VideoReport #314

Volume CCCXIV- Mothra Python’s Flying Circus

For the Week of 8/23/11

 Videoport cares about movies. And about you too, you big lug… Here, have a free movie every day.

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.)

While it did not "explode," "The Signal" is actually pretty good...

>>> Dennis suggests The Signal (in Horror.) We here at the Videoport love to give the recommendations to you, the people. It’s much more fun than most other things we do around here, and, since all we do other than work here is watch an endless stream of movies to the exclusion of all else in our lives, we’re rarely short of ideas for you. Personally, though, the horror section is often a problem, especially after a few go-rounds, as there are so few decent horror movies. Or even remotely decent. Or even marginally acceptable. So when I discover a little-seen horror movie that’s not only remotely-decent, but actually smart, scary, disturbing, and even a bit adventurous, it’s like discovering a forgotten twenty in an old pair of pants. Sort of a zombie situation, (but clearly exempt from the Zombie Rules), The Signal starts (after seemingly-unrelated, very disturbing video clip) with a young couple in bed. It gradually comes out that she’s unhappily married to a big lug, and that her lover wants her to leave the lug and run away with him. It’s a well-written and acted little scene which makes you care for the characters and lays a groundwork that the horror can build upon when it gets scary. Which it does rather quickly and mysteriously as seemingly-ordinary people start, well, going bug-nuts crazy and killing people. It all has something to do with the titular signal, an abstract, static-y pattern of images and sounds and it’s as valid a premise for a sudden outbreak of zombie-esque violence as any other. What sets The Signal apart is that it’s the work of three directors, each of whom helms a third of the film; while each segment differs slightly in tone and characters, the strands all weave together. It’s unique, and well-done, with, a rarity for a horror movie, a brain in its head. There’s some shocking violence, some pitch-dark humor, good acting all around, and a general skill level far beyond what the horror section usually offers. It’s a nice, gory little gift for horror fans…and video clerks strapped for horror recommendations.

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

Young,

>>> Dennis suggests celebrating the ACTION part of the Tuesday rental special with a Charles Bronson double feature! ‘Cause, seriously, no one epitomizes the Action section like good ol’ scowlin’, mumblin’, punchin’, shootin’ Chuck Bronson. You could see what the recent remake did wrong by renting Bronson’s 1972 hitman original The Mechanic. Or watch his bloody, pulpy work as the kick-assingest melon farmer in history, taking revenge on the mob and the hitmen out to, um, steal his melons in Mr. Majestyk. You could head over to Classics to see him all young and terrifyingly buff in

Old,

...the Man just liked shootin'...

the classic Western The Magnificent Seven, or head back to Action to admire his highly-honed killing skills as one of The Dirty Dozen. Or marvel at the still hard-to-believe pairing of Bronson and Asian tough guy counterpart Toshiro Mifune in the oddball Western Red Sun. He’s diggin’ tunnels in The Great Escape. And, of course, there’s his (regrettably) signature role as the vigilante Paul Kersey in the Death Wish movies (some of which are available in economy-sized double feature discs in the Action section) where you can revel in his heavily-armed architect blowing the bejeezus out of the slimiest, rapiest bad guys in cinema history, all of whom make the increasingly-ill-advised mistake of defiling one of Bronson’s astoundingly-killable relatives or friends. Yup, when you just want some serious, no-nonsense, taciturn, tight-lipped, steely-eyed, mustachioed violence, Charles Bronson is your man.

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 a Monty Python binge!I recently listened to the audio book of Michael Palin’s diaries from the Python years because, why not? (And because I’m a big dork, of course.) The

Clockwise from left: Genius, genius, genius, genius, genius, and genius.

tales of the creation of the legendary TV series, and the making of both Holy Grail and Life of Brian, all told in Palin’s disarmingly-unaffected, wise, and charming voice sent me scurrying home with armloads of Python to revisit the most formative comedic influence on my development as a human-type person. Seriously, discovering Python on late night PBS when I was ten or so was like those monkeys discovering the monolith in 2001 and having their evolution jump-started by a superior alien race; nothing, as they say, would ever be the same again. When I say “revisit”, of course that’s something of a lie; I can’t think of a time when there’s not some element of Pythonia flitting through my mind: I hear John Cleese’s curt, “I’m sorry, but this is irrelevant, isn’t it?” burbling up in response to every ridiculous, rambling conversation, I mentally caption certain Republican presidential hopefuls as “upper class twit of the year,” and sudden odd movements around me are often accompanied by Gilliam-esque sound effects (“BAUM!”- trust me, it’s funny in my head.) Plus, you know, I watch their stuff not infrequently anyway. But this week has been a virtual Python orgy: plowing through the entire TV series, watching Life of Brian (with both commentaries and bonus features!), and so on, and, I gotta say- it all holds up just as well as one always wants one’s heroes to do. The only real complaint about the series is that some of the bits have been dulled by familiarity, but that’s just a testament to how universally-beloved and ubiquitous they’ve become over the years. So, as a result of all this Pythoning, here are some conclusions:

1. Exempting Gilliam from the equation (his contributions were harder to define, and he didn’t do much performing), the Pythons, in descending order of innate funniness are: Cleese, Palin, Chapman (always sort of underrated), Jones, and Idle. Idle always seems to be trying a little to hard for the laugh. (Of course, being a Python, that still makes him 5 times as funny as you are.)

