Volume CCLXXIII- A Fish Called Gamera
For the Week of 11/9/10
Videoport will give you a free rental every day, validate your parking, offer you the best selection, prices, and customer service anywhere, and will just make your life better. Trust us.
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 Mark Magee suggests The Formula (in Mystery/Thriller.) The Formula is
not a great movie but the story is interesting enough and I found it very entertaining. The idea of the oil companies hiding the formula developed by the Nazis for an alternative energy source still has relevance in this day and age. George C. Scott gives a good performance as a police detective who begins to uncover the secret and it is nice to see him with Marlon Brando in the only movie they made together. Brando almost veers into bizarre parody as the head of an oil company, but he still gives a great performance. He’s in only 3 or 4 scenes but you’re totally fixed upon him in each one. His makeup alone is worth seeing the film. Don’t think of it too much and you’ll have a good time. The last shot really hits home.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests taking an action-packed hike through the Action/Adventure aisle. If you’re like me, you sometimes forget to patrol the Action aisle, and if you’re like me, you’re missing out on a lot. Golly, lookit! Such great movies over here! Plenty of old-school Pam Grier, including Coffy & Foxy Brown. Clint Eastwood classics like Pale Rider: action plus allegory! Kill Bill, Vol. I & II — so much killing (but is it killing of Bill? You’ll have to watch ’em to find out!) Die Hard, Die Harder, Dying Hardly or Hardly Dying, Die Laurel and Hardy! (It’s just possible I got some of those titles wrong.) The ENTIRE James Bond franchise, from the campy (I’m lookin’ at you, Roger Moore) to the iconic (“No, Mister Bond! I expect you to DIE!”) to the reboot (hello, Daniel Craig). There are riches over here on the far side of the shelf, and it would be too bad to miss any of them.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests “The Office,” Season One (in Comedy). Over the last coupla seasons, “The Office” has acquired a cheery, feel-good, slightly cartoonish quality: everyone is a bit bigger than life, and everyone gets along despite minor bumps and bruised feelings. I kinda love that, but it’s a bit jolting to return to the brief first season of “The Office,” which is closer in spirit to its roots, channeling the dry, acerbic wit of the original British series. Michael Scott (Steve Carell) now seems like an overgrown spoiled child: unsocialized, self-centered, and attention-hungry, but underneath it all, he’s warm-hearted and loving. In Season One, Michael is a lout, a blatant racist, and a petty tyrant… and he’s appallingly, flinch-inducingly funny. But this obnoxious cringe comedy works — in part thanks to Steve Carell’s masterful balance between excruciating and hilarious, and in part because the entire team works seamlessly in reacting to him. On a first-season commentary track, Jenna Fischer (Pam Beasley) describes her comedic approach to the first season: she considered the essential improv rules, things like “Always further the scene” and “Never naysay your partner” … and then she did the opposite. Standard improv relies on “Yes, and…” The first season of “The Office” is all about the flat, unblinking “NO.”
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests ‘Party Down’ (in Comedy.) Now that this show has been cancelled, it’s time to give the scolding “I can’t believe no one watched one of the best, smartest shows on TV” lecture (see also “Firefly”, “Freaks and Geeks”, “Arrested Development”.) Sure, there may be some mitigating
circumstances on this one, since “Party Down” aired exclusively on something called “Starz” which I’m pretty sure doesn’t really exist, but still. Like some of the best sitcoms, “Party Down” is a workplace comedy, exclusively showing the interactions, misfortunes and general shenanigans of a group of Hollywood caterers. It’s a good set-up, allowing for a new setting and supporting cast every week, and some juicy guest stars. (I like to judge a show by the quality of talented guest stars it’s able to attract, and this show’s pedigree is impeccable, with support from other series regulars like “The Wire” [Bubbles and Levy], “Human Giant” [Rob Heubel and Paul Scheer], Judd Apatow-land [Ken Jeong, Paul Rudd], Christopher Guest-land [Ed Begley, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Hitchcock], “The State” [Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney, David Wain, series regular Ken Marino], “Upright Citizens Brigade ” [Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh], and “Freaks and Geeks” [series regular Martin Starr].) Of course, a show can’t live by guests alone, and “Party Down”‘s ensemble cast is uniformly excellent. It’s anchored by Adam Scott as Henry, a once-struggling actor who had one career-killing success as a beer commercial’s catchphrase guy (“Are we having fun yet!?!”), and has just decided to give up. He tends bar, pops pills, and delivers impeccable deadpan snark about the