VideoReport #284

Volume CCLXXXIV- The Unbearable Lightness of Renting

For the Week of 1/25/11

Videoport is a place where all the best movies in the history of the world are right here for you, right at your fingertips. All curated by a staff of movie geeks who want nothing more than to recommend the perfect one for you. Let’s see some damned corporate website do that…

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 ‘Life on Mars’ (UK) (in Mystery/Thriller). DCI Sam Tyler (John Simm of Doctor Who, Cracker, 24 Hour Party People) of the Greater Manchester Police is on the trail of a serial killer, but his hunt is cut short by a car accident that knocks him out briefly… and he wakes up in 1973. It sounds like a wacky lightweight premise and an excuse to poke fun at ’70s fashion foibles (and the period costumes and sets are beautifully observed), but the first episode makes something really special out of this oddball idea. Watching Sam navigate his way through the slightly familiar corridors of the shady old police force where he’s now employed, and the streets of Manchester where he spent his boyhood, is funny, tense, compelling, and — in the first episode — downright eerie. Of course there’s the opportunity to joke about the mundane daily differences between 2006 and 1973, and the show hits them all: no mobile phones, no diet soda, primitive forensics, smoking in hospital rooms, lolthestupidpast. But these are little blips in the big picture. “Life on Mars” doesn’t shy away from portraying the larger differences, some of them truly appalling: brutality to suspects and reluctant witnesses alike, the enthusiastic institutional embrace of sexual harassment, endemic racism and xenophobia.

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

>>> Dennis suggests The League of Gentlemen (in Classics/The Criterion Collection.) Thanks be to the film geek overlords at the Criterion Collection. Once again, they have thrown out a director’s-centric

Pip pip, cheerio, we're taking your money...

boxed set spotlighting a largely-forgotten auteur for us to, well, remember. This time, it’s Brit director Basil Dearden’s turn. Operating in the early sixties, Dearden dared to take on some pretty controversial subjects (homosexuality, racism, racism, and homosexuality.) And, in the case of this snappy heist picture, the difficulty of British soldiers in adjusting to a post-war peacetime economy. (Well, they can’t all be hot-button…) Burly professional Jack Hawkins (Bridge on the River Kwai) stars as a former Colonel who sends out cryptic invitations, attached to halves of pound notes, to a disparate gang of disgraced formal soldiers in order to pull of a daring bank robbery. It’s a fun heist flick, full of stiff-upper-lip British repartee, and some genre-specific crackerjack planning, even though the troupe’s various plans seem to depend rather heavily on the British public’s general guilelessness, politeness, and, well, dimness, and takes its place crisply alongside such heist-y fun as Rififi, Le Cercle Rouge, The Italian Job (both versions), Topkapi, and the rest.

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

>>> Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests Playtime (in Foreign/the Criterion Collection.) I discovered Jacques Tati about 10 years ago thru Turner Classic Movies (probably the best film channel still around) and I couldn’t believe I had never heard of him before that. He is a landmark filmmaker and needs to be remembered alongside such comic greats as Chaplin and Keaton. There are no other films comparable to Tati films — they are meticulously made observations of everyday life usually told thru the experiences of Tati’s alter ego, Mons. Hulot. Playtime is undeniably Tati’s masterpiece. It has many levels; a slapstick comedy, a social commentary and a satire of modern life. The ‘plot’ (a word used loosely in Tati films) centers around Hulot trying to make an appointment in downtown Paris. The film focuses on the modern Paris — full of cold, steel buildings and the so-called progress of the modern age. Glimpses of the old Paris are seen thru reflections in doors, windows and mirrors; treated like a faded memory or flashback. Tati uses practically no close-ups; most shots are wide panoramic and full of activity. They remind me of the great Richard Scarry children’s books and even the Where’s Waldo picture books. Playtime will not be easy for today’s audiences to watch if they are used to the quickly edited, video-like films of today. The sight gags are brilliantly set up and are very funny without being crude or mean spirited. They are slow-paced but so worth the time. Each time I see this film I notice something different. A beautiful film that has an important message by a filmmaker that needs much more attention.