2. The Life of Brian is their best movie. No, I don’t want to hear it from you. Sure, Grail is freaking nonstop hilarious and Meaning of Life is still very good (although still slightly disappointing), but Brian just works. The individual scenes and bits are all, without exception, stellar, and the underlying message informs the film with an angry resonance that’s still dangerous to this day (to the same type of close-minded religious nitwits who tried to ban it originally.) Plus Chapman’s performance as Brian really holds the film together; he was a very underrated actor, I’d say.

3. While I gave Cleese the top spot (the man’s a comedy god), it was a surprisingly close call between

Molded from pure funny.

him and Michael Palin. Every move that guy makes is just inherently funny and, even though he’s off being a travel writer now (what Cleese once jokingly described as him “being professionally nice to people”), I still place him in the rarified company of people who just seem to be made of funny. (Others include Kevin McDonald, Phil Hartman, Gilda Radner, Eddie Murphy [pre-1988], Peter Falk, former Videoporter Jeremy.)

4. The greatest sketch comedy group of all time is made up of 5/6 certified geniuses in areas other than comedy. Cleese (Cambridge) had a law degree. Chapman (Cambridge) was a medical doctor. Idle had a Cambridge degree in English literature. Palin and Jones (Oxford) both have History degrees. (Only poor Gilliam, the lone American, is without a prestigious diploma. Occidental College? Seriously, dude?) What does that mean? Well, apart from ensuring that even the silliest sketch might contain a word or two you’ll need your thesaurus for, it means that the joke writing draws from a much deeper well of knowledge and erudition than most comedies. (Now you can watch “The Fish-Slapping Dance” sketch with the proper perspective.)

5. Favorite often-overlooked sketches: “Cheese Shop” (very similar to “Dead Parrot” but even better), “Doug and Dinsdale Piranha” (pretty much introduced the concept of the running gag to me), “Archaeology Today”, “It’s the Mind” (still kinda wigs me out…), “Mister Hilter” (also oddly unnerving), “Buying a Bed” (just builds into absurdity heaven), “Tudor Dirty Book Shop” (makes so little sense it makes perfect sense, plus one of Palin’s best performances), “Dennis Moore” (riding through the night…), “Anne Elk” (John Cleese makes an unnervingly prim woman), “Johann Gamblepotty” (introduced me to the idea of something going on sooooo long that it goes from being funny, to being not at all funny, and then comes around to being absolutely f-ing hilarious), and the extended “Scotsman, blancmange, alien invasion” sketch.

6. Whenever someone plays the “what’s the thing that would disqualify somebody from being your friend if they didn’t like it” game, the only thing that really feels like a deal-breaker is Monty Python. If you don’t think Python is funny, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to hang out.

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

>>> April suggests some ‘South Park’ (in Incredibly Strange.) Any disc of any season will do. I’ve been watching random episodes on my lunch breaks and I laugh. I know I said last week that I don’t like comedies, and I still don’t, but I like animated things that are meant to be funny. It’s easier to disconnect from it. Andy’s been watching them, too. We’ve been swapping lines that we love. My favorite this week is Cartman telling Kyle to get the sand out of his vagina. Oh! It makes me laugh! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

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

Penelope says you should rent this. And Penelope is always right.

>>> Dennis’ brilliant angel-genius niece Penelope (age 6) suggests Nanny McPhee for the following reasons: 1. “Because the children are bad and then they turn good.” 2. “Because I like it when they pretend that they’re having measles.” 3. ” Because it’s so silly; in some parts it is scary but then it turns out okay.” 4. “Nanny McPhee is ugly but she is nice and [SPOILER ALERT!] she turns pretty at the end.” And she adds this advice: “Parents: if your kids are scared, just tell them everything’s gonna end up happy.”

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

>>>For Saturday, Former Videoporter Stockman suggests John Tucker Must Die(in Comedy.) I make no apologies for my love of romantic comedies and high school comedies. I don’t want to argue that they’re good in terms of the art of making a movie, because that would be folly. What I argue is that they’re good in terms of pure entertainment. They’re like a pixie stick! Pure hyperactive sugar of

Stockman says you should rent this. She is...often correct.

entertainment! But to be fair many of them are just plain bad, seriously awful. When compared to the art of making a movie they are so much drivel that you spend hours pondering how something like this even gets made. When compared to their pixie stick deliciousness you’re just left with a bad taste in your mouth and the shame of having continued to eat something you know full well is disgusting. I’m happy to nominate myself as the person to help you learn good pixie stick from bad pixie stick. John Tucker Must Die is one of those good pixie sticks that falls under the radar. For whatever reason some kind of storm of events kept it being popular where your equally foolish She’s The Man or She’s All That does become popular. John Tucker Must Die deserves credit. It’s watchable and entertaining far more than you or even I ever suspected from such a film. I think some people found it offensive for the gender roles it displayed, but I don’t actually care and don’t seem to be built with that radar. So one person says offensive, I actually thought it was innovative and empowering, but I think that about Charlie’s Angels too so that’s my broken radar. Anyway, I won’t bore you with plot, they’re in high school, wacky antics ensue and everyone learns a lesson, who cares, it’s fun to watch.

