Volume CCCX- The US vs. John Lennon vs. Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla
For the Week of 7/26/11
Videoport’s employees’ accumulated movie knowledge could be used to power a small city. Of course, nothing would work in that city since Videoport’s employees don’t have any sort of practical knowledge, but they’ll sure answer the hell out of any movie questions you might have.
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 ‘Jekyll’(in Mystery/Thriller.) Playing an out-and-out villain must be tons of fun for an
actor. Sure, a nice, nuanced portrayal of a conflicted, sensitive soul might be rewarding and garner you the respect of your peers, but it’s not every day you get to strut into an emergency room and drop a huge, bloody bundle containing the whimpering remains of the 300 pound thug you just spent days torturing and, when the shocked doctor asks you what you’re carrying, reply, “It’s entirely up to you of course, but I’d say…front of the queue!” Yeah, fun times. ‘Jekyll,’ a jazzed up modern take on the Jekyll and Hyde story is basically a playground for the excellent Irish actor James Nesbitt (‘Ballykiss Angel’, ‘Murphy’s Law’, Waking Ned Devine) to sink his choppers into an all-time classic evil bastard. As the mild-mannered (but intelligent and decent) Dr. Tom Jackman and his alter-ego, Mr. You Know Who, Nesbitt is fantastic; his Jackman, necessarily estranged from his wife and kids because of his little problem, wrestles movingly with his loneliness, his guilt, and the fact that, you know, he’s out there doing very nasty things sometimes. And his Hyde, well, I did say “all-time classic evil bastard”, right? Hyde’s super-strong, super-fast, and super-horny, all accompanied by a complete lack of morals or impulse control and a wicked sense of humor. As the show starts, he and Jackman have formed something of a detente: if Hyde kills anyone, Jackman will kill himself (and therefore Hyde), and if Jackman ever tries to look for a cure, Hyde will- well, do something even nastier than usual. Neither can recall anything the other has done when in control, so they leave messages, although Hyde seemingly delights in leaving Jackman to wake up (usually in the bedroom of some very freaked out prostitute), without any idea what’s happened (and no idea where he’s parked.) And sure, the show does go in some unexpected directions, with government conspiracies, hidden secrets, and all that, but this is really just the James Nesbitt show- and it’s a great time watching him just be super-evil. Videoport’s Sam had warned me about this show, decrying the times when they sent Hyde over the top, but (sorry, mister) that’s what I was there for- watching Hyde do a weird little dance just after beating the crap out of a would-be mugger and then childishly scream “I want to play LIONS!” while menacing the guy’s terrified girlfriend is undeniably a hoot. So is his speech to some soldiers who get the drop on him, “Can’t tell you how fast I am, don’t know exactly, but I can tell you this. First one of you that starts getting nervous, starts pulling that trigger? Dead. Then I’ll have a gun and that’s the next two, dead. Third one kills me, then dies of his injuries. So what you guys gotta ask yourselves is this… How much did I like my boss?” So is ‘Jekyll.”
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests you beat the heat with some serious snowy movies!If you’re like me, all this sweltering week long you’ve been daydreaming about snow: light dustings of snowfall,
hard-packed tundra, great wandering drifting snowbanks. Here’s a stack of chilly winter movies to see you through the next heat wave: Quintet, Snow Fever, Fargo, The Shining, In Bruges, The Thing, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Let The Right One In, Lars and the Real Girl. And don’t forget the planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back!
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!)
