OSS 117: Lost in Rio (in Foreign Language.) Foreign comedies are tough to

 

Your attempts to resist me are both adorable and annoying. Your panties, please...

 

get behind; comedy is such a delicate verbal art that the combination of the vagaries of subtitling and the slight delay in reading the jokes tends to suck the air out of the enterprise. (Yes, I know that I am a stereotypical ignorant American who doesn’t know any other languages- I’ve been busy, okay?) And it goes both ways- why do you think it’s only our dumbest, crudest, broadest comedies that do the best overseas? Even subtitled into Slovenian, Kevin James falling down and going boom is readily accessible to all. The trick is to craft a comedy that’s got some wit in its broadness, and this sequel to the similarly-hilarious OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies has a stylish leather loafer planted firmly in both camps. The peerlessly-goofy Jean Dujardin returns as the titular Dr. No-era French secret agent, this time sent on a super secret

 

And you're welcome, ladies...

 

mission to Rio to purchase a secret microfilm (containing a master list of high-placed French WWII collaborators) from a former Nazi general. Dujardin’s OSS 117, and the film a a whole, satirizes the suave Bond formula by tweaking things just that much, bringing all the inherent misogyny, racism, imperialism, and brutality of the ‘licensed to kill’ superspy front and center. And by making said superspy an utter buffoon, of course; Dujardin’s enormous, self-satisfied toothy smile flashes at the slightest (and unwarranted) provocation, and his hilariously-nimble physicality is, again, reminiscent of early Connery, only with his cocksure masculinity being used in service of absolutely the dumbest courses of action possible. Whether arriving at a secret Nazi banquet in a Robin Hood costume, attempting to cook an entire spitted crocodile over a campfire, or engaging in some surprisingly accurate luchador moves in a fight against a hulking masked wrestler (don’t ask), Dujardin’s unflappable belief in his own inherent correctness is never not funny. It’s goofy, satirical, clever, and it’ll play just fine for those of us too lazy to learn French.

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘The Wire’ (in Mystery/Thriller.) I hesitated before I started re-watching the acclaimed series “The Wire.” I was afraid that revisiting the show I so admired might knock the bloom off, might make me notice some small flaws or failures of logic or character. I was wrong. Oh, I was so wrong! Re-watching “The Wire” allows me to appreciate its greatness fully, to see that it’s not just the best television show I’ve ever seen (and that by a long way), but among the

 

What would Lester Freamon do?

 

greatest drama I’ve ever seen. The first time through, “The Wire” is something of a breathless tumult, and writer-producer David Simon built it that way intentionally, with fast, clipped, accented dialogue, actors who know how to portray the subtleties of mixed and powerful emotions, characters who eschew exposition, and a layered, complex plot that builds and builds without tipping its hand too often to the audience. [mild spoilers and existential angst ahead.] This is a show famously designed for people who are paying attention. This is doubly true the second time through: elements that appeared to be mere background or humor or

 

I want one.

 

passing dialogue on first viewing suddenly have great resonance when you know where the story is heading. The office of Rhonda the D.A., where every surface is covered with towering stacks and piles of files, is no longer just the humorous disorganization of an overworked D.A., but a symptom of a system so clogged that that there is no hope of clearing it. Avon Barksdale stroking the cheek of a toddler and murmuring “Little soldier” is no mere endearment; it is Avon’s vision of a future in which many, many children work in his drug army. The push-and-pull over a desk stuck in a door is not just a moment of comedic business and a chance to catch a gleam of Lester’s perceptive eye, but a daunting metaphor for the system as a whole. “The Wire” is a great dramatic work, one with layers of meaning and metaphor, and to watch it only once is to deprive yourself of a powerful experience.

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

>>> Dennis suggests teaching your kids responsible DVD handling now will avoid you finding out, years from now, that your son has become president of the United States…only to then discover that he has subverted America’s principles and violated the law only to be brought into disgrace by a pair of crusading reporters. Seriously, that’s what happened to that guy…

>>>Der Swedish Chef surggesters Der Muppet Movie. Da flim is okey-dokey!

