VideoReport #300

Volume CCC- Dr. StrangeC.H.U.D. or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the C.H.U.D.s

For the Week of 5/17/11

Videoport’s got some stuff to say…

Hey gang. This, in case you’re not up on your Roman numerals, is the 300th issue of the VideoReport. The staff and customers of Videoport have put out an issue every week, for 300 weeks. We don’t get paid for it, none of us- we, movie geeks all, just can’t stop talking about movies, and we like sharing our thoughts on them with you. We write our movie reviews, our impossibly-geeky movie ramblings, our occasional scurrilous, libelous screeds against Hollywood figures that are so far out of our scope that we might as well be flicking rubber bands at 747s, but it keeps us sane and, theoretically, you entertained. So here’s to all of the people who’ve contributed to the VideoReport over the years, and to its readers who’ve supported the best, damned video store in the world. We promise to keep watching ’em, and writing about ’em. You just keep renting ’em from the best, damned video store in the world. We love you, you crazy kids. Now let’s talk about movies…

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.)

>>> Former Videoporter Stockman suggests The Zero Effect (in Mystery/Thriller.) I actually prefer Ben Stiller in dramatic roles. This is not to say I dislike his comedic ones, I mean I do usually (exception Dodgeball), but this is not to say that. If you’ve never seen the softer side of Stiller this is an excellent start. If you’ve seen him in Royal TennenbaumsI think you’ll understand what I’m going with. He’s a

"If Stiller doesn't get here soon, I am going to freak right the freak out..."

pretty good actor. He’s certainly no slouch in Zero Effect as the burdened liaison to Bill Pullman’s brilliant nut job detective. I will admit to not being very well read when it comes to Sherlock Holmes, my knowledge can be chalked up mostly to the Great Mouse Detective, episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and other Holmes-like homages. Yet despite this admittance of ignorance I’m still going to go right ahead and compare the two. Bill Pullman plays Darryl Zero the self proclaimed world’s greatest detective. Given his Holmesian (there is a distinct possibility I just made that word up) nature, the audience does not feel an overwhelming desire to disagree with his proclamation. But as with Holmes and all the best brilliant characters, with great ability comes great insanity. Darryl Zero does not function well, he is a hotbed of neurotic tendencies and it is Ben Stiller that interfaces between Darryl and the world. In short, this movie is brilliant. It is interesting, intelligent and easy to watch. The mystery and the perspectives of each character are engaging and hypnotic and well worth the journey. The movie isn’t flashy, it’s just damn well done.

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

>>> Dennis suggests 300 (in Action/Adventure.) I haven’t seen 300. But this is issue #300 of the VideoReport, and Andy suggested that I review 300 for issue 300, because that’s how Andy’s mind works. Unfortunately, neither he nor I have seen 300, so that’s how that went. Videoport’s Sam said he walked out of it because he found it kind of homophobic and racist. Sam is very smart. Sort of wish he’d been around to say that, but you get the idea. On a related note, anyone can write for the VideoReport. Especially people who have seen the movies they’re reviewing. (denmn@hotmail.com to submit…)

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 the Wednesday special for recuperation! Down with the flu? Slated for bedrest? Scheduled for oral surgery? Snuggle down with some ginger ale and the Wednesday special: four movies for seven days for seven bucks! You can enjoy a whole season of “Dexter” or “The West Wing” or “Mad Men” or “Futurama,” or watch all of “Firefly,” or catch up on the first season of “Community” (a show with a re-watch bonus almost as high as the legendary “Arrested Development”)!

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

>>> Dennis suggests The Freebie(in Feature Drama.) Sometimes, or is it all the time, it seems like the people in charge of selling a movie are working directly in opposition to the original intents and artistic dreams of the actual creative people who make movies. I know that it’s the job of distributors to get people

Anyone attracted to this poster will hate the movie. Anyone who'd like the movie will be turned off by the poster. Marketing!

to watch a movie they’re putting out, I guess by any means necessary. But if they create an ad campaign, a movie poster, or DVD box art which is deliberately misleading as to the actual content of the movie, isn’t that just going to either piss or turn people off? Seriously, if you create a sexy, silly cover for an ambitious, serious film, either you’re going to a.)disappoint the people attracted to such a cover when they don’t get what they were looking for or b.)keep people who would actually like such a film from ever renting it, or c.) both. For example, this film. I didn’t watch it, and had no real interest in watching it, essentially based on the cover art and title. (I mean, sure, I was not exactly jazzed to check out the newest Dax Shepard vehicle either, but more on that later…) The title, the tagline, and the cutesy cover with stars Shepard and Katie Aselton all wrapped up in a blanket and giving us a comically-cute ‘oops!’ look makes it look like a lowbrow, cheesy romantic comedy, and the premise (unhappy couple decides to give each other the titular ‘freebie’ one-night stand with someone else apiece) is the stuff of crappy guy comedies (see last year’s Hall Pass, etc.) But, since I had an undeniably-too-cool-not-to-tell reason to actually watch the thing (I got to interview star/director/writer Aselton) and I have to say The Freebie is really, really good. In addition to starring in this (and the very funny series ‘The League’), Aselton is married to indie filmmaker (and co-father of the so-called ‘mumblecore’ movement) Mark Duplass, and in this, her directorial debut, she shows a real affinity for that genre’s improvisational, conversational and emotionally-raw style, and creates a smart, legitimately moving examination of one couple’s misguided attempt to sort out their relationship. Shepard and Aselton play Darren and Annie, a genuinely-happy, compulsively-honest couple who admit, one night, that their sex life has become routine. And so the ‘one-night stand’ plan. What’s truly impressive is how organically the premise gets