>>> Ed the Renter suggests I Saw the Devil (in Assorted Asian Exploitation.) This movie belongs firmly in a genre I like to call “you F’ed with the wrong person!” A psycho (played wonderfully by the guy from Oldboy) kills the wife of a top notch cop and spends the rest of the movie regretting it. Very unflinching in its violence and fascinating in its journey through the underbelly of Korea, this film is one of the best serial killer thrillers I’ve seen in quite some time. Watch with your girlfriend and be all like “yeah I’d totally torture a psycho if he killed you, babe.” She will be impressed.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests True Stories(in Feature Drama.) After the smash success of Talking
Heads’ legendary performance film, Stop Making Sense, the studio gave David Byrne a huge measure of control over his next film project. What an odd movie they got. Written by Byrne, Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart), and Stephen Tobolowsky (Now don’t tell me you don’t remember him because he sure as heckfire remembers you! Needle-nose Ned? Ned the Head? He dated your sister Mary Pat a coupla times until you told him not to? Bing!), True Stories takes us on a tour of a fictional town — Virgil, Texas — gearing up for its sesquicentennial celebration by staging “A Celebration of Specialness.” It’s as gee-whiz as a 1960s picture postcard: bright, dated, and absolutely flat. The establishing shots are carefully square-on, keeping the focal point dead-center, never oblique or slanted. And the film’s attitude is just as surprisingly direct. Where we might cynically expect glancing sarcasm or viciousness, Byrne instead gives us refreshing sweetness. This is a small-town character study — Our Town by way of Weekly World News. We meet a spinner of endless tall tales, a man who claims he can grab your nose and read your mind, a lady who
never gets out of bed (our narrator enthuses: “She has enough money, she doesn’t need to. Wouldn’t you?”), a husband and wife who lead the community but haven’t spoken directly to each other in years, and a preacher who sermonizes about vast conspiracies controlling everything from our political structure to the rate at which we run out of toilet paper. As the name implies, True Stories is more a collection of tales than a single story. The musical numbers help to tie the whole series together, but movie’s real heart is Louis Fyne (John Goodman, incredibly winning in his first major role), a big bear of a man unabashedly and doggedly looking for love. We first meet him at work (in the computer assembly’s clean room, where the world can’t touch him), then follow him on a series of unsuccessful dates and outings. In less kind hands, Louis could be a joke or a figure of fun, but Goodman’s earnestness and humor make him a remarkable character, a simple man with a complex soul. The strength of the film comes from the same place. It doesn’t shy from the absurdities of everyday life, and in fact it exaggerates them to the point of hyperbole… but it never, ever diminishes them. Rather than jeering at the mundanities of Americana, True Stories amplifies them with equal parts affection and irony. About half-way through True Stories, our guide takes us on a driving tour through a new (and mostly uninhabited) suburban development, a banal expanse of tract housing against the barren backdrop of the Texas plains. And in this flat, blank landscape, he says — with startling sincerity — what might well be the film’s motto: “Look at this. Who can say it isn’t beautiful?”
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests The Muppet Show. It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to get all excited for the newest Muppet Movie (in post-production now! helmed by Jason Segel! [wiggles arms above head Kermit-style] YAAAAAAAY!) by watching a whole slew of old episodes of “The Muppet Show”! One of my favorites: the John Cleese episode, where he gets SO. VERY. ANGRY.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Regan suggests a questionable cinematic tribute to Amy Winehouse. I looked up what movies have been soundtracked by the late Ms. winehouse, and I’m happy to share that, overall, they are a big pile of hot go-go. From the disappointing Bridget Jones 2, to the star-studded, vomit-inducing Valentine’s Day. And let us not forget the double feature starring Katherine “Make Me Wanna Hurl” Heigl: 27 Dresses and Life As We Know It. So let this be a lesson to all you kids out there- drugs make you do stupid stuff. Mostly.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Inception (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) I was really struck by the
public’s fascination (and my own) with Christopher Nolan’s Inception, and I think I’ve figured out one of the reasons for its enigmatic appeal: this is a film that works on more than one level. No, not those levels. The vast majority of films are closed or “readerly” texts: they narrate an explicit chain of events to a receptive but passive audience. They may allow great scope for moral, intellectual, or emotional ambiguity, but the story itself is laid out for us by the storyteller. Open or “writerly” texts, by contrast, require the audience to collaborate in the construction of the story, both as it unfolds and after the fact. Most of the time, these are the stories that leave you asking “What just happened there?” (For example: Mulholland Dr. is an open text, requiring us to do some heavy lifting to make sense of a fragmented and sometimes contradictory narrative. Jacob’s Ladder, however muddling and disorienting its first hour or so may be, is closed, because the ending
defines and limits all the puzzle that precedes it. Antonioni’s Blow Up is arguably both open and closed: we see the action play out clearly, but are left on our own to ask “Did that actually happen? And what does it mean?”) Both open and closed texts have their pleasures, challenges, and frustrations, and both have their place in a movie-lover’s cache. But Inception plays a neat trick. It works equally well as an open text and a closed one; you can read it as the twisty-turny (but still explicitly delivered and clearly delineated) caper it appears to be, or you can delve just a bit deeper and discover a perplexingly elaborate riddle begging you to solve it. Let’s look at the closed text first. At its most straightforward, Inception plays as a glitzy sci-fi heist film. Oh, sure, the team uses fantastic scientific apparatus to access the subject’s unconscious, but otherwise the movie hits all the beats we’ve come to expect in every heist caper from Rififi to Ocean’s Eleven. We meet the mastermind, learn his motivation, tag along as he recruits the best of the best, hear the brilliant plan laid out, and then — of course! — see the brilliant plan go off the rails. Heck, Nolan even threw in the “one last job” gimmick as a little wink to savvy movie-goers. Viewed at this level, Inception tells a nice tight little con job; it’s gussied up with the hand-wavy sci-fi element of dream-hopping (and it has a plot hole or two), but it’s basically an action-packed heist flick, a confidence trick performed by the slickest of tricksters upon the usual mark. Or is it? [note: spoilers for Inception and The Matrix.] If we decide to engage with the
text, to assume that Nolan is telling us a story but not the whole story, the movie opens up like a treasure chest. We find a rich storyscape littered with telling details, everything from catchphrases to seeming inconsistencies to the subtle clues of wardrobe. These are the building blocks Nolan left strewn casually throughout the movie, waiting for us to come along and construct our own version of the story… if we choose to. Nowhere does Nolan actually tell us to question reality: this isn’t The Matrix. Instead of presenting us with an explicit unreality, our storyteller has woven a wonderful and flawed tapestry of plot and image. We get to decide: do we gaze on the tapestry as it is? Or do we tug on the loose ends and let the whole fabric come unravelled?
