Volume CCLXXXII- A Very Special Episode
For the Week of 1/11/11
Videoport makes renting fun. Plus, you know, easy, friendly, inexpensive, convenient, and chock full o’ choices. Oh, and we give you a free movie every day. And we love you…
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.)
>>>Dennis suggests a making your brain hurt double feature with Primer and Timecrimes (both in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) SPOILER ALERT. (The whole premise of this review hinges on a concept that
you don’t figure out in Primer until about a third of the way through. But, if you don’t read the review, then you might not want to see Primer. Which you should see, because it’s really good. Crap, I’m in a bind here. And so are you…) I’m recovering from the stomach flu. (Side note: don’t get this particular stomach flu.) During the recent sweat-drenched hell that was my weekend, I was literally delirious for about a day and a half, with my brain inventing its own, feverishly-upsetting movies, which, thankfully, I cannot remember fully. I do remember that their mind-twisting insensibility vaguely reminded me of both Primer and Timecrimes. But in a good, non-vomity way. Here’s the SPOILER-y part- they’re both time-travel movies. And here’s the unusual part- they’re not remotely
ridiculous! No mutants. No Michael Bay explosions. Jean Claude Van Damme does not make an appearance. Instead, what both movies do is to take an unprecedentedly-intelligent and creative approach to the idea of time travel. Both refreshingly-hard science-based (except, you know, that time travel is impossible and stuff), complex and well-acted, these movies will challenge you, keep you riveted (rivet you?), and, yeah, ultimately make your mind feel like you’re delirious with fever. Except you won’t throw up, probably. (And sure, as with most time-y type sci fi, I can’t claim to have really understood either movie, but I loved them anyway; the internet has pages and pages devoted to creating proposed timelines, if you’re into that sort of thing…)
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Andy brings us another entry in Andy’s Noir Cor-Noir, recommending Fallen Angel (in Classics.) One of many Otto Preminger films to star Dana Andrews, Fallen Angel (1945) is probably the noirest one. And that’s something, since they also made Laura, Where The Sidewalk Ends, and Daisy Kenyon together. The story is routine: drifter Andrews falls for seductive waitress Linda Darnell, but she won’t marry him because he’s broke, so he insinuates himself into the life of vulnerable heiress Alice Faye with plans to take her money and marry Darnell. After the set-up, things get more complicated. The relationship between Andrews and Faye isn’t predictable. Andrews finds it’s not as easy as he thought to betray and discard a woman as genuine and trusting as Faye, even if the prize is Darnell. It’s a battle between love (or at least strong affection) and lust. This sounds like a soap opera, but it becomes much darker (noir-er?) when someone gets murdered, and someone else is accused of the crime. Preminger’s casting is key to the success of the movie: Dana Andrews, burly and meat-faced, is one of the most unappealing leading men in Hollywood movies. He’s unattractive to these eyes, but the female characters view him differently. How they see him reflect their different, and opposing, attitudes toward masculinity. He may be ugly, but damn it, he’s a manly man. Linda Darnell and Alice Faye are opposing poles of femininity. Darnell oozes sex appeal; attractive and manipulative, warning bells should be ringing in Andrews’ brain, but he’s not thinking with his brain. Alice Faye is pretty but insecure, almost desperate, and an easy target for a con man like Andrews. But she’s also smarter than he is, and not as gullible as she seems. The basics of the plot are standard for this kind of movie, but the character relationships keep changing in surprising ways. Noir films usually have complicated attitudes towards sex, but rarely are those attitudes more physically articulated than in Fallen Angel.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis brings you another way to take advantage of the super-duper Wednesday special (4 non-new-releases, 7 days, 7 bucks.) Howsabout renting my four favorite John Sayles movies? In case you don’t know who Sayles is (like most of the world, and all of the Hollywood establishment), he’s one of the last true American filmmaking mavericks; never taking studio funding, he writes, directs, and edits his low-budget, delicately-written, and socially-conscious, humanistic movies, paying for them by doing uncredited script punch-up on truly awful big-budget blockbusters. Rent these four and soak up their greatness for a whole week
1. Matewan. This tale of a real-life coal miners’ strike in 1920s Appalachia (featuring Chris Cooper, David Strathairn, James Earl Jones, and Mary McDonnell) is, quite simply, one of the richest, most authentic evocations of the American experience ever.
2. The Brother from Another Planet. Sayles’ super low-budget fable about a mute, friendly alien crash landing in Harlem is made completely unforgettable by Joe Morton’s lead performance, my favorite ‘sci fi’ performance ever.
3. City of Hope. This layered, multi-character examination of the complex problems of the American inner city is like the Oscar-winning Crash, except not obvious and condescending; it’s a worthy predecessor to ‘The Wire,’ which is the highest praise I can think of. Look for Sayles regulars Cooper, Strathairn, Morton, and great additions Angela Bassett and [believe it or not] Vincent Spano.
