VideoReport #283

Volume CCLXXXIII- The Buy Localizer

For the Week of 1/18/11

Videoport extends condolences to all Maine Patriots fans and suggests that a movie-renting binge is just the thing to help you move on (and drown out Rex Ryan’s voice for the next week.)

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 Joshua (in Horror.) Abby and Brad Cairn seem to have it all: Brad’s high-powered job, a fabulous home in a ritzy New York neighborhood, a bright, well-behaved son in a posh private school, and a brand new baby. But appearances can be deceiving. A word of advice: If a Vera Farmiga character asks you to babysit, YOU. SAY. NO. This lady has some bad, bad luck with kids. (See also Orphan.) Or maybe it ain’t luck: Farmiga has built a cottage industry portraying unsaintly, uncertain,

"I secretly hate you two little creeps..."- Vera Farmiga

and sometimes downright unsympathetic mothers and wives, tough roles that other actresses may shy away from. Farmiga’s Abby is drained, depressed, and frankly hostile, especially in contrast to Brad (Sam Rockwell), the loving husband and father who breezes through his familial duties with bouncy, bright ease and charm. And, of course, there’s the titular problem child: Joshua. You may recognize Jacob Kogan as young Spock from the Star Trek reboot, and he radiates a similar calm, sober intelligence here. Some of his early scenes had me wincing in empathy for the prim little guy. Joshua’s a little weird, sure (and he knows it, and knows that it bugs his dad), but for the film’s first hour the scariest presence is Abby: her mundane desperation is palpable… and, as it turns out, hellishly contagious. The last act devolves into clichés, which is a shame, especially since so deeply undercuts the compelling set-up. For the first hour, Joshua feels like Rosemary’s Baby turned inside out, a harrowing story of upwardly-mobile parental anxieties portrayed as a ceaseless nightmare.

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

>>> Dennis suggests In the Heat of the Night (in Classics.) As my Dad and I were sullenly flipping channels after the Patriots game/debacle on Sunday, we came across this 1967 classic and, looking for something, anything, to distract us from our sorrow/disbelief (Sanchez outplaying Brady? Really?) we started watching. Dad had never seen it (somehow) and we were quickly sucked in. For the uninitiated: Sidney Poitier is an ultra-cool-and-competent black, big city cop who gets sucked into a small Southern town murder, much to the chagrin of gum-chomping, potbellied redneck sheriff Rod Steiger, and much

One of these two will win an Oscar. Nope, not that one...

more to the chagrin of the hideous racist a-holes who populate the town. For 1967 it was no doubt groundbreaking and, while we’ve gladly gone beyond the time when an overtly racist, pigheaded, crude old white man could achieve high public office (unless you live in Maine, apparently), it was still a thrill to watch Poitier’s Virgil (“Call me Mr.”) Tibbs as he proves utterly superior to the local bumpkinry in police work, diction, intelligence, and all-around human perfection. Sure, it’s a variation of the too-perfect black man role that eventually sunk Sidney’s career with overfamiliarity, but watching Tibbs stand up to thuggery, solve the mystery, and even slap a rich old white racist right in the face is never not fun. And Steiger, even though the fact that he won Best Actor that year while Poitier wasn’t even nominated remains both hilarious and depressing, is a hammy hoot as the gradually-more-human sheriff. Videoport’s Sam and I still get the giggles imitating his line, “Yeah!…OH, YEAH!!!!!”- you’ll just have to see the movie to get it…

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

>>> Dennis suggests a Found Footage Quadruple Feature! Couple of reasons: 1. It’s fun to watch the video detritus of our society and marvel at America’s unfiltered, woefully-awkward soul. 2. The superduper Wednesday special (4 movies, 7 days, 7 bucks) ensures a veritable flood of the worst that TV has to offer. and 3. The Found Footage Festival is coming to SPACE Gallery on 1/31/11! (For those not in the know, the FFF is the brainchild of Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett who, spurred by the love of thrift store-scavenged old VHS oddities and armed with an irreverent sense of humor about corporate training videos, old home movies, self-released self defense tapes and more have been making with the laughs (on the AV Club website and comedy tours) for a decade. So go out to SPACE and have some fun. Meanwhile, prime yourself with these examples of the found footage genre (all found, of course, in Videoport’s Incredibly Strange Section!):

1. Memorial Day 2000. From Davy Rothbart of Found Magazine comes this yard-sale-found VHS of the biggest idiots in the world taking their parents’ RVs out in the middle of nowhere to drink, puke, burn couches, moon the camera, and basically make the case that the state of Michigan should be walled off from the rest of the country.

