VideoReport #279

Volume CCLXXIX- Happy Holidays from Videoport

For the Week of 12/21/10

Videoport wishes everybody a happy holiday and hopes you enjoy the Videoport gift certificate that your loved ones got you. Wait, they didn’t get you a Videoport gift certificate? Well, don’t worry. It probably means they just don’t love you. But we do…c’mon in honey, take a free movie every day…

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 Three Days of the Condor (in Mystery/Thriller.) This 1975 thriller opens in the pleasantly busy brownstone office building where bookish Joe Turner, code name Condor, spends his days. Joe (Robert Redford) works for the CIA, but in the most peripheral of ways: Joe is a researcher who reads paperbacks and bestsellers, reporting trends and patterns that may mean something to someone higher up. He isn’t a field agent, he isn’t a company man, and he’s always bridled at the securities and defenses surrounding his comfortable little job. But today is different. Today is dangerous. Today, the Condor has to take flight and hope that the home office will bring him in safely. There’s something about this intimate little thriller that encapsulates the ’70s. It’s not just the fashions, the lite funk of the soundtrack, and the groovy NYC street scenes; it’s not even the shaggy, tweedy, aviator-spectacled Redford. Three Days of the Condor exemplifies a left shift shift from idealistic hope to palpable paranoia. We don’t know who to trust because, quite simply, there is no one. But even more than that, this is a film about alienation. Joe never fits in; even in his cozy office, he butts heads with his boss, breaks secrecy too easily, and flouts the rules with a wry half-smile. His alienation is heightened to a dreadful degree as the film goes on… but it’s not only Joe who suffers from this disenfranchisement. Later in the film, he takes refuge with a beautiful stranger (Faye Dunaway) — or, more accurately, takes her hostage — only to find that she, too, is unfettered from the world, disconnected from her own life as it happens around her. Their scenes together remain some of the most tense in the film, with a complicated undertone that has only grown more ambiguous and affecting over the years, as sexual mores shift and change. The action all takes place around Christmas and

Merry Christmas from my mustache.

signs of the season peep out of the corners, but Condor is not about jolly togetherness; it is about the quiet loneliness of the idealist, the fierceness of desperation, and the danger of stepping out of line. Condor was directed by the reliable Sydney Pollack; the great cast also includes John Houseman, Cliff Robertson (with a glorious Trump-esque pompadour), and — best of all — Max von Sydow in a marvelously layered performance.

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

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests The Thin Man (in Classics.) Based on Dashiell Hammett’s slim novel of the same name, The Thin Man wraps up a taut little mystery in domestic

Merry Christmas from Nick and Nora...and Nick's mustache.

comedy. Retired detective Nick Charles (William Powell, deliciously dry and witty) gets roped into looking for a missing friend — the titular thin man — who disappeared three months ago, along with a fortune in bonds. Nick resists getting involved with the case (and with the missing man’s nasty family), but his socialite wife Nora (Myrna Loy, irresistible as ever) thinks it’s a hoot. The action gets rolling around Christmastime, giving an excuse for plenty of stressful togetherness, decking of halls, and ooooooh so many parties with oooooooh so many drinks. Like a good cocktail, The Thin Man is spirited, dry, and unassuming, but it packs a pleasant kick.

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

>>>Regan suggests Home for the Holidays (in Comedy/the Temporary, and Boring, Holiday Movies Section Where the Employees Picks Section Used to Be.) Merry Christmas and Merry Holidays everyone. For this splendid time of year, you should rent Home for the Holidays. Now, this takes place over Thanksgiving, but just replace “Thanksgiving” with “Christmas” or “Channukah” or whatever you will and enjoy this Jodie Foster-directed masterpiece. I guarantee that you’ll like it more than that Mel Gibson-beaver-hand movie she’ll never release. Yeah, it has Robert Downey Jr. when he still loved the drugs! And he’s super hilarious in this. Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning as the parents are so wonderful, and the Gute! Steve Guttenberg! CASH-IS-KING! And while you’re at it, rent season 2 of the now defunct “Party Down.” It’s a damn fine show. And the Gute and his man-mans are abundant. Mmmm, man-mams…

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

>>> Dennis suggests some non-traditional Christmassy TV fare! Yeah, we all love It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Story (even though that week-long marathon they play on basic cable every year has turned this once-beloved holiday classic into the cinematic equivalent of white noise), but there are other things to watch at holidaytime beyond those. For some unconventional holiday viewing, why not try these:

-“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”- season 3, episode 10 “Amends”: Angel’s being driven mad by spirits of his murders past, and it’s up to Buffy to find out the deal before he kills himself. With some great acting, a truly heartwarming Christmas miracle, and what’s Christmas without a few murders, anyway?

