VideoReport #309

Volume CCCIX- L.A. Mothradential

For the Week of 7/19/11

Videoport is the movie rental service which did not raise its prices by 100% this week. To repeat: Videoport did NOT double its prices this week, where perhaps some other (soulless, corporate, non-local) movie rental concern did. That is all…

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.)

>>> Dennis suggests ‘The Life and Times of Tim’(in Animation.) A pleasantly-weird surprise,

We're ugly, but funny. Just like Steven Wright...

this (barely) animated HBO comedy series is something you might never have heard of, and, looking at the cover, might never want to rent. The art seems to partake of the ‘it’s really hip and cool to seem like you don’t care about how things look’ school of animated comedy which, when it works (‘South Park’, ‘Dr. Katz,’ ‘Home Movies’) is kind of abstract and irreverent and clever, but when it doesn’t (‘Lucy, Daughter of the Devil’, ‘Superjail’) just makes your eyes start to ache. That being said, ‘The Life and Times of Tim’ skates by on the considerable charm of creator/star Steve Dildarian, a standup comic whose style is reminiscent of Ray Romano’s. And the show, about the increasingly-absurd calamities that befall the basically-harmless, but slyly-prankish Tim, plays out like a (barely) animated ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, except that Tim isn’t as big a jerk as Larry David (although he does seem to take a certain bemused delight in watching how his decisions turn out so horribly.) Whether being caught by his girlfriend with a dingy prostitute (whom he may or may not have hired), or being caught by his girlfriend feeling up her wheelchair-bound grandma (which she may or may not have initiated), or dealing with the false rumor that he’d been violated by a homeless man in an alley (just don’t ask), Tim just drifts through his day in a generally-hilarious sort of snarky hipster cloud. Like I said, a pleasant, if weird, surprise.

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

>>> Andy suggests Suddenly (in Classics). Suddenly is like The Desperate Hours meets The

Ring-a-ding...MURDER!!!!

Manchurian Candidate! Ugh, don’t you just hate that kind of description? It’s concise, but lazy, and it makes Suddenly seem more derivative than it is (it was actually made before either of those movies). Anyway, I’m not a very clever writer and it happens that that description fits the movie perfectly. Really, if you’ve seen both of those movies, I’ll bet you’re picturing Suddenly very accurately in your head right now. It’s a thriller about a group of nasty assassins, led by the intelligent and articulate Frank Sinatra, who plot to kill the president of the United States as he visits the small Midwestern town of Suddenly*. The assassins forcefully occupy a house with a good view of the train station, holding the family that lives there, as well as Sheriff Sterling Hayden, hostage while they await the president’s train. They pass the time by making threats, shooting intruders, and debating the true meaning of patriotism. This is a very American movie, up there with Born On The Fourth of July and In The Line of Fire. If you like those, and the ones I mentioned earlier, I bet you’d love Suddenly. Don’t you just hate that kind of recommendation?

*Yes, the movie is named after the town, and the town is called Suddenly. I wonder if earlier drafts of the screenplay had titles like Abruptly, Unexpectedly, or Ominously. Or how about Deathtown? Or Murderburg? Assassinationville? Just a thought…

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 presents his Guy’s Guide to Chick Flicks (that smart people can enjoy.) I know the phrase ‘chick flick’ is terrible, sexist, and reductive and stuff, but if you’re ever being subjected to looking at Jennifer Garner sniffling and trying on shoes for 80 minutes, well, your mind just goes to the dark place. And yeah ‘guy movies’ have a lot to atone for; seriously, all boys are at least going to purgatory for allowing Sylvester Stallone to happen. But sometimes, whether you’re being coerced or you just feel like watching something with more kissing and fewer giant robot sex battles, you’re gonna need a so-called ‘chick flick,’ so here are some ideas that won’t make you feel like you’re suffocating inside the drum of a cotton candy machine. Plus, they are certified 100% Julia Roberts-free!

1. Crossing Delancey (in Feature Drama.) Great chemistry between Amy Irving and the ever-excellent Peter Riegert, a funky NYC 80’s vibe, and a nice mix of comedy and drama make this literary-gal-and-the-pickle-man dramedy a favorite.

2. The films of Nicole Holofcener. Walking and Talking (in Drama), Lovely and Amazing(in

Nicole & Catherine= solid gold.

Drama), Friends with Money (in Comedy), and Please Give (in Comedy) all feature strong, funny roles for women, are written and directed by a woman, and are women-centric stories that don’t revolve around whether or not she gets the boy at the end. Plus they’re funny and smart and they all feature the delightfully-real and luminous Catherine Keener who would be Smart World’s Julie Roberts.

