Volume CCCXI- Bob & Carol & C.H.U.D & Alice
For the Week of 8/2/11
Videoport vs. Netflix: GO! 1. Netflix just raised its prices by 100% while Videoport actually cut prices last year (lowering extra day charges on new releases by 200%)- advantage Videoport. 2. Netflix is an unfeeling, corporate behemoth dedicated to making money and driving video stores out of business, while Videoport has been locally-owned for 25 years and dedicated to bringing people the best movies in the world- advantage Videoport. 3. Netflix has been the target of several successful class-action lawsuits because of deceitful and unfair business practices designed to cheat its own customers, while Videoport, yeah, we don’t do that- advantage Videoport. 4. Videoport employs people who love talking to you about movies in order to help you select the perfect entertainment choices for you and your family, while with Netflix, um, you click a button- game, set, and match Videoport.
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 Manhattan Murder Mystery (in Mystery/Thriller.) I made a big deal a few VideoReports ago about how Woody Allen’s recent picks for his top 6 favorite Woody Allen movies were the 6 favorite Woody Allen movies of a person you would never want to hang out with (Match Point,
really?), and I stand by that. There’s no one more vitriolic than a disappointed fan, but I think I was most pissed that none of the Woodman’s choices (Zelig, really?), included any of his movies with Diane Keaton. In Love and Death, Manhattan, Sleeper, and, especially, Annie Hall, those two crazy kids created a zeitgeist-defining romantic/comedic chemistry that informed my sense of humor, my movie sense, and my concept of an ideal relationship (all for better or worse, of course.) And, in looking back over his career (and his real-life relationship with Ms. Keaton), it’s like Woody is trying to expunge all of my formative movie experiences from existence, and that…will…not…stand. Seriously, Woody. It’s even more puzzling in that Woody himself went back to the (lovely, weird) Keaton well again in 1993’s absurdly-satisfying Manhattan Murder Mystery. Here, Woody and Diane play a late-middle-aged married couple coping with impending empty nest syndrome and vague marital dissatisfaction who become convinced that their elderly neighbor (you’ll recognize a pre-Sopranos Jerry Adler) has murdered his wife. It’s an excuse for Woody (the director) to play around with old movie tropes, to throw some juicy supporting roles to pals Alan Alda and Anjelica Huston, and to, seemingly, have some fun, but what Manhattan Murder Mystery really seemed to me at the time was Woody’s longing to return to the days when he and Diane Keaton were movieland’s most-appealing, least-likely screen couple. Sure, this is a minor film in comparison, but the Woody and Diane dynamic is still a hoot to watch, with his skeptical neuroses meshing delightfully with her Midwestern pragmatism (and ditsiness); look at the diner scene where they exhaustedly hash out their competing theories about their neighbor- their chemistry has never been looser, or more genuinely appealing. Plus, MMM is funny! Look at the scene where they’ve snuck into their neighbor’s apartment to do some snooping; Woody’s increasingly-panicked attempts to reassemble a broken knickknack is as good a piece of physical comedy as he’s ever done. (And the follow-up scene where he tries to think up excuses for Diane’s glasses being left behind in the neighbor’s apartment is even funnier.) It really seemed to me at the time, that this entertaining trifle was Woody’s attempt to capture some of that old “funny Woody” magic; it’s too bad that he now seems to have disavowed every movie that made most people fall in love with him in the first place.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Valhalla Rising(in Action/Adventure.) Cinematic Vikings should be a slam-dunk for the action genre. I mean, seriously, when you think “Vikings”, what do you think: violence, axes, pillaging, rape, funny helmets (which, the lovely Ms. Elsa S. Customer would like you to know, are completely inaccurate, thank you very much), rape, pillaging, and rape. And, while most films can be
excused for excising the rapier portions of their onscreen Vikings (especially if, you know, they’re supposed to be the heroes- although Erik the Viking does deconstruct that particular trope pretty hilariously), you might think that all of the hacking and pillaging should be a reliable outlet for some seriously-crowd-pleasing violence. Sadly, many movie Vikes get seriously defanged into burly, ill-accented do-gooders (I really like the underrated 13th Warrior, but, yeah) or, in a recent children’s movie (?!?) dragon-snugglers, but, in the hands of Nicholas Winding Refn, you can be sure that “Norseman” is gonna equal “insanely-violent” if not “bat-sh*t insane.” Nicholas Winding Refn is a young Danish director with an assured, flashy visual style and a certain flair for the most brutal cinematic violence anywhere. Check out his Pusher trilogy (in Foreign Language) and Bronson (in Action) for proof, and some excitingly-visceral thrills. (Apparently, he also did a Miss Marple movie for British TV; it’s unavailable, but, presumably, the elderly Agatha Christie detective solves that one by ripping the local vicar’s throat out with her teeth over tea.) Anyway, this is the guy you think would bring some of the old ultraviolence to a Viking saga, and, boyoboy, would you be right. He’s assisted in this grim, blood and mud-soaked task by his pal, actor Mads Mikkelsen, the dour, predatory-looking guy you’ll recognize as the blood-weeping bad guy from Casino Royale, the titular Pusher, or, in a rare, not-making-you-want-to-wet-yourself role, in the moving After the Wedding. In this one, Mikkelsen plays a no-named, unspeaking slave, whose insane berserker fighting prowess is used by his captors to win an endless series of terrifyingly-brutal fights-to-the-death. After escaping (brutally), he winds up getting saddled with a little blond boy (and, thanks to the kid, the name “One-Eye”), but you needn’t worry- our protagonist isn’t particularly softened up taking care of an adorable child who teaches him to love and learn and all the rest of it. Instead, he and the boy end up on a Crusade with some untrustworthy Vikings, who end up somewhere unexpected, and…well, I don’t want to give too much away, except to say that, wherever the guy goes, he’s called upon to put his silent-but-deadly violence skills to good, visceral use. Mikkelsen’s