4. Lone Star. One of the best films I’ve ever seen, this Texas-set mystery/drama, again, gets at the heart of America all the while telling a multigenerational tale of corruption and family in a border town. Cooper, Morton, Kris Kristofferson, Elizabeth Pena, Frances McDormand, and, yes, even Matthew McConaughey- all stellar.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests Coma (in Mystery/Thriller.) A great thriller that still (30 years after its release) makes you never want to go a hospital again. They really don’t make films like this anymore — the 70s thriller has become it’s own genre and this is one of the best. A great script by Michael Crichton based on the Robin Cook novel is still creepy and thought provoking today. Genevieve Bujold gives one of her best performances as a doctor who begins to wonder why so many of the hospital’s patients are ending up in a comatose state. So begins a classic solitary paranoid journey that was so prevalent in 70s thrillers. Crichton also directs the film and he builds the suspense slowly but surely; there are a lot of great tense chases and genuinely scary scenes. It’s refreshing to see that you don’t need graphic violence to create scares. The rest of the cast is equally good; especially Michael Douglas as the somewhat sympathetic boyfriend, Richard Widmark as the head of surgery and Elizabeth Ashely as the icy nurse of the mysterious Jefferson Institute. An expertly made film that still leaves you with chills.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>Dennis suggests, well, a free kids movie every Friday. Yup. That’s a good deal.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests The Dresser (in Feature Drama.) Peter Yates died. Therefore, here comes the obligatory “Oh, I didn’t realize he directed all these movies I liked” review. (For the record, Yates’ movies at Videoport: Bullitt, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Mother Jugs & Speed, The Deep, Breaking Away, Krull, Eyewitness, Suspect, and The House of Carroll Street.) All his movies are worth a look (well, not Suspect or Krull), and this little-remembered 1983 drama gets the nod for the great Albert Finney’s performance as an imperious, edging-into-senility Shakespearean actor leading his beleaguered troupe on an exhausting tour of England during the Blitz. Finney (great actor and great ham that he is) is a heartbreaking hoot as he forgets what role he’s playing, eyeballs a lighter Desdemona than his long-suffering (and stouter) wife, and breaks out an inspirational monologue to keep Britishers’ spirits up. He’s great (there’s a standout scene where he orders a departing train to stop…and it does.) Sure, technically the titular star of the film is Finney’s devoted, dithery assistant is the intended star, and Tom Courtney’s fine, but Finney’s the real show.
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Career Girls (in Feature Drama.) No one ever rents this movie. I get that. No stars, no real plot, British people- nobody likes those things, right? Well, I love it. Directed by singular talent Mike Leigh [Secrets and Lies, Naked, All or Nothing, Vera Drake, Meantime, Life Is Sweet, Topsy-Turvy, Happy-Go-Lucky], who starts a movie without a script, instead fashioning the film through extensive, improvised rehearsals with his stable of actors, Career Girls is yet another emotionally-satisfying actors’ playground. This time, the players in the sandbox are the late, great Katrin Cartlidge and Lynda Steadman as a pair of former university friends reuniting for a weekend visit after a decade. And that’s it. They talk, they hint at old grudges and conflicts, they occasionally run into old boyfriends…like I said, it’s not the most plot-ty thing you’ve ever seen. What it is is one of the rarest commodities in the film industry: a mature, nuanced story about female friendship. Directed by a guy, sure, but Leigh is one of the few male directors who can write for female characters with any depth at all (Pedro Almodovar is another); seriously, any actress should be ringing Leigh up every day trying to get into their movies.
New Releases this week at Videoport: The Social Network (maybe you’ve heard of this one? Director David Fincher [Seven] and writer Aaron Sorkin [“The West Wing”] team up to create an improbably-fascinating biopic about the unsurprisingly-devious nerds who became billionaires creating the privacy-violating internet time-waster Facebook), Boys Life 7 (this continuation of the gay-themed short film anthology series can be found in the Pride section), ‘Skins’- season 4 (those saucy British teens are back in this popular BBC series), Piranha (2010)(it’s a remake of the fun, sleazy little Jaws ripoff [available right next to this one in the Horror section], with updated special effects, gore, and 37% less fun), Alpha & Omega (Justin Long, the cheerleader from ‘Heroes’, Danny Glover and Christina Ricci lent voices to this indifferently-animated love story amongst the wolves), ‘Funny of Die’- season 1 (sketch comedy series from the creators [Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow among them] of the website ‘Funny or Die’ [which you should really check out]), Louis C.K.: Hilarious (accurately-titled standup special from the serious contender for ‘funniest, ballsiest comedian in the world’), Heartbreaker (Vanessa Paradis [Mrs. Johnny Depp] stars in this French comedy with a premise worthy of a Matthew McConaughey movie: a brother-sister team have a company where they are hired to break up unsatisfactory relationships), ‘The League’- season 1 (very funny cult comedy series about a group of adulthood-averse guys [including Nick Kroll and Paul Scheer] in a fantasy sports league), Lovely, Still (sure, it sounds a little treacly [a lonely old man finds love for the forst time, etc], but with Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn in the leads, this should be worth a look.)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Nightwatch (early Ewan McGregor thriller [a remake of the director’s Danish film of the same name] about an overnight morgue attendant accused [by creepy cop Nick Nolte] of the ickiest crimes a morgue attendant can be accused of), Legend of the Wolf (new martial arts awesomeness at Videoport!), Alamar (beautiful, acclaimed film about the final weekend between a young Mexican fisherman and his half-Italian son before the boy’s mother takes him away forever), Susan Slept Here (Videoport’s Classics section greets this once-controversial comedy from director Frank Tashlin about a hollywood screenwriter [Dick Powell] who is placed in custody of spunky juvenile delinquent Debbie Reynolds), Standing Ovation (super-chipper tweens competing in a music video contest; those of you who enjoy this sort of thing will enjoy this sort of thing), One Fine Day (we finally got around to replacing this 1996 romantic comedy starring a ‘trying to prove I’m not just a TV star’ lad named George Clooney matching up with Michelle Pfeiffer; I hope that guy does okay…)
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: The Social Network, Piranha (2010).
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5. That new Wednesday special is nothing to sneeze at, I’ll tell you that for free! (Check out the Wdnesday review for details.)
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