3. I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (in Comedy.) This weird, memerizing little Canadian movie features a woman named Shiela McCarthy giving one of the best unsung female lead performances I’ve ever seen. Along the way, she copes with her career ambitions, artistic hopes, and unrequited love, which sounds sorta icky and sappy, but embodied by the completely-beguiling McCarthy, it’s pretty unforgettable.

4. Living Out Loud (in Feature Drama.) Holly Hunter is a terrifyingly-talented, tiny little acting goddess and I’ve never seen her better than in this sneakily-exhilarating romantic drama about a middle aged woman trying to figure out what to do with her life once her cad husband leaves her. Again, it’s the bare bones outline of an insufferable Lifetime movie, but Hunter, Danny DeVito, and the luminous Queen Latifah (who, playing a jazz singer, unveils a serious set of pipes), and the smart, inventive screenplay by Richard LaGravanese turn this one into something unforgettable.  Plus, there’s a withering look she shoots a guy trying to interrupt her that is worth the price of the rental anyway…

5. My Best Friends Wedding (in Comedy.) I lied. This Julia Roberts rom-com is actually smarter than you might think. Plus (SPOILER!!!!!!!) she doesn’t actually get the boy at the end. Man, you just can’t escape Julia Roberts…

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

>>>April suggests a Jackie Earle Haley double feature of Watchmen (in Sci Fi/Fantasy) and A Nightmare on Elm St (in Horror) because on their own these movies are sh*t, but JEH is awesome. You can go right ahead and skip to the scenes he’s in. You’re not gonna miss any “plot” or whatever it was, just sit back and watch JEH do his best Christian Bale Batman voice (only he’s way better at it than Christian Bale.)

>>>An anonymous Videoport customer sent back The Spy Next Door (in Comedy) with this note attached: “This movie was great fun. Why is it not more well-known?” Well, anonymous, you’re doing your part to bring it to our readers’ attention, and keep ’em coming! In fact, here’s a wide open challenge/dare to all of you out there in Videoport-land (get it?): send in your own reviews of your favorite underrated/unknown/criminally-neglected movies or TV series to us here at The VideoReport! Send ’em to us at denmn@hotmail.com, our Facebook page “Videoport Jones”, or, like ol’ anony here, just send ’em back with your movies to us in the store. Remember- only you know what’s good. Educate the rest of the world!

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

>>> Videoport customer Riley Guffor suggests Finding Nemo. Things I already knew but got reminded of while watching Finding Nemo: 1. Children are rarely afraid; their parents are always afraid for them. 2. Ellen DeGeneres is hysterical!! 3. Fish are our friends. 4. Fake French accents are always funny. 5. When things are tough, just keep swimming. 6. There’s no such things as a foolproof plan. 7. Seagulls are rats with wings. 8. Family is the most important thing.

>>>And, ’cause what the heck- here’s another recommendation for Finding Nemo (from Ms. Elsa S. Customer.) There’s so much to love in Finding Nemo that it’s hard to know where to start. I could rhapsodize about the wonderful example of a youngster learning self-reliance and courage (and the parallel moral for parents about the importance of letting your children grow up, even if it means they make mistakes without you). I could describe Albert Brooks’ unsurpassed voice acting as the agitated, neurotic single father in the grips of terrible (and terribly funny) anxiety. I could mention the wonderful ensemble of characters and actors who make this movie a fantastic, vivid tapestry of fun and delight. But, even though this moment doesn’t really reflect the tone or emotional content of the story, I think I’ll just tell you: I have never seen my four-year-old niece laugh harder than she laughed at the little school of fish who get muddled up between the words for “boat” and “butt.”

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

>>>For Saturday, Regan suggests Clean and Sober (in Feature Drama.) My clearest memory of Clean and Sober was a dead girl’s ass and Michael Keaton doing coke off of it. But as I watch it again, probably 22 years later, he’s not doing it off her buttocks. He just grabs up on ’em and buries his head in them. After watching Keaton in The Other Guys I thought, “I should re-watch some of his hits.” This one’s got an all-star cast. Morgan Freeman! Tate Donovan! The mom from ‘Picket Fences’! And one of the first scenes with M. Emmett Walsh made me make a sound of horror and disgust. Scenes take place in smoke-filled rooms, addicts whose only vices left are coffee and cigarettes. But don’t adjust your sets people. This is how it’s supposed to look. Blu-ray won’t make it any better.

We are NOT lightweights...