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

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests 2001: A Space Odyssey (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) Some movies are perfectly happy to coexist with the rest of your busy world, to chatter along happily in the background while you cook dinner or browse the web or check your messages. Those movies know that they don’t command your full attention, so they keep distracted viewers abreast of the action with plenty of exposition disguised as dialogue and plot points delivered as bullet points. 2001: A Space Odyssey is nowhere near as cooperative. Kubrick’s epic space fable wants your full attention or none at all. It’s full of nearly static shots, long scenes without dialogue, great vistas barely punctuated with puny humans. The story is doled out in slow beats, and when characters do start to speak of a mystery, they speak around it, not about it. Despite Kubrick’s reputation for eschewing emotion, the most compelling segment of 2001 is fundamentally about the sometimes treacherous terrain of the emotional landscape. Indeed, the great enigma that starts the film is never truly solved, but instead is used as the spur driving one character’s emotional collapse. There’s a lot going on in this film, but the most engrossing story arc is simple: it’s about betrayal and guilt and fear of loved ones, about the cognitive dissonance that comes with these emotions, about the desire to see oneself as decent and the machinations we go through to preserve that view. Like so much of Kubrick’s work, 2001 paints a searing but understated portrait of someone swimming in unexpressed guilt and panic, flailing about vainly in an attempt to blanket over the pain.

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

>>>Dennis suggests NOT TOUCHING, OR LETTING YOUR KIDS OR IRRESPONSIBLE HOUSEMATES TOUCH, THE SHINY SIDES OF OUR DVDS. Seriously, people…

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

>>>For Saturday, here comes Regan’s Most Bestest and Least Favoritist Movies of 2010! Let’s begin with the Worstest. Last year, I went to see The Kids Are All Right in the theater. I had heard, across the board, great reviews. And the director, Lisa Cholodenko’s earlier films, High Art and Laurel Canyon are among my favorite movies. So I was expecting too much really. LOW EXPECTATIONS. That’s how you should enter every movie. From the beginning, this movie made my ass twitch. Mark Ruffalo and his locally sustainable douchemiasmaness. The overly calm, thoughtful discussions between the two women. During a few scenes, my mouth watered like I was about to chunder into my popcorn. Like when Annette Bening starts singing Joni Mitchell. Maybe it’s just me and my mommy issues*, but I was looking for an escape route. And the way they just shun Ruffalo’s

Cheers! Regan hates us!

character at the end? Um, I’m sorry, was that not Julianne Moore’s vag on his dipstick? They’re both to blame! Eh…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…this movie made me feel like I was being smothered by a giant pair of mom boobs for two hours. And, for the Best Bestest of the Year: Suck it Michael Cera! Jesse Eisenberg is where it’s at. Was my fave the year before. So what came first, great movies or my love of Jesse Eisenberg? From the Trent Reznor score to Mark’s Adidas sandals, I’ll say it again…this is the best film** of twenty-ten. Super-duper!

*Mommy issues aside, Regan is currently taking care of her mommy who broke her leg. Regan loves her mommy.

**Even though she didn’t name the movie, I’m pretty sure she’s talking about The Social Network. Pretty sure.

>>>For Sunday, Elsay S. Customer suggests White Noise 2: The Light (in Mystery/Thriller.) If I say something is both a crappy dumb little movie and a really fun dumb little movie, will you know what I mean? In my book, this flick qualifies as both. The sequel to the totally lackluster snooze-fest White

At least we still have our cult sci-fi TV fans...sigh.