-“Arrested Development”- season 2, episode 6 “Afternoon Delight”: Sure, there’s no snow in LA, but the Michael and Maeby’s singing of the surprisingly-inappropriate titular ditty at the Bluth Company’s Christmas party and GOB’s fate involving a crane machine, a banana suit, and some pot brownies make this one an hilarious part of your holiday lineup.

-“The Office”- season 2, episode 10 “Christmas Party” and season 3 episode 10 “A Benihana Christmas”: rent this double feature of queasy office party laughs. In the first, Michael destroys everybody’s gift exchange by turning it at the last minute into a Yankee Swap and in the second, he brings two teenage waitresses to an office divided by two dueling Christmas parties. Guaranteed to make you cringe and laugh simultaneously.

-“30 Rock”- season 2 episode 9 “Ludachristmas”: As the staff’s plans for their traditional, debauched xmas fun are derailed by Kenneth’s plans to teach them the true meaning of the day, Liz’s family’s cheerful visit is hilariously also thrown off the tracks by Jack’s mother [the great Elaine Stritch]’s determination to make them miserable.

-Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (on the Blackadder Series 3 DVD): this one-off parody puts the terminally-mean Blackadder in the place of Ebeneezer Blackadder “the nicest man in London” who, through some ill-thought-out flashbacks by a tipsy ghost [Robbie Coltrane] discovers that being a right miserable bastard can have its advantages. Mean and hilarious.

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

>>>Dennis suggests that a package of our specially-made DVD cleaning cloths and a clearly-worded note explaining that you never, ever, on pain of never getting a Christmas present again, touch the shiny side of a DVD makes a nice kid’s stocking stuffer.

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 Conversation (in Mystery/Thriller.) If Three Days of the Condor portrays an idealist disintegrating into cynicism and alienation,

It's a mustache Christmas.

Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 masterpiece The Conversation shows what happens when an alienated loner’s defenses crumble under the pressures of even the slightest and most mediated human contact. The film opens with a sniper’s viewpoint of a pedestrian park, a public space bustling with Christmas shoppers, bystanders, and buskers hoping to make a buck off the merry crowds. Quickly we see that our as-yet-unidentified protagonist Harry Caul (Gene Hackman delivering a masterfully nuanced, restrained performance) is up to something: he’s shadowing a young couple as they weave in and out among the crowds. Caul, a legendary surveillance artist and a legendarily private person, assumes a professional distance from all his subjects: “I don’t care what they’re talking about. All I want is a nice, fat recording.” But Harry’s distance is more than professional; it’s pathological. He makes his living eroding the privacy of others, and it’s no surprise that he becomes obsessed with maintaining his own privacy. He strives to keep the whole world at bay, and inevitably fails. When Harry finally allows himself to connect with a subject, it’s both at a terrible distance and, inevitably, at a terrible cost to himself.

>>>For Sunday, Andy suggests Con Air (in Action/Adventure.) Have you seen that Youtube clip called “Nicholas Cage loses his sh*t” yet? That is only a sampler of a career filled with insanity and delights. As far as I’ve noticed, there are no clips in that montage of Cage in Con Air, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an insane movie, with insane acting choices by the entire cast (including Steve Buscemi, John Malkovich, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappelle, Danny Trejo, John Cusack, and many other men.) But the most insane acting moment of all? I’d say it’s Cage, in a tense moment, Southern-drawling, “Put the bunny back in the box…” Sure, it makes sense in context, but still…insane.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Salt (Anjelina Jolie is an Amazonian super-spy; she also starred in this movie. Thank you! I’ll be here all week!), Family Guy: It’s a Trap! (the overrated animated series makes yet another Star Wars parody!), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Michael Douglas and director Oliver Stone reteam to bring us the further exploits of 80’s ‘greed is good’ financier Gordon Gekko, who’s out of prison and looking for another young, mediocre actor to corrupt; Shia Lebeouf is willing to oblige), Easy A (Emma Stone tries to make the leap to teen leading lady in this high school comedy of a smart girl with a bad, undeserved reputation), ‘Futurama’- season 5 (as is true with most good, pure, intelligent things, the FOX network tried to destroy this animated series, but we nerds, geeks, and buyers of DVD boxed sets would not be denied; woo-hoo! Do the Bender!), Devil (the

Marginally better than if M. Night Shyamalan has written it himself.

much-[and deservedly]-maligned writer/director M. Night Shyamalan only wrote the story for this thriller about five people trapped in an elevator [one of whom is the titular devil], so it’s full of silly ideas, but, I gotta say, it was actually a little better than I thought it would be; generally, good acting helps), Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (CGI owl war in this dark fairy tale from the guy who directed 300), Step Up 3 (they dance or something? Anyway, fans should be happy…), Soul Kitchen (from

Cool foreign film you should watch this week #1.

