Volume CCXCVII- Mother, C.H.U.D.s and Speed
For the Week of 4/26/11
Videoport wants to thank all of you out there who voted us Best Video Store in Portland in the Phoenix (for the, oh, billionth time in a row.) You guys are the greatest: here, 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 Suspicion(in Mystery/Thriller.) Hitchcock’s 1941 thriller is tells us the story of Lina (Joan Fontaine in an Oscar-winning performance), a prim and proper girl romanced by Johnnie, a charming bounder (Cary Grant). After their whirlwind courtship settles down into the daily demands of marriage, Lina starts to
wonder whether Johnnie has some ulterior motives. She starts to have (you guessed it!) SUSPICION. In this breezy, bright, sunny romantic thriller, Hitch pulls a peculiar trick: he shows us how a story that plays out in the brightest sunlight can feel as dark as a cave.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Andy, sort of, suggests Cat Ballou (in Action/Adventure.) Eek. Here’s a Western action/comedy that has not aged well. The whole thing is just so…sixties. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of words to describe this movie’s dated sense of humor. All I can think of is “broad.” I mean, Blazing Saddles is a movie of its time, too, but that movie is still funny. Cat Ballou, not so much. But it does have one thing to recommend: Lee Marvin’s genuinely hilarious, brilliant, touching, and Oscar-winning performance as Kid Shelleen, the legendary gunfighter and fall-down drunk. Lee Marvin is always worth watching in movies, but in Cat Ballou he is simultaneously funny and pathetically sad. It’s that kind of showy performance that turns heads, rivets attention, and wins Oscars. And reminds you, in case you forgot, that Lee Marvin is great! He also plays Shelleen’s nastier brother Tim Strawn, but, again…so sixties.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental…OR…get 4 movies for 7 days for 7 bucks!)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests a Wednesday special mash-up! Smush the goodness together: take four foreign-language films for seven days for only seven bucks! That’s a whole week of subtitle-y goodness for a dollar a day! Four must-see flicks (from the IMDb top 250, no less) endorsed by yours truly: Fritz Lang’s tense, eerie, affecting thriller M, starring Peter Lorre in his first notable role; Francois Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques, a classic domestic thriller that will keep you on your toes; Kurosawa’s Rashomon, in which a crime is recounted from differing viewpoints, making it one of the most enduring (and effective) post-modern mysteries; Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, a fairy tale within a period piece, a dream within a nightmare — or the other way ’round.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests The Magus (in Mystery/Thriller.) Famously, Woody Allen, when asked if he’d change anything if he had a chance to live his life again, said he’d do everything exactly the same “with the exception of watching The Magus.” Sure, some might waggishly suggest that he might want to reconsider some other decisions, but still…ouch. Well, I watched this 1968 thriller adapted by John Fowles (no less) from his own novel and, ummmm, yeah. Up front, I’m just gonna say that I had a great time watching it, but perhaps for…different reasons. Michael Caine, a year before he took off in a big way in The Italian Job, is the lead, an English English teacher who comes to a small Greek island to take over for the previous teacher who killed himself under mysterious circumstances. Immediately, he finds himself drawn to the secluded villa of Anthony Quinn, who says cryptic things, reads some tarot cards, challenges Caine to some Russian roulette-type stuff, and introduces him to Candice Bergen, who might be a ghost, or an actress pretending to be a ghost, or, well…some
other stuff. Basically, it’s a cat and mouse game (shades of 1973’s Sleuth), with Quinn spinning tales and Caine trying to figure out what the hell is going on. It’s fun. And utterly bonkers, which is also fun. For one thing, maybe in the novel Fowles’ possibly-hallucinatory scenes where Caine sees body-painted Greek mythological characters chasing each other around might be evocative and mysterious, but, in the movie, well, it’s sorta like there are some actors running around looking silly. And then there’s Michael Caine. Dude, I love the man as much as you do, but, at this point in his career, when filmmakers were trying to shoehorn him into a sort of Sean Connery hunky leading man, it was often downright uncomfortable to watch him do his thing. Firstly, placing him in the sun-drenched Greek isles, where he has to splash about in the Mediterranean all shirtless and blonde and British pasty is not a great look for him. He’s all pink and freckly and sunburnt, and, while he is not fat at all, his body has absolutely no muscle tone; he’s like a very pale dolphin. There was a Mike Nelson line in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 where he described a similar physique, saying, “It’s like he’s make out of babies’ bottoms…” It’s like that. And, as his competing love/possibly the opposite of love interests, you’ve got the former Mrs. Jean Luc Godard Anna Karina and the future Mrs. Louis Malle Candice Bergen, both of whom have those vaguely dubbed-sounding voices which serve to distance you from anything they’re saying. (I love Candy, but whenever she was called upon to, well, act in the days before ‘Murphy Brown’, she was straight-up mannequin-y, especially when called upon to adopt an English accent as here.) And there’s an extended frolicking scene with Caine and Karina involving some unpasteurized goat milk, an unrefrigerated cheese, and some tastefully-restrained humping in a drainage ditch and some tick-friendly tall grass, which may be the least erotic sequence in movie history. And then there are twists, and turns, and maybe Quinn is a psychic, or a psychiatrist, or a movie producer, or…well, you’d have to see it. And should you? Well, yeah, probably, if you like legendary, misfired weirdness. I know I do…
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>Andy gives his Top 5 Reasons to Rent ‘Star Trek: The Animated Series.’