completely convincing and magnetic as the antihero; not particularly imposing physically (he didn’t get satanically-good at fighting by hitting the Soloflex), it’s Mikkelsen’s face that really sells the fact that he might be the most deadly man in this decidedly deadly world. Throw in some unexpected plot developments, some stunning visuals from Winding Refn, a touch of the mystical, and that good ol’ ultraviolence we were talking about, and Valhalla Rising will sate your need for that old time Viking movie violence.
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!)
>>> Andy suggests 4 Sylvester Stallone movies to be thrilled by this week. I enjoyed Dennis’s guide to chick flicks in VideoReport Vol. CCCIX-“L.A. Mothradential”, but must admit I bristled a bit at his claim that “all boys are at least going to purgatory for allowing Sylvester Stallone to happen.” I mean, come on! I admit that Sly might not be quite the athlete that Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren (or hell, even Steven Seagal) are. But, charisma-wise, he’s up there with Schwarzenegger! He has two beloved, long-running franchises (Rocky, Rambo) to his name, and even in his sixties he’s still making
solid action flicks as consistently as Jason Statham (who is the next-coolest English-speaking action star currently making movies). Unlike those other guys, he’s also a writer/ director/producer; and, perhaps best of all, Stallone won’t try to govern you! Here are my favorite Stallone flicks.
Cop Land (1997, in the Mystery/Thriller section). This movie would be just an above-average cop thriller, but it happens to be filled to the brim with excellent performances by Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, Michael Rapaport, and, awesome in the lead role, Sylvester Stallone.
Demolition Man (1993, in Action/Adventure). As an action movie, Demolition Man delivers. As sci-fi, it delivers (at times it seems seriously prescient). But as a comedy, this movie makes it’s biggest impression. Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and Sandra Bullock are all funny in this futuristic cop thriller. It’s full of clever ideas, like the automatic swearing citations, virtual sex of the future, rat burgers, and the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library. And then try wrapping your mind around the three seashells.
Rocky III (1982, in Action/Adventure). Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky Balboa (the sixth one) are all good, character-driven movies. Rocky IV is too lazy and ridiculous, and Rocky V barely even feels like a real Rocky movie. So, to represent the whole series, I choose Rocky III for my list. It’s not too good, but not too bad, either. It’s the Goldilocks Rocky! It’s the one where he loses to Clubber Lang (Mr. T), then trains like hell so he can get another shot at him. It has everything you want in a Stallone movie. It’s your right and duty as Americans to love this. (Blues legend and boxing enthusiast Samuel James disagrees, claiming that this movie has the worst boxing choreography of all the Rocky films, and fake-sounding “whoosh” sound effects when Lang punches. I counter that Rocky III includes the song “Eye of the Tiger.” Checkmate, Sam)
Cliffhanger (1993, in Action/Adventure). This is a perfect thriller. It’s full of great action and stunts, with an incredibly nasty villain (John Lithgow). The opening scene is one of the most suspenseful scenes in any movie. Cliffhanger is so good that I’d probably still enjoy it even if it didn’t take place on the side of a giant damn mountain, the most terrifying place on Earth.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests an Elizabeth Taylor white-slip double feature: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Butterfield 8 (both in Classics). Nobody can slink around all hot n’ bothered in a plain white slip like ole Liz.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Superman. A few of the recent superhero flicks have left me cold, and it took 1978’s Superman to point out why: the post-modern superhero story is all too aware of itself, too ready to undermine its adventurous and triumphant notes with slashes of self-deprecation and ironic undertone, too cool to embrace the uplifting moments of its story. Richard Donner’s Superman has its flaws, but that deeply distancing cold irony isn’t one. It’s a delightfully earnest, honest piece of film, unafraid of its own emotional content and open to a childlike sense of adventure.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Regan suggests her Indie Relationship Movie Throwdown! Breaking Upwards vs. Monogamy (both in Feature Drama.) Let’s see… both have pretty stellar casts. Both are filmed in NY…UH-DUH! Both have music performed by the actors. But the overall weiner is…Breaking Upwards! It’s far more delightful and funny than the other is dull and dramatic, and what’s up with Rashida Jones, the star of Monogamy? Is she always cast as the bitchy bitchcakes? Or is it just me? Yeah, I’m a bithchface, too. Next time: The Presidio vs. Barney’s Version. SPOILER! Barney wins!