acclaimed Turkish director Fatih Akin [Head On, The Edge of Heaven] comes this slightly-lighter-hearted tale of a scruffy restauranteur finds himself at the center of seriocomic shenanigans when he accidentally hires a brilliant new chef for his greasy spoon), Let It Rain (another new film from an acclaimed foreign director whose earlier movies [in this case The Taste of Others and Look at Me] you should also see, this new one from Agnes Jaoui

#2.

follows the seriocomic shenanigans as a feminist writer and budding politician is followed around her childhood home by a documentary film crew), Map of the Sounds of Tokyo (hey look! It’s a new film by an acclaimed foreign director whose earlier work [Elegy, The Secret Life of Words, My Life Without Me] you liked

...and #3.

but didn’t realize were by the same person! Director Isabel Coixet is back with this thriller about a Tokyo fishmonger moonlighting as a contract killer), Angst (Videoport’s Dutch Dennis says he’s never heard of this Dutch film about people confronting their mental disorders, but the back cover proclaims that it was a Dutch sensation, with people lined up around the block; so who’s telling the truth here?), Lulu (Another Dutch film, a thriller about a rich man obsessed with a sexy young hitchhiker, which Dennis claims he’s never heard of; I’m beginning to think he’s not actually Dutch…), The Town (intense, exciting Boston-set thriller with Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner playing two bank robbers in Charlestown, Massachusetts; directed [as was Gone Baby Gone] with exceptional assurance by Affleck- who would have thought it?), Big Tits Zombie (this exists, Videoport has it [in the “Made in Japan” section], and you’re welcome…), IP Man 2 (more martial arts greatness in this sequel about the historical inventor/master of Wing Chun), My Normal (She’s a lesbian, she’s an aspiring filmmaker, she’s a dominatrix…can a young woman find a way to balance all the disparate [and sexy] elements and have a successful life? Check out Videoport’s Incredibly Strange section to find out!), The Rainmaker (Matt Damon starred in this John Grisham legal thriller, competently [if not thrillingly] directed by once-great Francis Ford Coppola.)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Skirt Day (the ever-luminous Isabelle Adjani is back on the big screen for the first time since 2003 in this intense hostage drama about a stressed out teacher at one of France’s most notorious high schools who stumbles into a desperate situation where her, and her largely immigrant students, come to grips with their own inherent prejudices).

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: The Legend of Zorro, Shoot ’em Up, The Postman, The Dirty Dozen, The Number 23, Logan’s Run, Superbad, Jacob’s Ladder, Hostel, Eraser, The Town, Salt, Easy A, Devil, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.

Top 10 best movies of 2010 according to Dennis2

You The Living (Swedish movie by Roy Andersson, the guy who directed the equally stunning and weird Songs From The Second Floor. Originally came out in 2007, but finally made its way to Videoport.)

Hunger (Intense portrayal of the last weeks in the life of an IRA hunger striker. Got instantly promoted to the Criterion treatment)

Gasland (Documentary is a personal quest of a young filmmaker into gas drilling, after he is offered over a 100,000 dollars to have some giant corporation drill for gas on his property in Pennsylvania. He goes out west to talk to property owners on whose land drilling is actually going on. Amazing footage of people who can actually set their tap water ON FIRE!. Perfect balance between funny and sad, a personal issue and something that is important for everyone, engaging and not moralizing. Plus banjo music.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Holy! How funny and wonderful was this movie. And clever. And, for a change, perfect for the entire family.)

Antichrist (Don’t watch this.)

Moon (I feel like this movie came out way longer ago, but I guess it was in 2010, and therefore it should be part of this list. Sam Rockwell is phenomenal, again, and should really be recognized by something or someone at some point, so I am making a start here.)

“Party Down”, season 1 (Dennis1 told me about this show. Funniest TV show of the year.)

In The Loop (I should have been taking notes while watching this. The screenplay is great. Witty, as they say over here.)

Bronson (So before this came out I had never heard of this Tom Hardy who plays the lead. Best performance I have seen this year in a movie that is a lot stranger than most action lovers are going to appreciate.)

Moscow, Belgium (Belgian movie, funny! )

Some movies/TV shows that only just missed the top 10: Greenberg, The Ghost Writer, The Damned United, The Other Guys, “Parenthood” and the last season of “30 Rock”.

Worst 5 movies or whatevers of 2010

Splice (This movie just made me angry. And almost everyday at Videoport somebody decides to tell me how much they liked it. Adrien Brody, if you read this, you are a waste of space.)

Tetro (Hey Coppola, maybe you should give all your money to your daughter. You’re done.)

Clash Of The Titans (So Release the Kraken! For five seconds before it dies.)

Legion (Starts out great, and then descends into questionable, quasi-religious non-sense.)

Last episode of “Lost” (I’ve heard there is a camp of people out there that like the ending. I am not part of those people. I usually like to yell at the TV, but not this time.)

Look for more best/worst of 2010 lists in the coming issues of the VideoReport! (And send yours in to us at denmn@hotmail.com or our Facebook page “Videoport Jones.”)

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