1. It features the voice talents of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Majel Barrett and James Doohan!
2. It does ot feature the voice of Walter Koenig (awww), but he did write an episode (yay!)
3. There are a lot of cat-like aliens on the show*
(*appealing only to cat people, cats, and cat-like aliens.)
4. You will enjoy it, but it will bore your children out of the room!
5. It’s the only Star Trek show that you can get for free on Free Kids Friday!
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid(in Comedy.) Remember when Steve Martin was funny? Wait, that’s not fair- Steve is still funny (just
check out his recent appearance on ’30 Rock’.) It’s just that he, like Eddie Murphy, has seemed to stop trying, at least with regards to their film choices. Seriously, just looking at a combined Steve/Eddie filmography from the last decade or so makes me all sad inside. (One possible explanation from Martin pal John Cleese, “Well, you see, Steve has the most remarkable modern art collection…”) But there was a time when Steve Martin held, or at least vied for, the title of “funniest thing or person that has ever been seen, or heard, or dreamed of” and 1982’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid was Steve at the height of his absurd genius. Directed by the also-once-money Carl Reiner, DMDWP is, on the one hand, just a gimmick movie- but what a gimmick. Using at-the-time groundbreaking technical prowess, Reiner and Martin place Steve’s 1940’s gumshoe Rigby Reardon smack in the middle of a loopy mystery (involving missing scientists, Nazis, and deadly cheese…don’t ask) by placing Martin smack dab into scenes from classic films noir like In a Lonely
Place, The Glass Key, This Gun for Hire, Notorious, Double Indemnity, and many others, sharing scenes with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Vincent Price, Veronica Lake, and on and on. Like I said, gimmick. But in Martin’s hands, the juxtapositions are brilliantly written, with absurdist gags piling up, one on top of the other at a furious pace, leading, in my case, to a fit of delighted giggles by the end. It might be more fun if you’re a film buff and can play ‘spot that old movie’ along the way, but I saw this when I was thirteen and had no real idea who most of those old stars were, and I still thought this the second funniest movie I’d seen up to that point (nothing could beat Airplane!), mainly due to Martin’s straight-faced (mostly) performance and some all-time classic gags (his reaction to the sultry Rachel Ward’s attempts to put some very sting-y ointment on his very scraped knees, the way he confiscates some incriminating soup from a confused waiter, the way he puts a suspicious Cary Grant to sleep.) And, if like me, you think that gags which go on for so long that they start out funny, stop being funny, and then become very, very funny are hilarious (think Sideshow Bob and the rakes, or the ‘Mr. Show’ sketch ‘The Story of the Story of Everest’), then you can’t even think about Rigby making Burt Lancaster ‘a cup of his famous java’ without suppressing a serious giggle fit. And nowadays, while Steve may only be really funny in his books, the occasional guest appearance, or his private life, at least we can look back to movies like this, The Jerk, The Man with Two Brains, The Lonely Guy, Three Amigos!, and early ‘SNL’ for comfort. And huge, conceptually-brilliant yuks.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests The Parallax View (in Mystery/Thriller.) A neurotic reporter (Paula Prentiss, nervy and affecting in her small role) witnesses an assassination at close range, but no one believes her suspicions of the official story — not even her ex-boyfriend, journalist Joe Frady (Warren Beatty). Not at first, anyhow. The Parallax View (1974) is part of director Alan J. Pakula’s Paranoia Trilogy (along with Klute and All the President’s Men), but I suggest you make it a double feature with Sydney Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor starring Robert Redford. This is a political thriller 70s-style, with a raffishly handsome disenfranchised heroic loner facing up to a corrupt system against a sea of incredulous co-workers and informants, relying only on his wits and his determination to uncover the truth.
