Volume CCLXXXVII- Kung Fu Gandhi
For the Week of 2/15/11
Videoport will give you a free movie every day. Netfl*x will give you a fake phone number and not call you in the morning.
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.)
>>> April suggests ‘Stephen Fry in America’ (in Documentary.) Who better to journey
across America than a British, manic-depressive gay man who is an award-winning actor and former prison inmate?! Oh, Stephen Fry, the more I learn about you, the more I admire you. Anyway, ‘Stephen Fry in America’ is a documentary series in which Mr. Fry drives around America in his taxi cab and sees the sights. His first stop is right here in Maine where he eats lobster. Yup, ’cause that’s what we do here. It’s pretty impressive that he goes to every state, even Hawaii and Alaska. How many Americans can say they’ve done that? Not I. Also, My Fry is an atheist. He’s well book.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Runaway Train (in Action.) With the release this week of the, shall we call it, ‘derivative’ Unstoppable, I thought I’d throw in a pitch for this nice ‘n’ bananas 1985 thriller starring Jon Voight and Eric Roberts as two escaped criminals who hitch a ride on the titular train, only to find it…runaway!! AAAAIIIEE!! Based on an idea by master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (nope, not kidding), Runaway Train is as overheated as that
train; Voight and Roberts, neither ever accused of over-subtlety, snarl and growl and bellow and occasionally hang of the side of a driverless locomotive (the driver has a heart attack) in the most entertainingly-over-the-top manner imaginable. Meanwhile, some railroad employees (all significantly less attractive than this week’s Denzel) try to figure out a way to prevent the convict-laden choo-choo from plowing through the town dumb enough to be the terminus of the tracks. It’s a pretty thrilling ride, and watching two of cinema’s all-time scenery-chompers do their thing at critical levels tips the whole thing occasionally into crazyville. Plus, it was the first film of Machete‘s Danny Trejo- look for him boxing Roberts in an early scene (and looking like he could rip Roberts’ head off.) Unstoppable vs. Runaway Train! Try a “big trains go smash” double feature!!! LOOK OUT FOR THE TRAINS!!! AAAIIIEEEEE!!!!
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> For Wednesday, Andy suggests a sampling of Francis Coppola films, excluding the major ones from the 1970s that everyone has already seen anyway (or if you haven’t seen the first two Godfather films, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now, that would make a fantastic quadruple feature this week!)*. Coppola is a major American film (and wine)maker, even if he has completely lost it in his old age. Seriously, steer clear from Youth Without Youth and Tetro.
1. Dementia 13 (1963). Coppola’s debut is a stylish ‘n’ Irish low-budget murder mystery,
produced under the wing of Roger Corman. As far as Psycho clones go, it’s not bad at all. It established right away Coppola’s dramatic flair (which got lost from time to time over his long career) and his flamboyantly theatrical style (which, thankfully, never went away).
2. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986). In another director’s hands, this would be a pretty conventional romantic fantasy, but Coppola enlivens it with his familiar camera tricks and weird (often nepotistic) casting. Nephew Nicolas Cage gives one of his patented “what the hell was he thinking?” performances that I love so much. Daughter Sofia Coppola is adorable as Peggy Sue’s sarcastic little sister. A young Jim Carrey tries really hard to steal every scene he’s in. The movie succeeds thanks to Kathleen Turner’s central performance as Peggy Sue. As her character magically travels back in time from middle age to high school age and back again, Turner’s performance is always plausible, funny, and touching.
3. One From The Heart (1982). Speaking of romantic fantasies crammed with camera tricks, how about this big-budget musical oddity? It’s a small story of two couples falling in and out of love, set to Tom Waits songs, and played out on a huge scale on elaborate sets of a stylized Las Vegas. This was intended by Coppola to be a small, heartfelt (hence the title) film after the giant nightmare that was Apocalypse Now, but things just got crazily and expensively out of hand. Thank you, cocaine!
4. The Rainmaker (1997). Coppola goes Grisham, and why not? The story may be a calculated crowd-pleaser, but our man Coppola did a much better job of it than Joel Schumacher or Alan Pakula ever did. This movie just works, thanks to the sure directorial hand and a cast that gives real character to their broad “characters” — Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Mickey Rourke, Roy Scheider, Jon Voight, Mary Kay Place, and many others. This was Coppola’s last film before a decade’s hiatus. He eventually returned to filmmaking, but his recent movies seem to be the work of a man who has lost his ability for competent storytelling. But kudos for trying… right?