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests you stop viewing these great TV/film series at the following points:

1. ‘The West Wing’ after season 4. That’s when writer/creator/genius Aaron Sorkin was fired (?!?!) by the network and the show immediately became the strident, obvious thing it’s detrators always claimed, but that it almost never was under Sorkin.

2. ‘Twin Peaks’ right around episode Season 2, episode 10, when the initial mystery is solved and the show, in shockingly short order, becomes a cartoonish parody of itself. Watch the finale if you like- it’s got a few good moments in it.

3. ‘Scrubs’ after season 8. I find this show just comfortingly, reliably funny and clever, and there’s nothing really wrong with season 9, when, in an admittedly bold move, they tried to bring in a whole new crew of med students to continue things. Except that, you know, it’s a dumb idea and all. The new kids are fine, but the formula had worn itself thin, the same old lessons were being learned, and the reduced (JD, Kelso, Ted) or completely absent (Janitor, Carla) roles of beloved regulars are sorely missed.

4. The Godfathers, after #2. This seems obvious, but watching Godfather 3 will actually make you respect the original films less. You will regret having watched it, trust me.

5. ‘Reno 911’ after season 5. Reinventing your show can be a good thing I guess (although I’m having a hard time thinking of examples), and new additions to the squad room Ian Roberts (from the Upright Citizens Brigade) and Joe LoTruglio (from The State) are, indisputably, brilliant comic actors, but the unexplained jettisoning of deputies Garcia and Clemmie (Kimball was not missed) just throws the show’s carefully-constructed improv-y balance off. Everything goes flat. It’s a bummer.

6. The Star Wars series after Jedi. I know this, too, is so obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough: George Lucas lost his freaking mind in the interim, don’t let him destroy your childhood memories by watching the three prequels. You’ll feel bad.

>>>For Sunday, Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests The Island (in Sci Fi.) I usually avoid Michael Bay films. They generally are one trick ponies; big, loud, a lot of slow-mo shots, silly plots and obnoxious action. I sort of enjoyed The Rock, thought Armageddon was cheesy and really hated the Bad Boys films and Pearl Harbor. The Island thankfully seems different than his others; the plot and script are actually intelligently crafted. Not to give too much away, but it’s sort of a mix of Logan’s Run and Coma, 2 great 70’s thrillers, and it touches on some relevant social issues. The action does have some of the trademark Bay flourishes, but they’re not over-the-top. I’m not sure why this didn’t do well at the box office (his films usually do despite the poor reviews) because it really does deserve an audience. Beautifully shot with Scarlett Johanson looking the best I’ve seen on screen, The Island is an action sci-fi that makes you think and will most likely cause discussion after viewing. The cast is very good with Sean Bean a standout as an ‘evil’ scientist. He is played like a modern-day Victor Frankenstein with equal villainy and sympathy. I found this surprisingly enjoyable.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Trash Humpers (the new freakshow/cult movie from

 

This exists.

 

cinematic provocateur/poseur Harmony Korine [Julien Donkey-Boy, Gummo]; it’s a deliberately no-tech examination of some elderly-masked transients as they paint graffiti, burn stuff, and, yes, hump trash), How to Train Your Dragon (‘Undeclared’‘s Jay Baruchel lends his appropriately-weedy voice to the main character in this animated film about a little weed who, well trains dragons, I suppose; I really think that the title absolves me of posting a spoiler alert there…), ‘The Tudors’- season 4 (Henry VIII’s rumpy-pumpin’, wife-beheadin’ ways finally come to an end with this final series of the cable series…right before he has to plump out to un-photogenic proportions), ‘Dollhouse’- season 2 (cult TV god Joss Whedon’s not-quite-as-good-as-Buffy, Angel, or Firefly sci fi series wraps itself up this week as well), Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin and Megan Fox star in this universally-reviled adaptation of the DC Comics Western series), ‘In Treatment’- season 2 (Gabriel Byrne returns as the conflicted, caring psychiatrist in the second season of this HBO series featuring an all-new cast of patients), I Am Love (Tilda Swinton’s an odds-on favorite to

 

Oscar time.

