Volume CCLXX- Where the Bad Lieutenants Roam
For the Week of 10/19/10
Videoport will give you a free movie every day if you’re not careful. LOOK OVER THERE! Ha! See, we gave you a free rental while you weren’t looking.
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 Box (in Mystery/Thriller). The Box. It’s a moral conundrum: someone hands you a box with what promises to be a really, really, really stupid movie inside. Do you mock the movie mercilessly sight unseen, or do you watch the movie first, then mock it mercilessly? The Box is based on frequent Twilight Zone contributor Richard Matheson’s chilling little story “Button, Button.” The story and the film begin the same way: a strange man (Frank Langella, and when you see him, you’ll realize that Kelly took “strange man” a bit too literally) shows up on a couple’s doorstep and offers them a box topped with a simple button. Oh, and he offers a proposition: if they press the button, a stranger will die and they’ll get a briefcase full of money. It’s a nasty little moral dilemma, and one that (as you can well imagine) plays out with unpleasant consequences. Director Richard Kelly of Donnie Darko fame took this tight little tale, added a wide cast of cardboard-cutout characters, a guilt-inducing but otherwise unimportant little kid, and a grand conspiracy of astronomical proportions — and we would expect no less of Kelly. Say what you will about his work; the man delivers the crazy, even when he’s making something that masquerades as a
mass-market thriller. Unfortunately, he also gutted the narrative’s moral, giving the couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, both turning in performances completely forgettable except for their egregious and unnecessary accents) relatively trivial problems, and turned it into a spectacle completely unrelated to the question at the story’s center. It’s both a shame and a hoot: Kelly has an eye for the eerie, and there are plenty of shots here that raised goosebumps on my arms… but it’s all too ludicrous to be effective. It is laugh-out-loud funny, though. I cannot remember a terrible movie I’ve enjoyed more. The Box is BANANAS.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Bronson (in Action/Adventure.) This one is just begging to be rented on a Videoport Tuesday double feature with Chopper (also in Action.) Let’s go to the tape: both films are about real-life, absurdly-charismatic career criminals who are telling their own life stories. Both films feature an impossibly hunky actor (who is now a hell of a lot more famous) looking completely unrecognizable in the lead role (in Chopper, it’s current dreamboat Eric Bana [The Time Traveler’s Wife].) And both films are utterly fascinating character studies of guys you simultaneously feel sorry for, are attracted to, and don’t want to run into in real life, ever. Bronson is based on the autobiography of one Michael Peterson, rechristened after Charles Bronson, who, after robbing a post office of a few bucks, spends the next thirty-plus years in various prisons and mental institutions, most of those in solitary confinement. And while that sounds harsh, Bronson is pretty much the poster boy for solitary
confinement, as he brutalizes prisoners, guards, and essentially anyone he can get his hands on at any time. But…he’s Bronson. And played by Tom Hardy (you know him as the forger in Inception), Bronson is magnetic. Directed by Danish crazyman Nicholas Winding Refn (the Pusher trilogy) Bronson‘s Bronson is pretty damned fascinating- narrating his own life in a guttural cockney accent, looking, with his shaved head and handlebar mustache, like a 19th century strongman, and acting out scenes from his life in stylized scenes on an imaginary music hall stage. Tom Hardy is so bursting with caged energy that you can’t take your eyes off him. Watch the montage of him in a solitary cage, doing pushups, pacing, and occasionally smashing his head into the mesh, or the sequence where, doped up and nearly catatonic in a nuthouse, his inability to enact customary violence on a reprehensible inmate saying reprehensible things, causes him to shake, drool, and, well, snot in his desperate attempts to do…anything. Hardy’s just great in the role- watch his weird courtliness when dealing with the few people he doesn’t want to pummel; it’s both unnerving and hilarious. Bronson and Chopper– 2 for 1. Can’t get any more insane than this.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis suggests ‘Community’ (in Comedy.) Following in the footsteps of the likes of John Stewart and Greg Kinnear, ‘The Soup’‘s host/snarkmeister Joel McHale proves himself possessed of serious comic chops in this, his first leading man role. As the cool-benamed Jeff Winger (I only assume that’s a shout out to Bill Murray in Stripes), a lawyer forced to attend the titular community college when it’s discovered his undergraduate degree was just a tad bogus, McHale is the hilariously self-centered center of a rag-tag study group. Premise! Yeah, but McHale is effortlessly charismatic and funny, the writing is surprisingly nimble and full of unexpected laughs, and his supporting cast is almost-uniformly great, with Donald Glover [former writer for ’30 Rock’, Mystery Team] as the dumb jock, Danny Pudi as breakout character, the clearly-autistic Abed, Yvette Nicole Brown as the divorcee getting her life back, and, yes, even Chevy Chase as a weird rich guy attending for no particular reason [the show wisely uses Chevy sparingly, and it works] all turning in decidedly odd and original work. Throw in Apatow alum Ken Jeong as the obviously insane Spanish teacher Senor Chang, and you’ve got a consistently funny little sitcom.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests Cradle Will Rock (in Feature Drama.) A very entertaining film about a part of our recent past that doesn’t get a lot of attention; the clash of artists and powerbrokers in 1930s America. It focuses on the Federal Theater Project (a part of the WPA) that was enacted to keep the arts thriving during the depression years. Director Tim Robbins creates a Robert Altman-like mosaic of real and fictional characters to show the conflict of ‘art for the masses’. A excellent cast with standout performances by Bill Murray, Joan and John Cusack, Cherry Jones, Emily Watson and Hank Azaria. The highlight is the recreation of Orson Welles’ controversial musical, The Cradle Will Rock. An intelligent and thought provoking film.