Take the Videoport Quiz!
You think you know Videoport, huh? Well, can you determine whether these Videoport facts are true or false? Well…can you!??!
1. You get a free movie every day at Videoport.
2. Videoport has the best selection of movies in the entire, mother-lovin’ world.
3. Movies you put in the drop box (located at the entrance to the parking lot) are shot right to us through an elaborate series of underground, pneumatic tubes.
4. You get a free rental with every movie you buy at Videoport. (And we can special order any movie you want.)
5. The back corner (where the Criterion Collection lives) is haunted by the ghost of 1930s starlet Miriam Hopkins. (If you rent her 1932 film Trouble in Paradise there, you will feel a gentle, silk-scented kiss on your cheek once you place it in the DVD player.)
6. You can trade in your old, unwanted DVDs for free rentals; we’ll give them a good home.
7. If you walk in through a turnstile, you should then look for a different turnstile to exit through, since turnstiles, by design, only turn in one direction.
8. One employee of Videoport is a blues legend.
9. If you touch the shiny side of a DVD, you don’t love America.
10. One employee of Videoport is a licensed-to-kill secret agent of an organization dedicated to hunting down those who touch the shiny side of DVDs.
11. Videoport can get you free parking in any downtown parking garage.
12. In addition to its already-ridiculously-low prices, Videoport has deals where you get free extra store credit for pre-paying on your Videoport account.
13. While it’s true that the surface of DVDs is relatively fragile, even the tiniest amount of care and respect in their handling will prevent any playability problems. In fact, literally none of the hundreds of DVDs and CDs in your author’s personal collection has ever skipped- BECAUSE HE NEVER, EVER, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NEVER TOUCHES OR ALLOWS ANYONE IRRESPONSIBLE TO TOUCH THE SHINY SIDE OF ANY OF THEM! C’MON!!
14. You can extend the rental period of any rental…just by paying us a little more money when you rent it!
15. Videoport raised its rates last week by 100% because we’re a giant, soulless corporation who hates its customers.
16. Videoport loves you.
Answer Key: 1. True, 2. Totally true, 3. Tragically false, 4. Double true, 5. Unconfirmed reports suggest true, 6. True, 7.TRUE! (C’mon people…), 8. True, 9. So true, 10. [REDACTED], 11. Boring, but true, 12. Braggy, but also true, 13. I think you get the point, 14. Also dull, and also true, 15. False- that was Netfl*x, 16. So true, baby…
New Releases this week at Videoport: Source Code (Jake Gyllenhall stars in this mind-bendy sci fi thriller about a guy, a bomb on a train, a time loop, and some serious suspense; from the director of the excellent Moon, which you should see if you haven’t already…), Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past
Lives (because Videoport customers are so cool, this Thai film, about a man visited by his dead wife [in the form of a ghost] and his dead son [seemingly in the form of a sasquatch] and which won the big prizes at this year’s Cannes film festival, has been one of the most requested movies of late; we love you guys…), Potiche (French acting royalty Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve star in this comedy about a trophy wife who takes over the family business when her husband is kidnapped by his striking employees), Winter in Wartime (wrenching Dutch WWII action drama about a 14 year old boy who gets involved with the Resistance), Bodyguards and Assassins (Donnie Yen stars in this martial arts action saga set in revolutionary 1905 China), Do Dooni Chaar, Once Upon a Warrior, and Zokkomon (for some reason, Disney has gotten into the Bollywood distribution business; weird, but if it helps these three Bollywood films get more exposure, then we’re all for it…)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Gumby: The Movie (sadly not a long-lost Eddie Murphy-as-Gumby SNL film, this, instead is about the actual bendy green dude), Gumby (more with the bendy green dude!; incidentally, we got these because a nice customer politely pointed out that we were sorely lacking in the Gumby department and that his kids’ lives would not be complete without this weird little show; the purple notebook by the store computer is there for you to write down any movies already on DVD which Videoport doesn’t yet own [there are a few, shockingly]), The Anger/La Robbia (intriguing 1963 film meditation on French African colonialism from two politically-opposite directors, Pier Paolo Pasolini on the left, and Giovanni Guareschi on the right.)
New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Winter in Wartime.