 

win an Oscar this year for her role as the Russian/Italian wife of an Italian executive in this operatic melodrama), Leaves of Grass (Tim Blake Nelson directs the ever-adventurous Edward Norton [playing identical twins!] in this pothead comedy/violent action flick about the various wacky characters who like the pot), Breaking Upwards (indie comedy/drama about a young couple who, feeling the snap has gone out of their relationship, decides to craft a truly inspired breakup; with support from Portland’s own Andrea Martin!), Manson: My Name Is Evil (which serial killer has the most biopics about him? Well, it’s pretty hard to beat ol’ Jack the Ripper, but with this one, Charlie Manson’s closing the gap), You Might as Well Live (Videoport’s Incredibly Strange section welcomes this oddball dark comedy about a perennially-chipper loser, ejected from his depression ward for being too happy, who sets out on a trip to find the three keys to happiness; the title’s from a Dorothy Parker poem, by the way…), ‘Ugly Americans’- season 1 (animated comedy follows the travails of a well-meaning NYC social worker dealing with a super-hot half-demon girlfriend, a zombie best friend, and a whole city full of monstrous slackers), Died Young, Stayed Pretty (indie documentary about the underground rock poster movement, which is a thing, apparently), 35 Shots of Rum (Videoport customers, being the cool cats they are, have been entreating us to bring in this touching French drama about a father and daughter whose close relationship is troubled by the arrival of a handsome suitor; from brilliant director Claire Denis [Chocolat, Beau Travail]), Doctor Who: Dreamland (David Tennant’s Doctor gets his own animated miniseries in the sci fi section at Videoport).

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: White on Rice (a 40 year old Asian slacker decides he needs to get off of his nephew’s upper bunk and get himself a wife; falling in love with his niece probably wasn’t the best idea…), Kimjongilia (North Korean defectors tell their harrowing tales in this documentary), Doghouse (a carload of British louts fleeing from their respective relationships, end up in a village full of women infected with a virus turning them into man-hating cannibals in this horror comedy; blimey!), Shock Treatment (this sequel to the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show was…made…and we have it now; um, you’re welcome, I guess), Pal Joey (Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak? Ring-a-ding-ding, gimme three fingers, I have mob ties, etc…), The Guyver (Mark Hamill tried to return to sci fi stardom in this 1991 live action anime adaptation about a cyborg superhero; ummm, well it was a nice try), The Executioner’s Song (Tommy Lee Jones and Rosanna Arquette starred in this acclaimed biopic about murderer Gary Gilmore), The Outrage (if you’ve ever wanted to see a Hollywood Western remake of Rashomon, with Paul Newman as a Mexican bandito, complete with little mustache and spray-on tan, well Videoport’s got you covered), Fish Tank (Inglourious Basterds‘ Michael Fassbender stars in this British drama about a lonely 15 year old girl who finds herself drawn to her mother’s hunky new boyfriend), The Lottery (righteously pissed-off documentary examines the terrifying degree to which a child’s location in the country determines their education and future happiness), Charlie and Lola- Volume 11 (new DVD of the unbearably-adorable British children’s show), Houdini and The Boston Strangler (just in time for the ‘Tony Curtis, we’re sorry you’re dead now’ tribute shelf [in the middle aisle] comes these two Curtis-starred flicks,one where he’s an escape artist, the other where he’s a serial killer, just for you), The Law (all-time classic Italian cast [Yves Montand, Melina Mercouri, Marcello Mastroianni, and the peerlessly-voluptuous Gina Lollobrigida] star in this overheated, hilarious, sexy melodrama from director Jules Dassin [Rififi]).

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Blades of Grass, How to Train Your Dragon.

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