New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘Human Planet’ (following up on the stunning BBC nature series ‘Life’ and ‘Planet Earth’ comes this new one focusing on the complex [and often destructive] relationship of humans and nature; at least the pictures will be pretty…), ‘South Park’- season 14 (by now, you know if this venerable [and yet still outrageous] animated comedy is your bag, man…), Blood Out (Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson continues his direct-to-video relationship with Val Kilmer [see this year’s earlier release Gun, you know, if you want to be a completist]), Jolene (based on a short story by E.L. Doctrow [Ragtime], this indie drama about a young orphaned teen traveling across America and making terrible romantic choices with the likes of Chazz Palminteri, Dermot Mulroney, Michael Vartan, and a surprising number of others), ‘Testees’- the Complete Series (delightfully weird sitcom about a pair of slackers making a living by testing dangerous products), Square Grouper (as the imdb says: “A colorful portrait of Miami’s pot smuggling scene of the 1970s, populated with redneck pirates, a ganja-smoking church, and the longest serving marijuana prisoner in American history.”), ‘Desperate Housewives’- season 6 (this show is still happening, apparently…)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Les Amours Imaginaires (also known as
Heartbeats, this acclaimed French Canadian film about a love triangle among three close friends; we scored a Canadian import, so look for the bright red cover with all French writing on it!), ‘Shooting the Past’ (BBC miniseries about a group of photo archivists [led by the ever-excellent Timothy Spall] who resort to decidedly-un-photo-archivist behavior in order to thwart the attempts of a greedy American developer to tear down their beloved photo library), Muay Thai Fighter (this martial arts film from Thailand appears to be about…wait, I have it somewhere…if only there were some clue in the title…), Son of Kong (charmingly-low-budget sequel to King Kong has Carl Denham heading back to find another huge monkey, only to find the King’s much smaller, much nicer li’l guy), Chamber of Horrors/The Mask of Fu Manchu (Videoport brings you this double feature DVD which slams two largely-forgotten and completely-unrelated horror movies together: Chamber of Horrorsis about a one handed murderer who attaches various implements to his stump, sort of like a garden weasel; and Christopher Lee dons some un-PC ethnic
makeup in The Brides of Fu Manchu to play the dastardly Asian criminal mastermind who, this time, is kidnapping scientist’s daughters in order to force them to make him a death ray!), Tom & Jerry- volume 1 (psychotic cat and mouse comedy!), Barbie: A Fairy Secret (unrealistically-proportioned, toy-based animated kids stuff!), Lucky (often-depressing documentary about people with a seemingly-enviable problem, winning the lottery), One Way to Valhalla (oddball indie comedy about a working-class hothead who finds himself transformed into a nicer guy when he falls off his daughter’s bike and bonks his head), Critters(after literally years of relentless
badgering, Videoport’s owner Bill has finally caved in and replaced our DVD copy of this 1980s-era cult horror classic about voracious, toothy alien fuzzballs! We love Bill!), The Postman Always Rings Twice (the original John Garfield/Lana Turner classic film noir, finally on the DVD!), The Garden of Eden (based on an Ernest Hemingway story, a sun-drenched tale of a post WWII menage a trois with a veteran, his hot wife, and their hot girlfriend), The Sea Hawk (Errol Flynn doing what he does best, swashing and/or buckling as a patriotic British pirate), The Phantom Tollbooth (legendary Loony Tunes director Chuck Jones made this 1970 animated adaptation of the beloved children’s book by Norton Juster.)
Get some free money at Videoport with our super-smart payment deals! If you pay $20 up front on your rental account, you actually get $25 worth of rental credit. And, if you put down $30 up front, we reward you with $40 worth of rental credit. And that credit’s good for rentals and any pesky extra day charges. And it never expires. Until, you know, you spend it and stuff…
Coming next week: Probably something about movies!