Writer/director/star/Maine native/hilarious...trying to think how she could be cooler. Nope, there's no way.

introduced; the two actors so ably create a very specifically-believable couple that you go along with their reasoning, even though you are pretty sure they’re making a terrible mistake. That’s a credit to the two actors, in more ways than one. I noticed that there are no writing credits listed for The Freebie on IMDb, and none in the movie itself, and Aselton confirmed to me on the phone (that’s the last time I name drop, I promise), that, while she wrote her film’s outline, the entire thing was improvised. And, while Aselton’s background in the mumblecore genre, and the improv-heavy ‘The League’ reveals that she’s got the chops for such an undertaking (and she is heartbreaking, winning, and lovely), the real revelation is Shepard. You might recognize him from comedies of such variable quality as Let’s Go to Prison, Idiocracy, Without a Paddle, and Baby Mama, but absolutely nothing in his previous work suggested he could pull something like this off. As the two go through their painful journey into sexual adventurousness and, maybe, back again, the two actors make us care, and empathize, every step of the way, with Aselton’s sure hand behind the camera providing sensitive, sure guidance. I popped this DVD in, honestly, out of a sense of obligation and, largely thanks to how it was marketed, absolutely no expectations whatsoever. I finished it with a continued respect for Aselton, a newfound one for Shepard, and a reaffirmed belief that movie marketing is headed up, by and large, by a team of trained chimps with cocaine habits. Ignore the cover, watch the movie.

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

>>>Andy gives 5 more reasons to rent Star Trek – the Animated Series for free (let’s see, these are reasons 16 through 20). Someone please watch this great show!

1. Watch Star Trek – TAS for it’s great guest stars: Ted Knight (from Caddyshack and The Mary Tyler Moore Show), TV and radio star Ed Bishop, and more!

2. “The Lorelei Signal” is the only episode of any Star Trek show in which Lt. Uhura takes command of the Enterprise. Uhura is awesome!

3. Captain Kirk never actually said “Beam me up, Scotty” in any Star Trek episode, but in two Animated Series episodes he does say, “Beam us up, Scotty.” Close enough for me!

4. The episode “Mudd’s Passion” is a sequel to the Original Series episodes “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd.” All feature the actor Roger C. Carmel, also known from The Dick Van Dyke Show, Batman, and Hogan’s Heroes. He’s a blast!

5. The character of Kor, played by John Colicos, is the first Klingon to appear in Star Trek – the Original Series. Kor also appears in the Animated Series episode “The Time Trap,” but his voice is provided by James “Scotty” Doohan. That’s pretty interesting!

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Canvasman: The Robbie Ellis Story (in Documentary.) How many dreams of yours have you made come true? Not sloppy, half-dreams like, “I have kids” or “my wife/husband is my best friend” or something like that, but actual dreams; goals or secret desires you set for yourself that seemed out of reach but that you went after yourself and actually made happen? Is there one? Did you ever even have one? Well here’s a documentary about a 65 year old man, from right around the corner from you, who has achieved two seemingly completely-antithetical dreams, who is happy with what he’s accomplished, and yet humble about them. It’s almost enough to make you hate him out of jealously, if he weren’t so completely-likeable, and if his journey weren’t so unlikely and eccentric. The story of Rob Elowitch, a nice Jewish boy from Portland who became a successful art gallery owner and dealer, all the while pursuing his secret passion to be a professional wrestler (under the nom du ring Robbie Ellis), Canvasman is a testament to those willing to follow their inner weirdness, no matter what the risks. The film, directed by Portlander Gary Robinov, tails Robbie through both of the disparate worlds he travels so confidently. Gearing up for the huge one-day-a-year auction which determines his gallery’s financial future and gearing up (literally) with tight silvery ring shorts to grapple in ill-attended pro matches in high-school gyms against beefed-up guys a third his age, Ellis/Elowitch approaches each task with the impish-yet-dedicated glee of a guy tickled that he’s getting away with doing exactly what he wants. The film, crisply-structured by Robinov, intercuts these details of Ellis/Elowitch’s double life with interviews with family (including Robbie’s completely-supportive wife), tales of growing up Jewish and marginalized in Maine, and footage of the day-to-day realities involved in excelling at both of his chosen professions. Sure, the Ellis half may never have become the Rock or Ric Flair (an obvious, more-successful template), but he’s in great shape for a guy in his 60s (or any age, really), works hard, and has achieved no small measure of success in the independent wrestling game (and a famous Sports Illustrated profile which finally outed him to his art patrons.) (Plus, we see his most recent art auction rake in some big bucks.) It’s a compelling, improbably-inspiring portrait of a seemingly down-to-earth guy who just chose not to let the fact that he had two oddball and, one would think, incompatible dreams keep him from achieving both.