Noise, White Noise 2tells the story of Abe (unrepentant cheeseball Nathan Fillion: Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, Castle) who returns from a near-death experience and finds himself reluctantly endowed with a supernatural gift: he can sense mortal danger looming over complete strangers. It shows itself (to his eyes only, natch) as a bright light (GET IT?) surrounding them, singling them out for doom. It turns out, of course, that if you save someone’s life, you’re responsible for it. OMG WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THAT COMING? Unlike its leadenly earnest predecessor, WN2 has a sense of humor about its pulpy absurdities. (A tiny bonus for Fillion’s Whedon-crazed fans: when Abe describes his newfound powers, his friend retorts sarcastically… using a line from “Firefly.”) Abe is our avatar inside the movie, greeting each burdensome revelation with a well-placed burst of wry irritation. Though there are few surprises in the action, it’s jumpy and effective nonetheless. This campy romp takes a hard hit when the plot gets more complicated and somber (and you just knew it would didn’t ya?), but gets leavened by the always-enjoyable Katee Sackhoff (the roguish Starbuck from ‘Battlestar Gallactica’). And then the end is all like KERFLOOEY WHAT NUH-UH and you’ll roll your eyes and then it’s over. Phew.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Dogtooth (this acclaimed Greek film about a set of parents who’ve raised their now adult children in complete isolation, creating an elaborate mythology to keep them from ever leaving inspired this list of adjectives from me: kinky, disturbing, satirical, funny, brilliant…), Enter the Void (remember Gaspar Noe, the director who made you want to kill yourself in Irreversible? Well, this is his new one, a deliberately-unnerving, phantasmagorical tale of drug-dealing, drug-gobbling wastrels making terrible decisions in Tokyo; seriously, this one’s like a queasy 2 and a half hour LSD trip, all in convenient DVD form!), Red (sure, you expect to see Bruce Willis toting an AK-47 in his late middle age, but Helen Mirren? Morgan Freeman? John Malkovich? Well okay, maybe Malkovich…), Saw: The Final Chapter (it’s like a never-ending, razor-edged game of Mousetrap made out of meat; enjoy!), ‘MI-5’- season 8 (more gritty Bondian intrigue from the lads ‘n’ lassies in the titular British intelligence agency series), ‘Glee’- season 2, volume 1 (la-la-la-laaaa!; I mean, you guys seem to enjoy this show…), Inhale (Dermot Mulroney plays a law-and-order D.A. who is firmly against illegal organ harvesting who finds himself, when his daughter needs a new lung, HEADING TO MEXICO TO FIND ILLEGAL ORGANS!!! Isn’t that always the way?), The Bird Can’t Fly (Barbara Hershey brings her enduring, weathered intensity to this odd South African drama about an estranged mother, a dead daughter, a sandstorm, some ostriches, and grief), Inspector Bellamy (the last film of famed French master of suspense Claude Chabrol, this one stars Gerard Depardieu as a famous detective getting embroiled in a murder investigation while on vacation), Land of Confusion (documentary by a film student/Pennsylvania National Guard reservist whose regiment is called up to help search for those Weapons of Mass Destruction that never existed and our government lied about to hoodwink a sheeplike nation into supporting an immoral war; the documentary is actually pretty low key- the commentary is all mine…), Still Bill (documentary about

Mr. Cool.

Bill Withers, possessor of the smoothest voice and coolest demeanor of any soul legend in town…), Adventures of Power (Videoport’s Incredibly Strange section welcomes this comedy about a young guy determined to become the greatest air-drummer the world has ever seen; costarring comedy ringers Michael McKean and Jane Lynch), Red Hill (nasty Aussie violence about a young big city cop transferred into the titular, homicidal hick town), ‘Murphy’s Law’- season 1 (solid character James Nesbitt [Waking Ned Devine] stars in this BBC mystery series about a hard-drinkin’, hard-livin’ Irish cop), The Switch (this Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman would-be romantic comedy will now force me to type a phrase I never thought I would write; here goes- “semen-swap comedy”; there, I did it…I will now shoot myself in the face…), The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (third and final film in the super-violent Swedish thriller series that everybody’s mom loves even though it’s so rape-y and stuff), Secretariat (it’s a movie about a horse…), Nowhere Boy (the really boring guy who played Kick-Ass plays the young John Lennon in this biopic; I hear he’s less boring in this one…), Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (hey, here’s an idea! If you’re a moral crusader against prostitution, maybe don’t get busted for being a long-time customer of prostitutes! I’m just blue-skyin’ here…), Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (Gollum/King Kong himself Andy Serkis plays British punk rock legend/weirdo Ian Dury in this rowdy biopic.)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Shaun the Sheep: Spring Shena-a-anigans (this series spun off from the utterly awesome Wallace and Gromit animated movies is no doubt adorable and charming; however, I had to look up its ridiculous title seven times to wrote it here, so thumbs down…), Open Season 3 (the originally subpar animated movie has got a celebrity-deprived second sequel! Enjoy it!), and Videoport brings in four films to our Criterion Collection from acclaimed British early indie director Basil Dearden: The League of Gentlemen (check out the Tuesday review on this heist movie), Sapphire (a young woman’s murder reveals some serious racial tensions in 1959 England in this thriller), Victim (Dirk Bogarde stars in this groundbreaking drama about how the moronic fact that homosexuality was illegal in England made it absurdly easy to blackmail gay guys), and All Night Long (a gripping drama, based on Othello, about a black jazz musician whose relationship with a white woman is undermined by ‘The Prisoner’‘s Patrick McGoohan.)

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Saw: The Final Chapter, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Red.

Want some free money? (Yup. I’m just guessing.) Well, if you pay ahead $20 on your Videoport account, you get $25 worth of rental credit, and $30 buys you $40.

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