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 learning, years from now, that they have started eating census takers livers with fava beans and nice chianti. It’s a direct cause-and-effect relationship…
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 The Lady in White (in Mystery/Thriller.) Part old-fashioned ghost story, part whodunnit, part nostalgia-fest, Lady in White was a labor of love for writer-director-producer Frank LaLoggia, who strove to capture something of his own childhood here, complete with goofy family members, hints of sweeping social change, and the joys and cruelty of small children. The film suffers from some cheesy passages (especially the bickering grandparent sequences) that ring a false note amid the creeping anxiety of the larger story, and the rapid shifts from wacky family hijinks to childhood horror can give you cinematic vertigo. But if you can get past these shortcomings, you’ll be rewarded by a coming-of-age tale that weds classic ghostly shivers with a story of social injustice. Told in flashback by an adult narrator, Lady in White starts on Halloween 1962, when our young hero Frankie (Lukas Haas, Witness, Brick, Inception) witnesses a terrifying spectral event in an empty school cloakroom. His subsequent story sets a murder trial in motion, and leads his neighbors in the small town of Willowpoint Falls to ask some uncomfortable questions. (Though the introductory flashback reassures us that little Frankie survives his dreadful adventure, don’t let that fool you into thinking Lady in White is a trifle for the kiddies. The schoolroom sequence would be enough to give any sensible child the screaming fidgets, and it’s not the only piece of child-specific nightmare fuel in the movie.) Young Lukas Haas carries the film on his slim shoulders and does it with seemingly effortless aplomb: he’s both awkward and oddly graceful, all ears and bright smile, charming us without any of the usual saccharine movie-child smarminess. His big doe eyes are both innocent and wary, and he gives Frank a perfect balance of vulnerability and curiosity.
>>>For Sunday, Videoport customer alter-ego B.S. Eliot presents another PLOT TREATMENT KORNER. It is my pleasure to announce that my proposed sequel to E.T. has been optioned by some bigwig. It’s a funny story, actually: I ate some peyote and went to Wigs-R-Us and in the display case there was this really big wig and it was all like, “Yo, I wanna option your sequel to E.T.” We chatted for a couple of hours, and it turns out we have a lot in common. So, without further talking, I present “E.T. 2: The Revenge of E.T.” The year is 2010 and, back on his home planet, E.T. (Keanu Reeves) is the star of the smash-hit space sitcom “Dr. Alien” where he plays a fun-loving space surgeon with a penchant for finger-related mischief. Life is hunky-dory for the tall, handsome alien until a routine space physical reveals that, as a result of consuming copious amounts of Reese’s Pieces, he has developed stage 12 space cancer and only has 48 hours to live. He falls to his knees, his chest glowing in smoldering space rage, and shouts to the heavens, “ELIOT!!” Cut to planet Earth. Eliot (Don Cheadle) is relaxing on his 5-story yacht, counting his money, and eating Reese’s Pieces and laughing about how hunky-dory his life is since his best selling tell-all “My Best Selling Tell-All” was made into a Lifetime movie-of-the-week called “Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays with Alien.” Then, like, he finds out E.T. is coming after him to exact space revenge. Action sequences ensue, and the movie erupts into a shocking climax with a twist that no one will see coming, not even me! THE END.
Regan’s response to the outraged people’s response to Vince Vaughn’s new movie trailer
“I’m gonna rape so many b***ches when I get home.”- Shane from ‘The Shield’
“Yeah…I’m also going to rape some b***ches.”- Topher Grace from Traffic and ‘That 70’s Show’
Now this is a conversation between these two guys in the new film Predators. When Topher delivers his line, he says it in a sardonic sort of way. And I laughed. And so did April. So let me be clear. I DO NOT LIKE RAPE. I DO NOT WANT TO BE RAPED. APRIL DOES NOT LIKE RAPE. AND IT’S SAFE TO SAY IF YOU LOOK AT HER WRONG, SHE, OR ANY OF US, WILL BICYCLE KICK YOUR FACE.
