Volume CCLXXVI- The Shopocalypse Begins
For the Week of 11/30/10
Videoport doesn’t want to panic you or anything, but December starts tomorrow. Yikes. Well, a Videoport Gift Certificate is just the thing to get your holiday shopping just over and done with.
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 Jenny A suggests Make-Out With Violence (in Incredibly Strange.) Make-Out With Violence asks whether unrequited love gets a second chance — when the girl returns from the dead. A quirky melange of the zombie/horror and teen comedy genres, this no-budget but good-looking little film will surely find a cultish niche. There’s only one corpse, so this isn’t a true zombie flick in that canon, nor should it be dubbed ‘zombie mumblecore’ – whatever that means. A beautiful, slowly rotting, reanimated corpse re-enters the summer romance dynamic between a tight-knit group of high school friends. Fraternal twins and their younger brother decide to hide the once-missing but now zombiefied Wendy, leaving the rest of their small Tennessee town to mourn her. Quickly the plan goes awry as one besotted twin takes a heightened interest in Wendy’s care and grooming as she decomposes. Decent acting and screen presence from the unknown leads; the corpse actress trained with a choreographer, and her jerky, pitiful, painful movements are something to behold, no VFX here. Rather tame on the horror front; very little guts/gore, no nudity; a few gruesome scenes are tempered by twisted humor. From ‘The Fugitive Brain’ (behind the scenes bonus footage), we learn that the film’s tight friendships mirror the film-makers’: high school friends growing up outside of Nashville (who call their troop “Deagol Brothers”), they began with little film-making experience, volunteering summers and eventually years to finish this project. In light of such constraints, the underwater cinematography is especially impressive, and the undead makeup excellent. The soundtrack is a standout, featuring the film-makers as well, who formed a band to fundraise. Extra points that one character wears an “I’ve Got Moxie” t-shirt in a scene. Woot! One of those slight, strange gems that works as a whole, a true indie, and a hit on the festival circuit. It’s *very* Videoport ‘Incredibly Strange’!
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Andy suggests Dark Passage (in Mystery/Thriller.) It’s another edition of Andy’s Noir Cor-noir! Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart), wrongly convicted of murder, escapes from prison and very quickly three things happen: 1. He falls in love 2. He has his face surgically altered, and 3. People near to him start getting murdered. Dark Passage, the third on-screen pairing of Bogie and Lauren Bacall, is unusual for being partially shown from the point of view of the main character (like Lady in the Lake, but not as strict). Bogart’s face is not revealed until an hour into the movie. And when it is, it’s the only time in one of his movies that so much attention is given to the man’s unusual physical appearance. Since the movie gets pretty conventional from there, it all seems like a lot of trouble (clever camera angles and lighting) with no real payoff. After all, everybody already knows what Bogart looks like, so there’s no surprise element there. Still, Dark Passage is a pretty entertaining movie, even if it’s not a by-the-numbers noir film. It may be a black and white crime movie from 1947, but the closest thing it has to a femme fatale is Agnes Moorehead!
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis suggests you take advantage of the new Wednesday Rental Special (4 movies, 7 days, 7 bucks) in order to feed your TV addiction. Newfangled cable series like ‘Dexter’, ‘Mad Men’ ‘Weeds’, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Party Down’, ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’, and the like generally have shorter seasons, meaning you can rent an entire year’s output of each on four, or even fewer discs. That means you can come in on a Wednesday, grab a an entire season or more of your favorite show, plunk down seven bucks and then plow through it all at your leisure over the course of an entire week. That’s what I’d do…
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Best Worst Movie (in Documentary Arts.) Made by the now-grown child star of Troll 2, current trending contender for the not-coveted ‘worst movie ever’ crown, this documentary tracks down the stars, writer, and director of that truly, really, genuinely dreadful 1990 horror flick and is easily 70,000 times more enjoyable that its subject. Some of the actors (most from the Provo, Utah area) have stayed in the business, but most are just folks now, balancing pride in having been in a movie at all with embarrassment whenever someone actually watches the thing. Especially appealing is George Hardy, the then and present dentist who played the father; he’s unceasingly friendly, cheerful and well-adjusted (although possessed of that particularly-relentless brand of Southern, toothy heartiness that makes me afraid that someone’s about to try to convert me to born-again Christianity), and it’s genuinely touching to watch him embrace his newfound cult fame, traveling to far off Troll 2 screenings and being gushed over by fans. In fact, everyone involved in the project seems to be dealing with their affectionate ignominy pretty well, with the exception of the Italian husband and wife writer/director team, a dour and irascible pair whose self-serious belief that their film was, and remains, a success arouses a mixed reaction of pity, annoyance, and the bewildered suspicion that they must be putting us on (she maintains that Troll 2 is a serious attack on vegetarianism?!) All in all, its a fun, affectionate look at the phenomenon of how a film becomes a cult object, and the thought that the bad movie aficionados are making fun of those involved is largely deflected by the ample evidence that the drunk hipsters turning out by the hundreds to meet and worship their so-bad-it’s-good heroes really do love them. Except that Italian couple…who may, in fact, be insane.