>>>For Sunday, Former Videoporter Stockman (murdering it as always) suggests Waitress(in Comedy.) There is nothing about this movie that is not wonderful. From the characters to the actors,

There's no law that says Nathan Fillion has to be mentioned in every VideoReport, it just sort of works out that way.

including the indescribably inestimable Nathan Fillion, to the story and the directing this movie delighted me down to the very tips of my toes. I’m not usually a gal overwhelmed by girl power, with the exception of my much renowned love of the Spice Girls, but this movie does it well. By well, I mean subtly. I never felt beaten over the head with a plot point or philosophy in this movie, but it does have its fair share of ‘you go girl’. It’s a very character driven story about a woman who gets knocked up by her sh***y abusive husband. Which is the plot only at its most basic, it doesn’t sound very fun or interesting in that sentence when in fact the movie is quite fun and interesting. It sounds like one of those overly dark and angst ridden pictures made to prove to you how real movies can be when in fact you just leave wondering why real always equates to depressing. Luckily they added just the right dollop of quirky dialogue, subplots, and characters to make a layered intriguingly delicious confection. I really can’t speak highly enough of how thoroughly enjoyable this film is. I don’t mean to say that in terms of this movie will blow your mind and become one of your top ten greatest movies of all time. It’s just one of those movies that leave you feeling happy, hopeful and fully satiated.

New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘Dexter’- Season 5 (have you guys heard about this show? Serial killer kills other serial killers. Huh- well, the kids seem to like it…), Troll Hunter

Huge, freaking TROLLS, people!

(maybe you caught this Norwegian cult film at SPACE Gallery last month; if not, here’s the idea: HUGE FREAKING TROLLS! Shot all Cloverfiled style! Trolls!!!!), Blitz (real-life UK tough guys Jason Statham and Paddy Considine play burly, badass cops hunting a serial killer…who kills cops! He’s like Dexter…but not really), Win Win(this is the movie you

See this.

really want to rent this week, gang; the writer/director Tom McCarthy’s made two other films [The Station Agent and The Visitor] which are both excellent and beloves. This time he’s got Paul Giamatti, who is also excellent and beloved, as a beleaguered lawyer/wrestling coach. Seriously- see this one this wek), The Beaver(hello, mixed emotions! On the one hand, this generally well-reviewed tale about a suicidally-depressed guy who finds the ability to look at the bright side only by communicating through a beaver puppet is one of the legendary unproduced [now produced] screenplays

I think that puppet is about to say something really terrible...

in years, and it’s directed by [and costars] the lovely and talented Jodie Foster; on the other hand, star Mel Gibson is a racist, anti-Semitic, woman-hating creep-hole. Tough sell…), Henry’s Crime (is it a bad sign when a new movie hits DVD starring the likes of Keanu Reeves, James Caan, and Vera Farmiga and you’ve never heard of it? It’s a bank robbery comedy about a falsely accused guy whose eyes are too close together [guess who] who, after his release from prison, decides to actually rob the bank he was falsely accused of robbing in the first place. Does that help?), The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (docu-prankster Morgan Spurlock [Super Size Me] decides to make a movie about the insidious way that product placement sneaks into your favorite movies and TV shows by selling product placement in order to fund his movie. Is the film as clever as its gimmick? Rent it and see…), Poetry (critics are falling all over themselves trying to find the right words to praise this elegant, heartbreaking Korean drama about an elderly woman dealing with a lot of bad stuff [the onset of Alzheimer’s, her mundane daily existence, a spoiled creep of a grandson, and, oh yeah, a local murder] by discovering the joys of poetry), NEDS (an acronym for “non educated delinquents”, this is director/actor Peter Mullan [The Magdeline Sisters] autobiographical tale of growing up poor and largely-unparented in 1970’s Glasgow), Hoodwinked Too!: Hood vs. Evil (the usual, completely-overqualified and paycheck-seeking voice cast [in this case, the likes of Glenn Close, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Cheech and Chong, etc] spend some time in the recording booth for this animated sequel about cartoon fairy tale characters acting like they’re on Law & Order), Dream Home (nice ‘n’ gory Chinese thriller about a young woman so desperate to have the titular domicile that she starts carving up other prospective tenants), Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (film fans everywhere [this means you] should check out this documentary about legendary cinematographer Cardiff, veteran of oh, about a trillion movies, from The African Queen to Rambo: First Blood Part 2.)

Buy Local, Rent Videoport, Screw Netflix, and other phrases!

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