*In case you haven’t heard, Videoport’s got this new(-ish) Wednesday deal where you can get 4 movies for 7 days for seven bucks. It saves you about, oh, a jillion dollars, and is perfect for eccentric quadruple features!
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests* The Fly (in Sci Fi.) It’s Valentine’s Day, and it’s also Middle Aisle Monday. What to do, what to do? If you like your romance less sticky-sweet and more just-plain-sticky, you are in luck! Director David Cronenberg, best known as the king of body horror, should get more credit for his masterful grasp on the exhilarating, tricky,
sometimes dangerous dynamics of love and lust. The casting is inspired. Jeff Goldblum perfectly suits his role as the eccentric, hubristic (and why wouldn’t he be hubristic? HE INVENTED THE TELEPORTER fer goodness sake) Seth Brundle, bristling with verbal tics and wide-eyed certainty, and Geena Davis is a natural as Veronica Quaife, the hard-edged journalist who wants to tell his story… but the real genius is apparent the first time you see them together and realize how beautifully these two mirror each other: their long lanky frames, their big gleaming eyes, squared jaws, lush curly hair. (Of course the chemistry carried over from their blossoming real-life romance heightens this sense.) They seem connected the moment the film starts, two halves of a whole. This only enhances the horror when Seth begins his hideous transformation; the horror comes not from the monster itself, but from his increasing alienation, from Veronica’s anguish at his metamorphosis, for the agony of finding a loved and trusted person so fundamentally changed. The Fly meditates upon the heights of love and and the tragedy (and sometimes the terror) of watching the loved one transform, whether that transformation is by illness, by jealousy, faithlessness, or by murderous rage. Super-duper romantic, right? disclaimer: If you’re planning a cozy dinner-and-a-movie, this is NOT the film to play during the meal. Or before the meal. Or shortly after the meal. As even the cool, objective Seth Brundle says, “not while we’re eating.” Also [spoiler] uh, The Fly is probably not suitable for your pregnant Valentine.
*Editor’s note: From here on out, the lovely, and obsessively loyal-to-Videoport, Ms. S. Customer tosses out her decidedly- subversive Valentine’s recommendations. Rest assured that she is very, very romantic in a non-Hollywood way. Seriously…
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Disney’s Snow White. What little girl doesn’t dream of cleaning up after a cottage full of dirty miners? What grown woman doesn’t want to marry a guy who has a thing for comatose chicks? So romantic!
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 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (in Comedy)*. Lacuna, Inc., has carved out a new market: they can remove any memory you wish, including the pain of a broken heart. And when is their busiest season? Valentine’s Day, natch! Joel (Jim Carrey, in a role that clinched his transformation from rubber-faced goon to heartrending dramatic actor) is stumbling through the heartache of a bad breakup when he learns that his ex-, Clementine (the luminous Kate Winslet, playing a sort of Manic Pixie Dream Girl gone rogue) has simply wiped him away like so much spilled wine. In the twisting, turning tale that follows, they explore the complicated repercussions of of a disposable memory, and the conflicted emotional path of one who chooses to eradicate their past. It’s a funny thing: Michel Gondry’s unsettlingly surrealist film manages to convey an all-too-realistic portrait of the euphoria of love, the confusion and frustration of loss, of the utter gutwrenching anguish of heartbreak.
*Editor’s note: “gutwrenching anguish of heartbreak.” Yeah- find it in the Comedy section at Videoport. Because it makes sense. To us. Deal with it…
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Sleepless in Seattle (in Comedy.) I rarely recommend traditional rom-coms; I’m more often found skulking around the middle aisle, wavering between thrillers and outright horror movies*. But when you think about it, Sleepless in Seattle is, um, kinda scary. [spoilers!] A perfectly nice widower (Tom Hanks as
Sam) is muddling through his still-fresh grief and building a new life for himself and his young son, Jonah. Then the child makes an unguarded appearance on national radio, opening up their life to all kinds of stalkery weirdos. One of those stalkery weirdos (Meg Ryan as Annie) hears Sam speak on the radio for three minutes and becomes completely obsessed with him. Suddenly her entire life revolves around him. She ignores her sweet goofy fiancé*, she sneaks around to listen to the the stranger on the radio (that scene where she crawls into a broom cupboard? CHILLING!), she manipulates her boss so that even her job becomes a headlong pursuit of this stranger. Halfway through the film, Annie tracks down Sam in his hometown and follows him home, lurking in shadows and around corners. She even breaks off her engagement, realizing that it was never as fulfilling as this fantasy about a stranger. (And in all seriousness: Walter has dodged a bullet here.) At the end, the kid secretly arranges to meet her in a strange city on the other side of the continent. I’m tellin’ ya, if Annie looked like Glenn Close instead of Meg Ryan, by the end of the second act that kid would be trussed up on the precipice of the Empire State Building, Sam would be running around screaming his head off, and the movie would end with Annie being shot down like King Kong while the audience cheered.