craziness all around him, all the while utterly convinced of his own overeducated, underemployed meaninglessness. He’s like the patron saint of, well, people like me, really. As Henry works his way through weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthdays, and the occasional catered orgy, he circles warily around the equally-wary, and similarly cynical Casey (Lizzy Caplan) a still-struggling actress/comedian who’s equally attracted to Henry and worried about his general “I give up” vibe. Throw in Starr (as the uber-disdainful would-be sci fi writer Roman), Ryan Hansen (making the dim prettyboy actor Kyle more compelling that you’d expect), and Ken Marino’s heartbreakingly ambitious, yet perpetually screwing up manager Ron (along with the changing “Wacky older lady” roster of Lynch, Coolidge, and Megan Mullally), some inventively-rude hijinx, and some very sharp writing, and you’ve got, well, another really great cancelled series. It’s so good that it will make you love Steve Guttenberg. I’m serious.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> You can get a free movie from the kids section, without renting anything else on Friday. I know that’s what the “Free Kids Friday” special says right up there, but I thought it bore repeating.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests ‘The Wire’ (in Mystery/Thriller.) The lovely Ms. Elsa S. Customer
and I just re-watched this entire series again (after giving ourselves a year or so to recover) and…it’s still the best show television has ever produced. Seriously. I was trying to think of what to say about the show apart from “this is the best TV show ever made” but it’s tough; it really is that good. It’s like the best novel about the American condition you’ve ever read. It gets better as it goes on (and even better the second time around.) It has more indelible characters than any network’s entire lineup of programming over any five year period. It sets a new standard for television drama, and makes all other “cop shows” look like cartoons (and yes, I’m including shows like “The Shield”.) It’s so savvy about every aspect of life in the city of Baltimore that you’d think it was created by a cop/teacher and a reporter from that city- which it was. It has nuanced, complex roles for black actors which puts all other networks to well-deserved shame. (Seriously, I am now extremely protective of virtually every actor who ever appeared on “The Wire” and when I see them unemployed, or underemployed in some silly show/movie, I get genuinely mad on their behalf.) On re-watching, I even came to terms with the slightly-maligned (in the sense of “having some problems but still twice as good as any other show”) fifth and last season (SPOILERS!!) Sure, the newsroom stuff, while compelling and well-acted as always, is a little less nuanced than the show had accustomed us to, but it turns out HBO put the squeeze on the creators, causing them to compress the season a little (10 episodes, instead of previous seasons’ 12 or 13), and the whole “McNulty/Lester gambit” plot, which seemed to out-of-character “cop show” farfetched on the initial viewing, is partially redeemed on second view. (The show really does set up the utter desperation the police department was facing with the budget cuts, and the frustration that might drive the always-impulsive McNulty to do something rash/stupid. As for Lester’s complicity, well…) Watching “The Wire” is a necessity for anyone interested in seeing what TV can do (or anybody who just likes greatness). Watching it a second time actually makes “The Wire” a richer, more rewarding experience. The best show ever made.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Hot Fuzz (in Comedy.) In Shaun of the Dead, writer-director Edgar Wright, writer-actor Simon Pegg, and hyphenless actor Nick Frost took on zombie tropes and romantic comedies, making a hilarious, horrific, and heartwarming rom-zom-com. In their second outing, the same team deployed their lightning-fast wit, reference-rich narrative embroidery, and goofy charm on an even more diverse range of film styles. Hot Fuzz weaves together action thrillers, buddy movies, police procedurals, slasher flicks, and the cozy-creepy genre of English Village Thriller (like the original Wicker Man, Village of the Damned, even Day of the Triffids). In Hot Fuzz, perfectly professional and driven London police officer Nick Angel (Pegg) is re-assigned to a post in a quaint English village, where he meets all the harmless small-town lunatics… and suspects that one of them may not be harmless after all. The cast is vividly kooky, with particularly delicious performances by Jim Broadbent and former James Bond Timothy Dalton. Pegg and Frost have the same winning chemistry you remember from SotD, and the writing is crisp, crazy, and marvelously funny. (To be honest, I needed to watch this twice before I saw all its charms. I’m a little underschooled in buddy/action films, but my bromantic better half promises me that this movie hits all the right notes. I can only tell you: Hot Fuzz makes me want to
be a better man catch up on some classic action movies.)
