Volume CCCIV- Rocky Horror Picture C.H.U.D.
For the Week of 6/14/11
Videoport gives you a free rental every, single day. If anyone has a problem with that, well, we apologize.
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 Star Wars (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) Call it “Episode IV,” call it “A New Hope,” call it whatever you want, but when I say “Star Wars,” you know what I’m talking about: I’m talking about that splashy, soppy space opera that enraptured a whole generation of kids — and adults, too. I’m not going to tell you about the movie, really. You know the story — or if you don’t, boy oh boy, is there a treat in store for you! I’m going to talk about nostalgia: about the pleasure of bundling up on a cold Sunday afternoon, or sitting down after a long hard day, dimming the lights, and immersing yourself in a world of storytelling. Just listening to the overture, watching that sloping yellow opening text crawl backwards into the screen — it invokes a whole world of adventure, even as it conjures up the safety and simplicity of childhood.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Andy suggests Duel In The Sun (in Classics). Producer David O. Selznick sure knew how to make a prestige picture. Best known for the Best Picture Oscar winners Gone With The Windand Alfred
Hitchcock’s Rebecca, Selznick made Duel In The Sun, an attempt recreate the huge-scale success of GWTW, in 1946. In some ways Duel is a lot like GWTW. It’s an overblown soap opera with an A-list cast, huge set pieces, and gorgeous Technicolor images, all dripping with sex. Plus, Butterfly McQueen! It’s the story of a half-Indian girl (Jennifer Jones) with a tragic past who goes to live on a ranch called Spanish Bit, where she is attracted to two brothers. The good brother, played by Joseph Cotton, and the bad boy brother, played by Gregory Peck, vie for her love, to the dismay or their Indian-hating father (Lionel Barrymore). This simple story, played out on an epic scale, takes two and a half hours to tell. But with all the twists and turns, both predictable and genuinely unexpected, it’s never dull. It’s difficult to be bored by a movie where there’s hardly an un-sleazy moment. Jones constantly shoots fiery, lusty looks at the brothers, and Peck can sneer with the best of ’em. Cotton… well, he plays the good guy, so it’s kind of a relief when his character leaves town and sits out the middle of the movie while Spanish Bit descends into unbridled decadence. By the way, it’s nice to see Gregory Peck play an unlikable prick for a change. Of course, I love him as those dignified, righteous characters he’s known for (think Gentleman’s Agreement and To Kill A Mockingbird). But as Lewt in Duel In The Sun, he proves that he could have made a career out of playing leering, murderous bastards, too.
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!)
>>> Dennis suggests using the Wednesday special (4 movies, 7 days, 7 bucks) to get to know a character actor! This week: Peter Riegert!“Character actor” is one of those appellations, like
“middle reliever”, that no one really sets out to be. When your growing up at home, reciting monologues in a mirror, or tossing curveballs against the garage, you’re not dreaming of being known as either of those things; your dreams are of Oscar night, or pitching game one of the world series. Nope, both of those things are where you end up when life’s grinding tutelage reveals that your looks are a little too recessive, that your fastball doesn’t have enough movement on it. So you grind back, carving out your spot, one just left of the spotlight, and you make a living. But there’s a place for such role-players and if they’re rarely the star of the moment, they’re often just as indispensable, and beloved. Maybe they’re just more relatable to the rest of us (you know those of us not named Brad Pitt or Josh Beckett) and so we revel in their more modest accomplishments and feel inordinately proud when they get the rare opportunity to star and come up big. Which brings me to Peter Riegert. Born in ’47, kinda short, wavy hair, big nose- you’d know him if you saw him (chasing after Jim Carrey in The Mask, paying big-time for being a weasel to Michael Caine in A Shock to the System, playing Danny’s a-hole father on an episode of ‘Sports Night’, as the crooked alderman who finds out it’s safer to get in bed, figuratively, with Tony Soprano than to do so, literally, with one of Tony’s ex-mistresses. Plays a lot of cops and lawyers now.) Most recognize the young Peter as Boone, Tim Matheson’s snarky sidekick (and Karen Allen’s lucky boyfriend) in Animal House; he’s wry, and compactly-handsome, and gets in some memorable lines (“Wait’ll Otis sees us! He loves us!”) as one of the gang in what was once the highest-grossing comedy of all time. So that’s something. He had a nice supporting role in Chilly Scenes of Winter(1979), a very good adaptation of Anne Beattie’s very good