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 them from getting into that whole ‘sexting’ thing that I read about in Newsweek…
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests ‘Dollhouse’ (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) Wait, no I don’t. Wait, yes I do. Aaaarg. This is the sound of a worshipful fan trying to reconcile his idolatry with a disappointing effort from his hero. That hero is, of course, Joss Whedon who created ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ (and let’s all band together to stamp out this new, Joss-less Buffy reboot, please), ‘Angel’, ‘Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog, and other things which have made the world a better place. And this is his first big misstep. (I feel like a blasphemer just typing those words.) I put off seeing this series (a sci fi concept where a secret agency can mind-wipe agents and then imprint abilities and
personalities on them for missions, sexual assignations and the like on behalf of rich jerks) because, well, I’d heard it wasn’t very good and I didn’t want to feel bad. (That’s the same reason why I still haven’t watched The Darjeeling Limited.) What went wrong? Well, designed as a showcase for ‘Buffy’ alum Eliza Dushku, ‘Dollhouse’ is crippled immediately by the fact that Eliza’s not a very good actress. I loved her as troubled, badass Slayer Faith on ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’, but it was a pretty small skill set she employed there and ‘Dollhouse’ shows she hasn’t got many more tools in the box; her role (as the etch-a-sketch-brained ‘doll’ who seems to be retaining more and more of her memories) is designed for someone versatile, able to play a new, vastly different character every week, all the while hinting at undercurrents of hidden feeling and meaning. That’s not Eliza’s forte. Also, the show starts off very weakly, with a pair of low-rent episodes right off the bat (a Most Dangerous Game deal and a turn with her as a singer’s backup dancer?!) that take the whole premise down into USA network territory, and it takes things a while to recover. Which they never completely do, thanks to the central miscasting, some shaky writing (Joss’ brother and sister-in-law had more input in the beginning, and Joss came on, too late, to right things), and a truly lame second lead from Tamoh Penikett as the dogged FBi agent on the trail of the Dollhouse. People loved the guy on ‘Battlestar Galactica’ (he was Helo), but here, he is a total nothing; look at the scene (SPOILER!) where he discovers that someone close to him is actually a doll sent to spy on him- that is some seriously anticlimactic non-acting in what should be a huge dramatic moment. I dunno- the show does pick up (I’m only at the close of season 1), with some compelling work from Harry Lennix, the lovely, steely Olivia Williams, personal crush Amy Acker (Fred from ‘Angel’), and some solid guest stars (Patton Oswalt, Alan Tudyk), but the whole enterprise just smacks of unrealized potential. I can make all the excuses for my hero, god, and savior Joss on this one, but the truth remains that ‘Dollhouse’ is his first failure. I humbly apologize, my Lord.