New Releases this week at Videoport: Superman/Shazam: Black Adam (superpowered DC Comics animated team-up anyone?), Ramona and Beezus (Beverly Cleary’s beloved cutie pie children’s stories get the cutie pie live action treatment), Love Ranch (Joe Pesci and the eternally-saucy Helen Mirren star as the real-life proprietors of the titular brothel; directed by Dame Helen’s real-life husband, the very lucky Taylor Hackford), Charlie St. Cloud (dreamy post-tween Zac Efron continues his attempt to play grown-up actor in this weepy drama about a dreamy young man trying to overcome the grief of his brother’s death by becoming caretaker at his cemetery; last seen being brought home sadly by Videoport’s James…to his 13 year old daughter…), Hunt to Kill (former ‘rasslin’ megastar Stone Cold Steve Austin continues to try and replicate The Rock’s career [despite his notable lack of The Rock’s charisma] as a beefy family man forced to get all violent up on the baddies who kidnap his daughter), Locked Down (Vinnie ‘Hard Man’ Jones [a tough guy with charisma] stars in this perhaps even manlier action film about a cop sent to prison and forced to fight in an
underground prison cage fighting ring; costarring actual cage-puncher Kimbo Slice), Antichrist (from director Lars Von Trier [Breaking the Waves, The Five Obstructions, Dancer in the Dark, other things that bummed/freaked you out] brings us this notorious, sexually-explicit, gorgeously-photographed, churningly-violent freakshow starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg; from your pals at the Criterion Collection), The Oxford Murders (cool-looking thriller starring John Hurt and Elijah Wood, directed by the always-worth-watching Alex de la Iglesia [The Perfect Crime, The Baby’s Room, 800 Bullets]), Grown Ups (Adam Sandler gathers pals Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Kevin James for this reunion comedy that has me broken out in a cold sweat, frankly), American Casino (another documentary about how the capitalist system [in this case Wall Street] has
worked extra hard of late to make the already-challenging lives of us poor people just that much more painful; thanks rich guys!), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (directed by the undeniably-brilliant Edgar Wright [Shaun of the Dead, ‘Spaced’, Hot Fuzz], this rapid-fire graphic novel action comedy stars Michael Cera as a typically-wry little guy who has to defeat his new beloved’s seven evil exes in video game-style combat), ‘The Boondocks’- season 3 (the oft-outrageous racially-satirical adventures of the Freeman family continue in Videoport’s animation section), ‘Californication’- season 3 (David Duchovny returns as the least-successful, most-sexed-up writer in Hollywood in this fitfully-funny Showtime series), I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale (one reason to watch this documentary- before dying at 42, John Cazale was only in five movies; every single one of them was nominated for Best Picture…), ‘Metalocalypse’- season 3 (the mayhem-iest, most popular, stupidest heavy metal band in the world returns in this hilarious, stupefyingly-bloody animated series from Brendan Small, creator of the even better ‘Home Movies’), ‘Lie to Me’- seasons 2 and 3 (Tim Roth continues to slum it entertainingly on American TV in this detective series about a weird British guy who solves mysteries by being able to read people’s faces, or something), ‘Sherlock’- season 1 (BBC modern-day Sherlock Holmes series stars ‘The Office’‘s Martin Freeman as a tough, funny Watson and the epically-named Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes), Once Fallen (good cast [Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Taraji P. Henson] make this indie drama about a family dealing with its returning jailbird son worth a look, says I…), Best Worst Movie (much-anticipated documentary wherein the former child star of possibly the worst movie ever [Troll 2] tracks down his former costars and director; a must for all bad movie fans, or maybe just all movie fans), ‘Doctor Who’- season 5 (there’s another new Doctor! And this one wears a bow tie!)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: four, count ’em four new episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000! Mike, Joel and the ‘bots take on the cinematic abominations that are: Devil Fish,
Devil Doll, Robot Monster, and Bride of the Monster!, Cuba: The Accidental Eden (nature documentary about the surprisingly varied ecological treasures preserved by the restrictive tourism policies of the Cuban government), No Blood No Tears (sort of like a Korean Bound, but with more slow-mo hi-wire fight scenes, from the director of City of Violence), Puzzle (more Korean crime, with a secretly-recruited team of bank robbers finding themselves in over their heads when their benefactor turns up dead…or does he?)
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Observe and Report, Grown Ups, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 28 Weeks Later, Let the Right One In, Sleepy Hollow, Toy Story 3.