GOT IT, BUDDY? That being said. Sure. You don’t like jokes about rape? Well guess what? You don’t have to. Press mute. That’s what I do every time I’m watching Oprah and that godd*mned commercial about how some women get three or four abortions comes on. You know, because it’s sooo much fun. Often I find myself deciding…should I go to Palace Playland today? Nah, I’ma gonna get me an abortion job. It’s Tuesday. I’ve lost my train of thought…right. All’s I’m really saying is I should be able to tell Andy he’s acting like a total vagina and not have all of womankind trying to censor me.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Predators (a decent
cast [a buffed out Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Danny Trejo] attempt to redeem the once-awesome Predator franchise from PG-13 nonsense; plus, see Regan’s essay above for more insight…), Giallo (busy bee Adrien Brody is back, this time starring as a detective trying to solve both a series of bloody murders and the massively-overpraised director Dario Argento’s convoluted script in this self-reflexive self-homage), Please Give (the very talented director Nicole Holofcener [Walking and Talking, Lovely and Amazing, Friends With Money] is back with this story of a couple’s battles with the family of their elderly tenant; starring, as ever, the stunningly-cool Catherine Keener), Until the Light Takes Us (documentary delves into the mascara-smeary musical underworld that is Norwegian black metal; questionable music, church burnings, maybe a murder or two…fun stuff), Jonah Hex (universally-reviled DC Comics Western
adaptation stars Josh Brolin as the hideously-scarred cowboy hero; internet celebrity of questionable relevance and talent Megan Fox is on hand for those of you into that sort of thing), Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom (the Dalai Lama, doing his thing…), ‘Wallander’- season 2 (Kenneth Branagh is back as the best, most bummed out and rumpled Scandinavian detective ever in this excellent mystery series), ‘How I Met Your Mother’- season 5 (three names: Allyson Hannigan, Jason Segal, and Neil-freaking-Patrick Harris…the other two are usually acceptable as well in this reliably-pleasing sitcom), Spoken Word (a poet returns to his home town only to get drawn back into a life of crime in this indie drama from Victor Nunez, director of Ruby in Paradise and Ulee’s Gold), Lost Boys: The Thirst (the Frog brothers from the original 80’s vampire flick are back in this second direct-to-DVD sequel starring toadlike ex-celebrity, the one remaining Corey; enjoy!), Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones (wanna the the Stones at their peak? Here’s the legendary concert film from 1972, on the ‘Exile on Main Street’ tour), Arn: The Knight Templar (medieval action! Clang! Clang! Slash! Clang!), Legendary (WWE films keeps trying to turn John Cena into The Rock;
this time he plays support as [surprise!] a wrestler, albeit of the non-professional kind, whose shadow his younger brother must climb out from under…I think a wrestler wrote that sentence…), Night of the Demons (it’s a remake of an already-dreadful 80’s horror film! The line forms here!), Oceans (let Pierce Brosnan’s mellifluous voice be your guide through this stunningly-shot ocean documentary), Crimson Wing: The Mystery of the Flamingo (and enjoy this Disney documentary about flamingoes; sadly, I believe Pierce Brosnan is not involved), The Six Wives of Henry Lefay (Tim Allen stars in this comedy about the titular former Mrs Tim Allens gathering for his funeral; although, if you’re anything like me, you stopped reading after “Tim Allen stars…”), Agora (the always-alluring Rachel Weisz stars in this historical drama about ancient Rome, the rise of Christianity, and some hot male slave-on-female-master love), ‘Raging Planet’ (the Discovery Channel, doing what it does best- filming nature totally effing stuff up!).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Daniel and Ana (Mexican drama about a brother and sister who get kidnapped and forced to, well…you’ll see; does it transcend pervy exploitation? Rent it and find out…), The Magician (The Criterion Collection brings yet another Ingmar Bergman cinematic classic to Videoport; starring the ever-mesmerizing Max Von Sydow as a, well, mesmerist), Autumn Sonata (did I say Bergman? And also Criterion Collection? Yup, I did, and here’s more Scandinavian movie greatness for y’all; this time, it’s heavy family drama with the luminescent Liv Ullman and Ingrid Bergman on hand…), Legend of the Boneknapper Dragon (thrown in as a freebie [sort of] with this week’s blockbuster animated How to Train Your Dragon; find it in the kids section), I’ll Come Running (indie drama/romance about a Danish tourist and a Latina Texan trying to make it work across all the oceans and such; starring the actress from Raising Victor Vargas), The Darjeeling Limited (more Criterion goodness, as the enduringly-awesome distributors of movie greatness continue to latch on to indie auteur Wes Anderson [whose Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums are three of the best films I’ve ever seen, by the way…]), Death Kappa (if you can look at the cover of this Japanese giant monster movie and not rent it, well, you are very different than I…)
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Jonah Hex, Arn: The Knight Templar, Lost Boys: The Thirst, Winged Migration, Oceans, Crimson Wing: The Mystery of the Flamingo.