2-4. Lost and Found, When Television Attacks, and Casual Friday. Three compilation tapes of what it might be like to channel surf in the 1980’s while in the depths of a fever dream. Edited for maximum queasiness, these things are like stumbling across the Videodrome network and not being able to change the station.

Bonus: Heavy Metal Parking Lot (available on the Films of Jeff Krulik VHS in the Incredibly Strange Section!) The Found Footage Festival is opening with a screening of this legendary sociological document on its 25th anniversary, so why not check out the biggest collection of terrifying humanity (outside of Memorial Day 2000) as they line up outside of a Judas Priest concert.

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

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘Twin Peaks’ (in Mystery/Thriller.) As luck would have it, this holiday weekend found me watching “Twin Peaks,” season 2 episode 3, in which the obstreperous Special Agent Albert Rosenfield (played with marvelous relish by Miguel Ferrer) reappears to the delight of Cooper and

Albert = Love.

the dismay of almost every other peace officer in Twin Peaks. When usually unflappable Sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) offers Albert a second knuckle sandwich, Albert fiercely launches into an unexpectedly touching (and timely) speech: “Now you listen to me. While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchetman in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I’ll gladly take another because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method… is love. I love you, Sheriff Truman.” These are words to take to heart. I hope you all had a restful and peaceful Martin Luther King Day.

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

>>>Dennis suggests The Princess Diaries series: perpetuating the idea that, “in order to get boys to like you, you can’t look too ‘Jew-y'” into a new millennium!

Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)

>>>For Saturday, Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests The Fog (in Horror.) The years have been kind to John Carpenter’s The Fog. It had an uphill battle when first released in 1980 because it was Carpenter’s follow-up to his mega-hit Halloween from 1978. That film was a masterpiece of suspense and admittedly his best film. The Fog was unfairly compared to its predecessor and some critics and audiences felt it fell short. The film has gotten much appreciation throughout the years and deserves to be judged on its own merit. Carpenter creates a great little ghost story that is heavy on creepy atmosphere and has some genuine scares. I really enjoy all of Carpenter’s work during the period of ’76 thru ’82; he created some great suspense/horror/sci-fi films that manage to hold up to this day. The Fog centers around a wronged ship’s crew seeking revenge on a small coastal town. The cast is very good; interesting enough, I remember this being billed as a Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle, but she really is part of an ensemble. She is very good in a different role than her character in Halloween but if there had to be a lead, it would be Adrienne Barbeau, who gives a sultry and strong performance as the local midnight DJ. It’s also really cool to see Curtis’ real-life Mom Janet Leigh co-star with her. This is a great film for late-night viewing that has much suspense but not a lot of gore. Check it out and enjoy….but bolt the doors..

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests The Machinist (in Mystery/Thriller.) Make no mistake: this is an unflinchingly grim film, and I’m still not sure it’s a good one. But it’s certainly compelling and wrenching to watch. The Machinist is perhaps best know for the grueling physical transformation Christian Bale underwent to take on the part of Trevor Reznik, the chronically insomniac and obviously troubled lead character. From the first close-up, it’s brutally obvious that there’s no trickery at play here: Trevor’s cadaverous skull wavers unsteadily on the fragile stem of his throat. He’s not just skeletal but snake-like, all sinew and skin and horribly visible bone. Trim little gamine Jennifer Jason Leigh (as Stevie, friendly neighborhood call girl) looks positively lush next to him. The harsh lighting emphasizes

Oh...my...god...

his dreadful emaciation early on, while it still has the power to shock. More shocking still, perhaps, is how quickly we grow accustomed to it. (Bale’s wasted frame, unsettling though it is to see, is not the most gruesome or triggering sight in this bleak, gray world. As the title suggests, Trevor works in a machine shop, and you know what that means. Uh-oh.) Bale brings his usual intensity and restrained energy to this role, and he manages a remarkable trick: in his scenes with amiable waitress/possible love interest Marie (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón), Trevor’s seemingly relaxed, suave banter is loaded with nervy, murky significance for the audience. Like director Brad Anderson’s gritty no-budget thriller Session 9, The Machinist is suffused with an eerie, uneasy sense of looking through another person’s eyes, suffering their anxieties, afflicted by their blind spots.