>>>For Sunday, Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests The Abyss (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) This has become my favorite James Cameron film. It’s a perfect blend of sci-fi, action, suspense, love story and social commentary. I did not see this when it was released in theaters and from what i’ve read, this expanded/special edition version is better than the theatrical version. The plot deals with a diving team recruited to find a lost nuclear sub — during their search they encounter loose cannon military men, a hurricane and potential deadly tidal wave and a strange alien underwater race. Although the special FX are the true star of the film (truly groundbreaking computer FX that changed the business forever), the script and cast are equally good. Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are excellent as the divorced couple forced to work together and realize they still have strong feelings for one another. A scene where they are stuck in a damaged sub contemplating what to do next is suspenseful and very moving. The bonus material is also very good — this film was a huge undertaking and the special features go into great detail how it was done, including the incredible underwater photography. Twenty years after it’s release, the film still holds up. A great adventure film for the whole family.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Cairo Time (the luminously-talented Patricia Clarkson stars as the wife of an American diplomat who, stranded in the titular city, forms a warm attraction to her husband’s friend [‘Deep Space 9’‘s Alexander Siddig] who’s showing her the sights), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Nicholas Cage dons yet another abominable wig and overacts like a drunk monkey in this action fantasy where he trains his titular lackey [‘Undeclared’‘s Jay Baruchel] to fight evil), Knight and Day (Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz twinkle and dimple as a couple on the run, with the motorcycle chases and the explosions and the shooting; according to Videoport’s Sam, “If you’re Videoport’s Andy, you’ll love it!”, so take that for what it’s worth…), Vampires Suck (and so do Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the humor antichrists behind the worst comedies in movie history Meet the Spartans, Date Movie, Disaster Movie, Epic Movie, and this presumably-soul-corrodingly-lame take on Twilight; here’s a tip guys- simply referencing something from another movie is not, by definition, a joke), ‘Parks and Recreation’- season 2 (Amy Poehler’s very funny
sitcom from the makers of ‘The Office’ is back, this time adding comedy all-stars Adam Scott, Louis CK, and Rob Lowe to the improv-y mix), Waking Sleeping Beauty (Disney was in a slump [I’m looking at you The Aristocats and Robin Hood] until a new group took over and kicked the once-revered studio into high gear with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, etc; such is the story of this documentary), Going the Distance (real-life sometimes snugglebunnies Drew Barrymore and Justin Long play onscreen snugglebunnies forced to try and make a long-distance relationship work in this romantic comedy costarring ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’‘s Charlie Day), The Boys- The Sherman Brothers Story (more Disney propaganda this week, with a documentary about the beloved, yet eternally-feuding brothers who penned such dubiously-enduring Disney hits as “Supercalifragilistic-expialidocous”), Walt & El Grupo (man, the Disney corporation is just carpetbombing us this week…this documentary’s about Uncle Walt and a gaggle of animators sent on a government mission to South America to foster goodwill in the early days of WWII), Valhalla Rising (Mads Mikkelsen [Casino Royale, Flame and Citron, After the Wedding] brings his creepy intensity, and some buffed-out abs, to this raw action film about a scarred warrior dealing with Vikings; would make a great barbarian double feature with the recent Centurion…), The Special Relationship (Michael Sheen continues his cottage industry of impersonating former British prime minister Tony Blair, this time alongside a grinny Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton), The Sicilian Girl (true story about the titular Italian lass who, when she had the nerve to go to the police just because the Mafia had killed pretty much all her male relatives, was singled out to be rubbed out; I’ll say it again, the Mafia are jerks…), The Price of Pleasure (documentary examining the growth of more ‘extreme’ pornography and the social and economic factors driving it; spoiler alert! the filmmakers are against it), Bear City (Videoport’s Pride section gets a little cuddlier with this romantic comedy about the bigger, hairier, burlier segment of the gay
community), ‘Baseball’- the 10th Inning (Ken Burns’ encyclopedic examination of all things baseball continues in this installment which takes up up through the present day; Red Sox fans, your day has come…)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Fantasia, Fantasia 2000, and Beauty and the Beast (from Wikipedia: “The “Disney Vault” is the term used by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment for its policy of putting home video releases of Walt Disney Animation Studios’s animated features on moratorium. Each Disney film is available for purchase for a limited time, after which it is put “in the vault” and not made available in stores for several years until it is once again released.” This policy is the most evil, money-grubbing nonsense ever, and Videoport has swallowed hard and played ball, purchasing new copies of these recently-unvaulted Disney films for you and yours…), Breaking Up (early film of both Russell Crowe and Salma Hayak as a pair of on-again-off-again, yet consistently-gorgeous lovers), Iron Will (look for this tale of a young dogsledding enthusiast and his favorite pup in the kids section), Simon Birch (this film, based on John Irving’s acclaimed novel A Prayer for Owen Meany, had to change its name when Irving complained about all the changes they made; that’s not necessarily a bad thing- I merely know that bit of trivia and want to show everyone how smart I am), ‘Murderland’- season 1 (Robbie Coltrane [‘Cracker’] returns to BBC mystery series greatness in this one about a, well, murder, told from three different points of view), Mr. Cinema (this comic drama about a gentle film projectionist in Hong Kong has been compared to Cinema Paradiso, which as good a recommendation as I can think of…), Liverpool (Argentinian film about a lifelong sailor returning finally to his home in Tierra del Fuego).
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, ‘Weeds’- seasons 1-5, ‘Dollhouse’- season 1, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Quick and the Dead, 1408, The Happening, Seven Swords, Dog Soldiers, Rescue Dawn, The Long Good Friday, Outlander, Killers, Angels & Demons, Paranormal Activity, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.