Volume CCCI- C.H.U.D. on a Hot Tin Roof
For the Week of 5/24/11
Videoport: All of World Cinema, in one convenient, locally-owned, inexpensive, non-corporate, knowledgeable, helpful place, right in your neighborhood. Or, you know, you could have some faceless mega-corporation mail you ‘Legally Blonde 2’ in a paper envelope in a couple of days. We’re not here to judge.
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 getting your inner geek on for Middle Aisle Monday! Sometimes I’m still shocked that my nerd love has finally become cool and popular. Twelve year old Michelle would be flabbergasted while she cries in her bedroom to ‘Everybody Hurts’ because she’s not even vaguely cool or popular. Other than the token cult hits, there weren’t a lot of cinematic/televised options for her to enjoy. I mean sure with the surge of fantasy and science fiction there’s an unfathomable amount of crap; but there’s also been a fair amount of gems that have significantly expanded the selection. And I thank my lucky stars for them because here are the gems I’d be recommending otherwise:
–Krull (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) You never knew you could feel that way about a Cyclops.
–Masters of the Universe (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) Most nerds know this but Dolph Lundgren has a Masters in Chemical Engineering. Yet apparently it seemed like a good idea to play He-Man. Actually that kind of makes sense. If I was a buff science nerd it would probably be a dream come true too. I almost wrote an angry letter to Entertainment Weekly because they implied because Dolph was a science nerd he would lose in a fight against his fellow Expendables cast. How does that make sense? If the science nerds of the world were as ripped as Dolph they would know the physics of how to kill you seventeen different ways with a wheel of cheese alone. It’d be a bloodbath. If only the new G.I.Joe movie had been this entertainingly, hypnotically shi**y. I’d have had epic G.I. Joe/He-Man movie marathons.
–Return of the King(in Animation.) Even though I never read the books I used to watch this cartoon constantly. Why? Because twelve year old Michelle’s horrible addiction to television caused her to be in a perpetual state of watching anything. Including operatic cartoons of conclusions to series. I don’t know why
Arthur Rankin did cartoons for the Hobbit and for Return of the King but didn’t do anything for the other two movies. I’m not sure it even struck me as odd that I didn’t know the middle of the story until much later in life. April and I used to put this on the back screen at Videoport and giggle ourselves to tears. Seriously, it’s an epically overdramatized operatic journey. My Dad used to play opera so loudly it literally shook the house, so I’m not dropping the operatic word lightly. This is a cartoon rock opera, in the best painful way possible.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests that all of you fans of Action or Classic section movies write for the VideoReport! Send your action or classic movie reviews (or any others you’ve got just sitting around) to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop them off at the store! Only you can prevent Tuesday filler…
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 ‘Rescue Me’(in Feature Drama.) Picture this: a post-9/11 workplace dramedy about life in and around a NYC firehouse, centering on the daily life of Tommy Gavin, who is
haunted by the memory of his lost comrades and of strangers he could not save. Yikes — it sounds dreary, preachy, and probably insufferably maudlin, doesn’t it? But smart, snarky Rescue Me avoids all those pitfalls: it doesn’t glorify these firefighters or glamorize their tragedy or trauma. The firefighters of Ladder 62 aren’t romantic figures or grand figures; they’re regular guys, deeply flawed and deeply human, who chose a dangerous, challenging, and sometimes scarring vocation, and who have suffered far more than they could have foreseen. Like most people who work too close to death, they submerge themselves in gallows humor to break the tension, and like so many fraternal troops, they indulge themselves in some genuinely vile bigotries. When the humor of Rescue Me veers into unacceptable intolerance, that’s perfectly believable: the humor goes there because the characters do. Rescue Me turns out to be the perfect vehicle for Denis Leary’s sometimes tiring schtick. His deadpan delivery gives Tommy Gavin’s dialogue an ambiguous edge, especially when he’s busting the chops of a new recruit. You can almost hear his colleagues trying to puzzle out sarcasm from sincerity, and failing most of the time.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Andy suggests Pretty in Pink (in Feature Drama.) I just recently saw John Hughes’s ’80s teen classic Pretty in Pink for the first time. I liked it, and I can see why it is so fondly remembered. It’s enthusiastically performed by a mostly-good cast, full of great music (by New Order, OMD, Psychedelic Furs, and others), evocative of a time and place long gone, and it resonates with some real emotion. Despite all that, it is not what I would call a “well told story.” Several points are unclear and the character relationships are not well-defined. I’d like to recommend this movie to people who haven’t seen it, but I think it would help to make some points clear to the new viewer:
-Andy and Benny are girls; Steph, Duckie, and Blaine are boys. Come on, Hughes.
-Duckie (Jon Cryer) and Andy (Molly Ringwald) are good friends. This needs to be pointed out because their relationship is unclear for the first third of the film. Duckie comes off as a spazzy stalker and Andy seems to only barely tolerate his presence. Only later is it established that they’ve been close friends for many years.
-Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) is a good guy and a legitimate love interest for Andy. The character appears to be pushy, vacant, oblivious, unappealing, and spineless. While watching the movie, I expected Andy to get wise to this at some point, but it didn’t happen. Eventually I understood that we’re supposed to like Blaine for his good qualities, which are less apparent than his bad ones.
-Steph (James Spader) is an 18-year-old high school student. He looks 35 and wears Don Johnson suits while
chain-smoking in the school hallway. He is never shown in class or doing anything remotely studious. It’s frustrating trying to guess why he’s even at the school, so it helps to know beforehand that he is a student.
-Annie Potts’s character is actually 15 years older than the other characters. She doesn’t look like she’s in her 30s, but characters make references to her as an “older woman.”
-I have other complaints about Pretty in Pink, but I don’t want to spoil all the fun of experiencing this charming, but flawed, movie for the first time. The points above are intended only to clear up some parts of the movie that made my first viewing so challenging and confusing.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>Andy suggests, for the fifth week in a row, that SOMEONE in Portland rent ‘Star Trek- The Animated Series.’ The only way to stop this nonsense is to rent a disc of this show. It’s free on Friday! Here are five more reasons to rent ‘ST:TAS’:
1. In the episode ‘The Anjorian Quadrant,’ every character is voiced by William Shatner.
2. The episode ‘The Turquoise Endeavor‘ is the directing debut of Martin Scorcese.
3. The character of Jean-Luc Picard (from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’) is introduced in the episode ‘The Charlatan of Jenga-Tar.’ The character is killed in a duel with a Klingon (one reason why the animated series is not considered ‘canon’.)
4. In a major departure from ‘Star Trek- The Original Series,’ the tribbles can speak English. Captain Kirk has a pet tribble named ‘Jim Junior’ who advises him on important matters.
5. One of the above bits of ‘Star Trek’ trivia is not true! Guess which one!
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Freeze Frame (in Mystery/Thriller.) I love a good, gimmicky thriller, one with an irresistibly-compelling and delightfully-improbable central conceit that sets the whole thing in motion. Some favorites include: Cube (trapped in a cube), Memento (can’t make new memories), Exam (um, taking a really weird exam), the ‘Tabula Rasa’ episode of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (everybody’s got amnesia), Blink, Jennifer 8 and Wait Until Dark (she’s blind), and now this dark, weird, and disturbing little thriller from creepy old England. (Even a bad movie with a good gimmick, like Frozen (trapped on a chair lift), Unknown (everyone’s got amnesia again), or Devil (trapped in an elevator, with the devil) will lure me to watch it.) Freeze Frame‘s hook: a man was once accused of the horrific murder of a family but due to police malfeasance, his trial was declared invalid. His reputation ruined, and the cops still very vocal as to his guilt, the man retreats into a cavernous underground lair and (GIMMICK AHEAD) videotapes literally every second of his life in order to document his whereabouts so that he can’t be blamed for any subsequent crimes. Oh, and he’s shaved off all of his body hair and wears rubber gloves all the time so as not to leave any traces of himself. It’s a good premise, made more compelling by the actor Lee Evans. Looking like a tortured alien (shaving your eyebrows is always a surefire way to make yourself extra creepy), Evans’ tormented protagonist has clearly been driven more than slightly mad by his ordeal (although in voiceovers he tries to convince us he hasn’t), and Evans, usually known as a rubber-bodied, likeable physical comedian (Mouse Hunt, There’s Something About Mary, Funny Bones) brings both a vulnerable pathos and the ever-present hint that he may be guilty after all. Sure, the film lets Evans out into the world a little too often for my taste (although the gimmick is maintained through a multiple-camera harness he wears when he leaves his lair), but a good premise is a good premise, and Freeze Frame makes decent use of a good one.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Cold Creek Manor (in Mystery/Thriller.) I can’t really recommend it as such, but if you get stuck watching it, you’ll see what I mean. This is a weird little artifact: the movie is a total disaster of artless writing, half-hearted direction, and absurd not-scary twists. At the same time, it’s a fascinating nest of unconscious revelation of masculine anxieties — though I’d be hard-pressed to say whether it’s the writer’s mind or the director’s we’re seeing here. Whoever it is, it’s someone grappling hard with questions of potency and sexual doubts. The premise, a simple and familiar one: a family decides to escape the hectic, dangerous city for a sprawling house in the country. How does such a simple story get all
wound up in a mess of machismo? Start with a resentful house-husband (Dennis Quaid) and a successful career woman (Sharon Stone) and add: a missing-family mystery to be solved, a swaggering hick (Stephen Dorff) with a swinging [redacted], some fruitless but vivid side trips to visit someone’s Crazy Old Daddy (Christopher Plummer, whose brief performance does a lot to redeem this sad mess of nothing), and some actual literal concerns about actual literal sterility. Then add a bunch o’ snakes set to go off as if released by a timer! Seriously, it’s a Freudian nightmare. Not only does the film seethe with metaphorical and literal anxieties around male virility and fertility, but the story itself is put into motion by the danger of female power and, more specifically, the risk of female faithlessness. (Notice that the very first words in the film neatly place blame for all ensuing action on the mother, who is too preoccupied with the needs of her career to perform even a small task for her family’s well-being. Phew! Without a female scapegoat, it might have seemed like the crappy dad was a crappy dad or something!)