>>>For Sunday, Former Videoporter Stockman rebuts Videoport’s Regan and her “Defense of Diablo Cody” in last week’s VideoReport with The Diablo Cody Offense: “The unworthiness of Diablo Cody.”  I consider the Oscars to have no value in an argument either for or against something. It’s like getting a bumper sticker saying “My Movie is an Honor Roll Student at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences”. That’s how much weight I put on that statue. So let’s move on. The key word here is “unworthiness”. I agree Juno is a perfectly fine movie. Fine is in fact an excellent word for it, fine is a bland simple adjective of no note. Like being called nice. It expresses flavorless mediocrity. I would not argue that Diablo Cody or Juno are horrible, painful, awful, detestable, heck no. But I would argue that Diablo Cody express a certain flavorless mediocrity which causes her to be unworthy of the grand accolades she received for Juno. Audiences, friends, family, critics, dogs, cats and the ever inept academy alike all had a veritable meltdown over how amazing Juno was. Diablo Cody made people think their brains had exploded with awesome. When in fact Juno was a perfectly fine movie. It was not bad, but it certainly had some pretty contrived, forced slightly painful dialogue. I wasn’t not entertained, I loved Bateman and J.K. Simmons and its funness! But there were plenty of things that were just off about it. Averaging it out to be…an average movie. Thus unworthy of above average noteworthiness. And I did forget United States of Tara, why? Because its average. Oh hey Diablo Cody I’m noticing a theme! It was entertaining, but not so entertaining that I remembered to finish the first season. I think about it in passing to try and remember to catch an episode or two here and there, but in general. Meh. Just like Diablo Cody herself. And for the record…I was not interested in the Sweet Valley High books growing up, so I’m sure any and all references will be way over my head. But damn it if I won’t lose out on a whipped cream vodka because any movie involving teen twins awash in high school drama makes me absolutely rip-s**t jizzy-jazzed and you damn well know it Regan!

*Next: the great Diablo Cody debate between Regan and Stockman rages on, and I know way, way better than to get in the middle of that mess!

New Releases this week at Videoport: The Rite (Anthony Hopkins livens up this otherwise-ordinary demonic possession flick with his trademark, and most welcome, hamminess; but can we all just ask why a PG-13-rated version of The Exorcist was a good idea?), The Mechanic (Jason Statham takes over from a previous generation’s hard guy Charles Bronson in this action flick about an insanely-muscly hitman teaching his trade to a young apprentice; check out the Action/Adventure section at Videoport for

"Look, you're 45 years old now. It's time to actually become Superman and, you know, fight me or something..."

the Bronson-ified original), ‘Smallville’- season 9 (the penultimate season of the proto-Superman series hits the DVD, with Tom Welling’s Superboy now rapidly approaching middle age), ‘Covert Affairs’- season 1 (Piper Perabo plays an arse-kicking CIA agent in this action-heavy thriller series that someone online compared favorably to “Burn Notice”; and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the people on the inter-webs know what they’re talking about at all times…), ‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”- season 5 (I remain precariously balanced between ‘amused’ and ‘repulsed’ when watching this hyperactive, utterly-bizarre sketch comedy show starring the two most unappealing men on the planet), The Fergusons (this dark comedy/horror flick about a family of very whitebread, seemingly-friendly suburban family who turn out to be cannibals resides, perhaps unsurprisingly, in Videoport’s Incredibly Strange section), Daydream Nation (Kat Dennings [currently stealing Natalie Portman’s thunder in Thor] stars in this romantic drama about a city girl who movies back to her small town and causes all manner of erotic entanglements), Thor: Tales of Asgard (speaking of the currently-hot god of thunder, Marvel Comics puts out this animated movie about him just hammering the bejeezus out of some stuff), The Roommate (two starlets named, improbably, ‘Leighton’ and ‘Minka’ re-enact Single White Female in this PG-13 evil roommate thriller that exists, for some reason), The Brotherhood (exists! You can rent it!), The Violent Kind (it’s modern-day bikers versus possessed, demonic 50’s bikers in a secluded cabin in the woods in this grim ‘n’ gritty horror thriller), Black Death (Sean Bean climbs back into his Lord of the Rings armor in this appropriately-nasty, sword-y action flick about a monk sent to find out why one tiny village is the only place in England not covered in bleeding pustules.)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Kika (the only Pedro Almodovar film that was never released on DVD has now been released on DVD; you’re welcome!), Wartorn: 1861-2010 (thought-provoking HBO documentary about the oft-ignored legacy of post-traumatic stress disorder in American soldiers), ‘The Wild Throneberrys’- season 1 (the adventures of a globe-trotting animated family in this kids series), ‘Law and Order SVU”- season 9 (Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay continue to grimly pursue all the worst sex criminals New York City has to offer.)

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