New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘Justified’- season 1 (that guy from ‘Deadwood’ and that guy from ‘The Shield’ star in this universally-liked modern-day Western series), Takers (very bland prettyboys Hayden Christensen and Paul Walker star in this heist thriller alongside ‘The Wire”s Idris Elba, who continues to deserve way better…), Buried (Ryan Reynolds is, well, buried. In a box. For 88 minutes. That’s it…), Stone (Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton, and Milla Jovovich star in this thriller about a convict trying to get released by any means necessary, including having his wife seduce his parole officer; I can’t imagine that one backfiring…), Death Race 2 (Ving Rhames and Sean Bean probably thought this action sequel would actually play in movie theaters when they signed on…), Freakonomics (scattershot documentary version of the cult, equally-scattershot sociological book features segments by the directors of Jesus Camp, The King of Kong, Why We Fight, and Super Size Me), Animal Kingdom (brutal crime thriller about the craziest, most violent Australian crime family around), Paper Man (quirky drama about a struggling novelist [Jeff Daniels] who copes with writer’s block and his family with help from his childhood imaginary friend, the superhero Captain Excellent [Ryan Reynolds]), Lebanon (acclaimed Israeli film follows the young crew of an armored tank in the 1982 Lebanon war; all told from inside the tank, it’s sort of like a tank-y Das Boot; and howsabout renting this and Buried for a claustrophobia double feature?), Jack Goes Boating (Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan star in this sad little love story about a couple of awkward people floundering towards happiness. Maybe.), The Virginity Hit (a group of horny dudes make a pact to ‘lose it’, via webcam; told Blair Witch-style, this super low-budget sex comedy for the internet age could be this generation’s American Pie, if only anyone had gone to see it…), Down Terrace (another searing, brutal family crime saga, this time from England, about a father/son ex-con pair trying to walk the straight and narrow), Denis Leary: Douchebags and Donuts (on behalf of all Videoport’s Dennises, we apologize…), ‘Merlin’- season 2 (more tales of the boy wizard not named ‘Harry’), Army of Crime (a daring poet [played by the brilliant Simon Abkarian, so great in the movie Yes] leads a ragtag gang of immigrants and youngsters against the Nazi occupation of France), The Freebie (a couple [Dax Shepard, Kate Aselton] decide it’s a good idea to give each other a ‘night off’ with no questions asked; there’s no possible way that could backfire, I’m almost certain of it.)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Comedy Central’s Roast of David Hasselhoff (where the inconsequential make fun of the insufferable), The Land Before Time 4, 7, and 11 (we just replaced these animated dinosaur kids movies because people allowed their kids to mishandle the last ones; lets’ work on this, people…), Night Train to Munich (director Carol Reed’s WWII tale of Nazis, kidnapping, spies, seduction, and armor-plating gets the full Criterion Collection treatment), Crooked Hearts (in this 1991 drama, a father’s affair affects his family of young actors who eventually made it [Vincent D’Onofrio, Jennifer Jason Leigh] and sort of made it [Noah Wylie, Peter Berg, Juliette Lewis]), Short Night of Glass Dolls (a visiting journalist goes looking for his missing girlfriend in this Italian giallo starring Euro-lovlies Ingrid Thulin and Barbara Bach, who are almost certain to be covered in fake-looking blood at some point), Werner Herzog: On the Ecstasy of Ski Flying (if it’s Herzog, it’s gonna be fascinating.)

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Ong Bak, Ong Bak 2, Metropolis, Death Race 2, Aeon Flux, Kalifornia, Into the Wild, Highlander, The Descent, Animal Kingdom, Takers, Buried.

Videoport Customer Bill K’s Best and Worst of 2010!

Best:

1.Winters Bone      6.The Messenger

2.Inception             7.The Fourth Kind

3.Moon                   8.Toy Story 3

4.Hurt Locker       9.Scott Pilgrim

5.Brothers             10.The Town

Worst:

1. MacGruber

2. The Last Airbender

3. Sex & the City 2

4. A Nightmare on Elm St.

5. Whiteout

6. The Men Who Stare at Goats

7. Percy Jackson & the Olypians: The Lightning Thief

8. Old Dogs

9. Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

10. Greenberg

Thanks Bill! Send your lists and reviews to us at denmn@hotmail.com or our Facebook page “Videoport Jones!”

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