New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘Michael and Michael Have Issues’- The Complete Series
(the titular Michaels in question are the brilliant and hilarious Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black, whose work in things like Wet Hot American Summer, ‘The State’, The Baxter, and ‘Stella’; if you aren’t impressed by those names, watch those things, then watch this; you’ll thank yourself), The Other Woman (America’s sweetheart Natalie Portman brings her particular brand of bland, mom-pleasing earnestness to this dramedy about a grad student who has an affair with a married professor and then must deal with the perhaps-understandable resentment of his son; directed by the guy who did The Opposite of Sex, which is still very good…), Elephant White (Djimon Honsou and Kevin Bacon star in this action thriller about an assassin hired by a wealthy businessman to take out the Thai slave traders that slave-traded his daughter), Gnomeo and Juliet (“Hey, I know! You know what sounds sort of like ‘Romeo and Juliet?’ GNOMEO and Juliet!” Yup, that’s the premise of this animated Shakespearean retelling, but at least the cast is insanely overqualified, with Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Patrick Stewart and, well, Hulk Hogan and Ozzy Osbourne lending their voices; and, again, I can only hope there was a full cast wrap party, and that someone taped it…), I Am Number Four (a hunky young man finds himself heir to a slew of magical powers and must survive the wrath of the baddies out to destroy him in this teen-y fantasy/sci fi thriller that in no way is intended to resemble the absurdly-lucrative Harry Potter franchise in any way…), Fertile Ground (the After Dark Horror Fest people bring you this horror tale about a city slicker couple moving out to the country and, well, there’s a bloody skull on the cover, so it probably didn’t go very well…), Seconds Apart (another one from the After Dark Horror Fest people, this one’s about a pair of creepy, telekinetic twins whose enemies start dying in gruesome ways), Public Speaking (Martin Scorsese directs this film biography of author Fran Lebowitz; you heard right, this is a new Martin Scorsese picture you didn’t know about!!!), Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (documentary about the historical, and typically-inexplicable, fascination of the Japanese people with bugs.)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: BRONSON!!!! Yup, Videoport brings in a truckload of Charles Bronson semi-classics to rough you up real good! Unsurprisingly, you’ll find these in the ACTION section: Mr. Majestyk(the Mob messes with the wrong melon farmer in this 1974 action flick, with Chuck, in a cool
beret, dealing out cool, juicy vengeance), Death Wish 2&3 (Bronson’s descent into direct-to-VHS [at the time] hell began with these increasingly gratuitous and unnecessary sequels, but who doesn’t like to watch Chuck waste some punks? A double-shot of punk-wasting!), Death Wish 4 & Assassination (one might ask why the company releasing these Bronson double feature discs didn’t throw Death Wish 5 in instead of The Assassination [Chuck’s Secret Service guy protects the First Lady], but, as I recall, they’re doing us a favor leaving that one out. Viva Bronson!), The Great Dictator (the cinema gods at the Criterion Collection have finally gotten around to putting out a super-deluxe edition of the Charlie Chaplin classic; includes a full-length documentary on the film, narrated by Kenneth Branagh), A Small Act (inspirational documentary about a young Kenyan man who uses the charitable sponsorship of a Swedish stranger to get an education and then found his own sponsorship charity), Transcendent Man (documentary about the life and ideas of futurist Ray Kurzweil who envisions a time in the near future when technology will evolve so rapidly that we will have to augment ourselves with artificial intelligence just to keep up; I’m sure the fact that literally no science fiction author in history has ever thought up anything but a horrible, dystopian nightmare based on that premise means this plan won’t turn out just fine…), Lemonade Mouth (from the spunky tween assembly line at Disney comes this musical about a group of misfit students who form a rock band to show everyone that you, too, can succeed, even if you’re different [you know, as long as you’re skinny, pretty, and have wholesome rock songs written for you]; plus, that is the worst title ever, right?), Burning Palms (a multiethnic gaggle of young B-listers [Nick Stahl, Zoe Saldana, Paz Vega, Lake Bell, Rosamund Pike] star in this kinky dark comedy about the erotic adventures of pretty people in Los Angeles; its placement in Videoport’s Incredibly Strange section gives some hope…), 20/20 (Portland filmmakers Kate Kaminski and Betsy Carson have re-edited their short film, an end-of-the-world thriller that was their contribution to the all-Maine horror omnibus Damnationland; you can rent this one for free!), The Age of Stupid (the late Pete Postlehwaite stars in this hybrid documentary about a future archivist trying to figure out why in the holy hell the people of the 21st century didn’t do anything about global warming), Death Warrant (1990s vintage Jean Claude Van Damme is back at Videoport! Your welcome…)