novel, which is out of print and hasn’t been released on DVD ever (you can borrow my personal VHS copy if you look responsible enough.) But my enduring respect (and love) for the man comes from two movies, really. First: Crossing Delancey (1988) where Riegert got his chance to play a romantic lead for a change, and proved himself a very charming, capable, and soulful partner to the equally-winning (and lovely) Amy Irving. Playing Sam Posner, a Brooklyn pickle salesman wooing Irving’s upwardly-mobile bookseller, Riegert plays the kind of romantic, yet clear-eyed and grounded, man every romantic comedy sorely needs but so rarely has. His pickle man, with his twinkly eyes and his rumpled face, reveals a longing soul and a true romantic streak, all the while maintaining his footing in reality; listen to his speech when he finally calls the interested-but-dreaming-of-“bigger things” Irving on the way she’s been taking him for granted- that’s great acting. A charming, very New York, romantic comedy for grownups. The second film is director Bill Forsythe’s Local Hero (1983.) When people at Videoport ask me what my favorite movie is, I say this one. Always. Sure, there may be other contenders, and the question may be too big for me to answer without having a ten minute sitdown to think things over (and you don’t have that kind of time), so I say Local Hero is my favorite movie of all time. And I’m always telling the truth. Riegert is a master of understated comedy, and longing, as MacIntyre, the decidedly-not-Scottish juior oil executive sent from Texas (by a delightfully-eccentric, yet hardnosed Burt Lancaster) to negotiate the sale of an entire, remote Scottish village, the only place suitable to despoil for a new transatlantic oil pipeline. Starting out efficient and officious, Mac wanders into the village of Furness, alongside a dreamy, wistful young Scot’s oil exec [In the Loop‘s Peter Capaldi], and gradually comes under the spell of the place; its scenery, its
peacefulness, and the gentle weirdness of its inhabitants. While still, theoretically, negotiating the sale of everything he’s falling in love with, Mac is befriended by Denis Lawson’s de facto town mayor (and hotelier, barman, lawyer) Gordon, who sees right through Mac’s clumsy inquiries and has the town primed to take the Yanks to the cleaner, all the while genuinely taking to his new pal. I said the place puts MacIntyre under its spell, and the movie does the same for me; there’s a gentle, inexplicable alchemy at work in Local Hero, one that I’ve rarely encountered since in a movie. Mark Knopfler’s haunting score, eccentric little comic touches nibbling around the corners of the frame, some tantalizing hints that things are much, much odder than you think they are, and the gradual encroachment of some darker truths creeping in along the way- it’s a spell, and it stays with me. And Riegert is magnificent, revealing the real loneliness inside the ambitious professional which makes him so susceptible to Furness’ beguiling magic. The drunken late-night bar talk between Mac and Gordon is simply the best-played, loveliest comic set piece I’ve ever seen, and there are a dozen more just like it. I’ve got an original British poster for Local Hero poster on my living room wall, Riegert, briefcase in hand, his suit pants rolled up in the Scottish tide, as he looks, quietly befuddled, at what his life has become. Let’s hear it for the character actors, and Peter Riegert.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Rounders(in Feature Drama.) I’ve reviewed this before at length, (I’ll link to it, for you internet readers), but watching it again recently, I came to the realization that it remains the only truly great poker movie for one simple reason: the final showdown comes down, not to an improbable
string of ‘everyone’s got the greatest hand you could possibly have’ one-trumpery, but to a mental master game between two players trying to out-think each other. See, that’s why poker’s so great (and such an oft-misused metaphor in fiction.) So unlike movies like Maverick, Casino Royale, even The Cincinnati Kid which all create crowd-pleasing (read: stupid and improbable) tension and release out of truly, astronomically improbable runs of cards and ridiculous luck, only Rounders gets to the heart of what Leonard Cohen called ‘The holy game of poker.” Plus, you know, it’s a great movie.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Someone finally rented several discs of ‘Star Trek’-the Animated Series’! Andy’s long, national nightmare is over! Sleep well, my friend…
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis says, “How about a rundown of some of the ways Videoport is awesome?”
1. Videoport payment deals! Pay $20 onto your rental account and receive $25 worth of rental credit. Pay $30 to get $40 worth of rental credit.
2. There’s a free rental every day at Videoport.
3. Videoport has, oh, all the movies in the world, ever! C’mon!!!
4. Videoport can duplicate your old movies for you. Fast, cheap and reliable!
5. You get a free movie rental with every movie you purchase at Videoport.
6. We are not a faceless, corporate entity dedicated to driving local businesses out of business, we’re locally-owned, fiercely-independent, and proud of it.