>>>For Sunday, Ms. Elsa S. Customer suggests you take another look at Dr. No (in Action Adventure.) “Shaken, not stirred.” Something about James Bond’s iconic drink order has always rankled with me: for a character so invested in panache and pleasure, these instructions made little sense. Shaking a perfectly good martini with ice dilutes it, diminishes the flavor and intensity, and dulls the subtler nuances of the drink. And then, after thirty+ years of watching 007 knock back

...we're just on duty.

these drinks, I realized what a devilishly

clever piece of character-building this is. He’s ordering a big and potent-sounding drink and then instructing the bartender to water it down. And well he should! A secret agent needs to keep his wits about him. But because Bond issues the order with an air of authority and even snobbery, it seems like the mark of an aficionado, not an operative on duty.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Limitless (The Hangover‘s Bradley Cooper takes a magic medicine and gets superpowers in this thriller co-starring Robert DeNiro and some pretty girls; Videoport’s own pretty girl Regan says, “Eh, it’s not bad…”), ‘Doctor Who’- season 6, part 1 (the new Doctor, gangly fellow Matt Smith, is here to delight sci fi nerds everywhere!), Take Me Home Tonight(Topher Grace starred in this 1980’s-set

"Sure...why not."- Regan

comedy about a recent college grad pursuing the girl of his dreams; do not, I repeat do NOT allow the fact that this film was made four years before it was eventually released sway your judgement of its quality in any way- Videoport’s Regan says, “Eh, it’s not bad…”), Cracks (Eva Green [Casino Royale] stars in this drama about the shenanigans at an exclusive British girls’ boarding school), Peep World (a great cast [Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall, Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson, Judy Greer, Taraji P. Hensen] star in this dark comedy about a guy whose authorship of a thinly-veiled novel about his family causes all manner of badness), Illegal (a heartbreaker about a young Russian mother attempting to dodge Belgian immigration authorities while taking care of her young son; sure to infuriate the Tea Party- oh wait, they couldn’t read the subtitles, so no problems…), Lou (man, single mothers continue to take it on the chin in this one, a Welsh drama about a woman dealing with a deadbeat ex-husband, a rebellious teenage daughter, and her crusty old ex-father in law [John Hurt] who moves in with them and starts telling tall tales about his South Seas adventures), The Kids Grow Up (the guy who very uncomfortably documented his parents’ breakup in his film 51 Birch Street goes on to violate his daughter’s privacy in this documentary about him obsessively filming his child to the point where she hates him; of course, he may not see his film that way…), Small Town Murder Songs (a good cast [Peter Stormare, Martha Plimpton] stars in this edgy indie thriller about an aging small town cop uncovering a grisly murder and hiding his own secrets.)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: The Music Room (the Criterion Collection brings out their typically-deluxe edition of Indian master director Satyajit Ray’s 1959 film about a landlord unwilling to relinquish his extravagant lifestyle in the face of financial disasters), Monogamy(hot

Seriously, who would cheat on Rashida Jones?

tip: any movie with a title like ‘Monogamy,” “Faithful,” or “Not a Murderer” guarantees that the main character is going to be the exact opposite of what it says; in this one, it’s compelling character actor Chris Messina in the lead, playing an unhappily married guy whose weird business [people hire him to stalk them with a camera] leads him into temptation and, just maybe, the opposite of the title), History of the World- Part 1 (this Mel Brooks comedy almost-classic finally makes an appearance on DVD; and, for those still not in on the joke since 1981, there’s no part 2), ‘A Touch of Frost’- season 1 (another British mystery series comes to the Mystery/Thriller section in the form of a very stiff-upper-lippy copper who won’t take any guff from those ruffians), Diary of a Country Priest(the Criterion Collection brings out this classic from French master Robert Bresson about a young priest coping with his posting to a tiny village, and a

If this image doesn't make you want to rent this movie, then I just don't think we're gonna work out...

mysterious ailment), Damnation Alley (Videoport brings you this 1977 post-apocalyptic cult anti-classic featuring killer cockroaches, George Peppard, freakish weather, Jan Michael Vincent, and big, mega-cool battle trucks! You’re welcome!), Hercules (four-hour miniseries about the mythical strongman stars Timothy Dalton, Leelee Sobieski, Sean Astin, and some big beefy guy), The 4 Musketeers (2005, R-rated, French-made retelling of the swashiest of all bucklers.)

New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Limitless.

Here’s how you save some money at Videoport:

Videoport’s pre-payment plans get you free money just for renting here. If you pre-pay $20 on your account, we give you $25 worth of rental credit. And $30 buys you $40 worth. It’s the smart thing to do…

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