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Gambit (In Classics: It’s VCR-riffic!). It’s mighty tricky to steal a priceless antiquity from under a savvy collector’s very nose, but Harry Dean (Michael Caine) has the perfect plan: slick, efficient, and downright elegant in its smoothness. The trouble is, plans are just plans; reality is sticky, slapdash, and downright clumsy. For the first few minutes, we’re stuck watching this airless cliché play out with all the originality of a an early Hollywood serial… but hang in there! Once Harry’s impossibly perfect plan collides with actual human beings, things go haywire, and we get the pleasure of seeing how little a plan is worth.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Trust (“ripped from today’s headlines” thriller about a young girl targeted by one of those cartoonishly-evil online predators Jamie Lee Curtis keeps warning everyone about, this one’s actually got a great cast [Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis] and was directed by David Schwimmer, of all people), Rio(a mild-mannered domesticated parrot [Jesse Eisenberg, in the role he was born to play] follows the birdgirl of his dreams [Anne Hathaway] to the titular South American paradise in this animated comedy starring the voices of the likes of Jane Lynch, Jamie Foxx, and Wanda
Sykes), Soul Surfer (a young surfer girl summons the strength to surf again after a shark bit off her arm while surfing!!?!?; man, I would take up another sport at that point…maybe philately…), ‘Eastbound and Down’- Season 2 (F&@K YEAH! Kenny Powers, the world’s foulest, funniest, most washed-up baseball player returns, with his unquenchable quest for a return to former glory [and sex, and drugs, and more sex] taking him south of the border to terrorize the Mexican leagues), My Dog Tulip (Christopher Plummer lends his voice to this animated heartwarmer/breaker about a crusty old writer who adopts an abandoned German shepherd), The Perfect Game (for lovers of inspirational true stories, baseball, and cute little kids comes this based on a true story story about the hopelessly-underdoggy 1957 little league from Monterey, Mexico that, well, I did say “inspirational,” right?), ‘The United States of Tara’- season 3 (the final season [it got cancelled] of this acclaimed series about a housewife [the ever-fascinating Toni Colette] with three personalities), Stake Land (a teen boy and his guardian brave the landscape of a vampire plague-decimated America in this horror/action movie described by Geek Chorus member Gerald W. as “The Road, but with vampires”), Tracy Morgan: Black and Blue (’30 Rock”s utterly bananas Morgan gets his own HBO special, presumably where he does not say something terribly homophobic…), Ironclad (an overqualified cast [Paul Giamatti, Jason Flemyng, Brian Cox] fill out the cast of this medieval action flick about those so-hot-right-now Knights Templar defending a castle, etc), Dylan Dog: Dead of Knight (former Superman Brandon Routh takes a step or three down, playing an Americanized version of a little-know Italian comic book supernatural detective; poor little Brandon…)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gamera Movies!!! (after years of legal wrangling, TOHO has finally relented and these five, count ’em five,
episodes of MST3k starring Joel, the ‘bots and everybody’s favorite giant, flying, flame-breathing moster turtle! There’s Gamera, Gamera vs. Barugon, Gamera vs. Gaos, Gamera vs. Guiron, and Gamera vs. Zigra!), Road to Bali (Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour bring their musical comedy schticks along on this trip to the tropics), Don’t Drink the Water (a young Woody Allen wrote the play this Jackie Gleason spy comedy is based on; Jackie and family are the ugliest Americans the world has ever seen, mistaken abroad for the worst spies the world has ever seen), Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself (the massively-popular, vaguely-racist ventriloquist comes to Videoport’s Comedy section!), Ice Blink (documentary about a family circumnavigating the globe [by way of the Arctic] in their 25 foot sailboat; “Have you ever reached out and touched a glacier?” Well, no- in fact I have not…)
New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Amelie.