7. We only hire people who do nothing but watch movies all day, every day. Make their loneliness work for you!
8. We’ll even get you free parking downtown. Just ask.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests The Straight Story (in Feature Drama.) Some critics hailed The Straight Story as a departure for David Lynch, saying the straightforward (and G-rated) film made welcome change from his trademark surrealist ambiguity. The Straight Story is based on an actual event: 73-year-old Alvin Straight’s failing vision (and subsequent loss of his driver’s license) prevented him from driving to visit his stricken brother. But Alvin, never one to ask for help or take no for an answer, figured out an unconventional solution: he equipped his riding mower with a trailer (for cargo and a bunk) and drove the darned thing out onto the road, preparing to cover 240 miles at an excruciatingly slow pace. It’s a deceptively simple tale on its surface, a poetically unhurried road movie focusing on Alvin’s modest adventures and the people he encounters on his journey. And believe me, that’s plenty: between Lynch’s note-perfect scene-setting, Richard Farnsworth’s quiet but evocative performance as the taciturn Alvin, and Sissy Spacek’s arresting supporting role as Alvin’s daughter Rose, it’s an incredibly rich and almost peaceful film. But beneath the biographical story, Lynch thoughtfully layers meaning for viewers willing to unpack it. Notice the progression of Alvin’s meetings and conversations with strangers, starting with a young girl with a baby in her belly, moving on to middle age, and ending with grave talk in a graveyard: it’s an unspoken journey through the stages of life. Another ambiguous Lynchian undertone shows up in Alvin’s tale (and I want to be clear that it’s Farnsworth’s fictional representation of Alvin I’m talking about here) of Rose’s children and an accident that happened “one night when somebody else was watching the kids.” Attentive viewers, alert to the implications Lynch weaves with the collision of images and words, might draw their own conclusions about who shoulders the responsibility for that sorrow. But most powerfully, the film is overlaid with the deep but gentle remorse accumulated in a lifetime of attrition, and at its core is an old man’s hard-won willingness to, in Alvin’s words, “separate the wheat from the chaff and let the small stuff fall away.” There is breathtaking beauty in this journey.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Battle: Los Angeles (Aaron Eckhart attempts to fight off a pesky alien invasion, Black Hawk Down style in this sci fi/action extravaganza), Red Riding Hood (Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman star in this ‘edgy and dark’ take on the innocent childhood fairy tale about the vicious wolf that devours that old woman…), Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen
Zhen (martial arts superstar Donnie Yen [IP Man, Kill Zone, about two dozen other movies in Videoport’s ‘Made in Hong Kong’ section] stars in this action flick about a nigh-unstoppable Chinese masked fighter who kicks the bejeezus out of the invading Japanese in WWII), Hall Pass (the Farrelly Brothers [There’s Something About Mary] attempt comedic relevance again with this typically-raunchy tale of a pair of cowed husbands [Owen Wilson, Jason Sudekis] give the titular, slangy opportunity to cheat by their wives), ‘The Glades’- season 1 (mystery series about a no-nonsense Chicago cop who moves down to Florida and finds himself up to his navel in murder; Navel! Get it? Like oranges? Anyone? Let;s move on…), ‘Haven’- season 1 (an FBI agent is assigned to check out the various mysterious goings-on in the titular Maine village in this series; don’t let the fact that it was actually filmed in Nova Scotia and is about as Maine-y as and Idaho potato bias you against it in any way…), Jackass 3.5 (didn’t get enough poop and groin-injury from Jackass 3? Well, here’s an expanded version! You’re welcome!), Kill the Irishman (‘Rome’s Ray Stevenson stars in this mob thriller about a real-life 70’s Irish enforcer who tries to take over organized crime in Cleveland; costarring Christopher Walken, Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer, and Paul Sorvino), ‘Southland’- season 2 (this well-regarded cop show was cancelled by NBC for being ‘too dark’ before being picked up by TNT; ‘too dark for network television’ sounds like a compliment to me…), Rubber (ever dedicated to bringing you the weirdest and most inexplicable, Videoport presents this Incredibly Strange section-destined horror movie…about a sentient automobile tire that can kill with its mind!!!), Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son (Martin Lawrence continues to make these movies, even after ’30 Rock’ satirized his efforts with ‘Honky Grandma Be Trippin’‘? Huh. Good luck…)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Shot in the Dark (in this 2003 documentary, ‘Entourage”s Adrien Grenier set out to reconnect with his estranged father), Adrift (in this Brazilian drama, Black Swan’s Vincent Cassel stars as a writer whose teenage daughter’s coming of age is complicated when she discovers some uncomfortable truths about him), Sveener and the Shmiel (low budget, indie comedy about a guy trying to steer his simpleminded brother through various adventures, romantic and otherwise; find it in the Incredibly Strange section), Can Go Through Skin (after a traumatic assault, a young woman heads out to an isolated farmhouse to heal in this intense Dutch drama; look to Videoport’s resident Dutchelsman Dennis2 for a review in the near future), Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (old horses Robert Duvall and Richard Harris starred in this 1993 comedy/drama about the unlikely friendship between a drunken Irish former sea captain and a shy Cuban barber; I’m gonna go ahead and let you guess which role Richard Harris played), The Boy Friend (former supermodel Twiggy starred in this winning 1971 musical, directed by Altered States‘ Ken Russell, of all people…), While the City Sleeps (Fritz Lang [M, The Big Heat] directed this 1956 serial killer thriller starring Dana Andrews and George Sanders), Insignificance (Nicholas Roeg’s oddball drama, with thinly-veiled versions of Albert Einstein, Joesph McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio, and Marilyn Monroe all meeting up in a NYC hotel room, gets the full Criterion Collection treatment!)
New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Battle: Los Angeles, Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, Hall Pass, Red Riding Hood.