*Editor’s note: “skulking in the horror aisle”- this is why your editor loves Ms. Customer.
**Editor’s note: poor Bill Pullman…he should have found some gal skulking in the horror aisle of his local, independent video store.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Unstoppable (Denzel Washington and Captain
Kirk, Jr. star in this big, barreling action thriller about a couple of regular, impossibly-attractive railroad workers trying to stop…a runaway…wait for it…TRAIN!!!), Waiting for Superman (the director of An Inconvenient Truth brings us another gut-churningly upsetting documentary, this time about the American educational system; hey, here’s an idea that might help- GIVE SCHOOLS ALL THE MONEY THEY NEED!!! AMERICA WILL GET SMARTER!!! THINGS WILL GET BETTER!!!!), Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son of a Bitch (the life of the, as the title implies, somewhat prickly lead singer of Motorhead, the awesomely and improbably-named Lemmy Killmister), You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger (Woody Allen, as ever, gathers a top-shelf cast [Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts] to populate another of his late career ‘I renounce ever being funny’ disappointments), Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 (this exists, we have it. Please don’t judge us…), Ong Bak 3 (martial arts star Tony Jaa continues both his insane asskickery and his audience-pleasing willingness to ensure his inevitable crippling, career-ending mutilation for our entertainment in this sequel), La Peste Official DVD (ask Videoport’s own Jordan about this seminal Boston punk band from the late 70’s, early 80’s; he’ll have some stories…), Game of Death (Wesley Snipes’ last, direct-to-DVD action flick before he headed to the hoosegow is described as, successively, ‘Die Hard in a hospital’ and ‘Die Hard in a bank’; don’t worry, Wes- we’ll be waiting for you when you get out…), William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (the ever-shocking author of Naked Lunch and more gets his posthumous documentary treatment, complete with testimonials from famous pals like Laurie Anderson, Jello Biafra, David Cronenberg, Iggy Pop, and more.)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: A Time for Drunken Horses (this crushingly-beautiful 2000 Iranian movie from director Bahman Ghobadi [Turtles Can Fly, Half Moon, Marooned in Iraq] has finally gotten the DVD release…and Videoport’s got your back, as ever), Glorious 39 (a young woman in 1939 England discovers deep dark secrets about her esteemed family’s involvement in the appeasement efforts with that pesky Hitler can boast a great cast including Bill Nighy, Jeremy Northam, Jenny Augutter, David Tennant, and the ever-majestic Christopher Lee!), ‘Traffic’- the Miniseries (some cool actors [Martin Donovan, Elias Koteas] no doubt enliven this miniseries about the various sorts of illegal sale [of arms, people, knockoff blue jeans] all over the world), The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu (horror comedy about a sad-sack who discovers both that he is the last living relative of H.P. Lovecraft and that he’s responsible for preventing the Ancient Ones from arising and dragging us all down to R’lyeh), The Paper (long-lost newspaper dramedy finally comes to the DVD; great work from Michael Keaton, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, and Jason Robards; it is also one of the last Ron Howard-directed movies I didn’t think was terribly overrated), Sudden Death (Jean Claude Van Damme tries to prevent a terrorist attack at the Stanley Cup; to paraphrase MST3k‘s Mike Nelson, “If you ask me, the filmmakers are fighting an uphill battle to get their audience to care if an act of terrorism happens at any hockey game…”), Kites (okay, this one is a little complicated: there are 2 versions of this romance/thriller about a young couple trying to survive Mexican drug cartels and so forth- the original Bollywood/Hindi version complete with musical numbers or the ‘Americanized version’ dubbed into English, jettisoning the music, and supervised by the person I hate most in the world, hack director Brett Ratner [X Men 3, Rush Hour, Red Dragon].)
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Ong Bak 3, Game of Death, Unstoppable.