Volume CCCXVIII- On a Clear Day, You Can See Godzilla
For the Week of 9/20/11
Videoport will give you a free movie every single day. Why? Just ’cause we think you could use something nice to happen to you today…
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.)
>>> Former Videoporter Stockman suggests ‘The Vampire Diaries’ (in Feature Drama.) I mostly picked up this show because well…it has vampires and they’re in high school…it’s like cat nip, gets me all wound up and feisty. And that’s before you throw in Ian Somerhalder of the dreamy smoldering Paul Newman blue eyes. In the interest of full disclosure here is a quick run down of my general vampire opinions, so you can judge if I’m a good vampire match for you. Buffy the movie, not so much, with the exception of Paul Reubens. Buffy the tv show, pure brilliant balance of teen angst, vampires, and comedy. Twilight the books, entertaining candy. Twilight the movies, boring as all hell with neither lead capable of acting more than one emotion. Okay, moving on. Vampire Diaries did not start as a show of note! I won’t lie about that. The first few episodes (maybe even a whole disc or so) are fairly formulaic and to get through those episodes you rely solely on the sharp sarcastic wit of bad boy brother Damon, who is more then up for carrying the show on one ironically raised eyebrow. (Played by Ian Somerhalder of the dreamy smoldering Paul Newman blue eyes…I really can’t stress those babies enough). What’s amazing about this show and worthy of the long haul is that in addition to the continually enhanced wit and wonder of Damon they throw caution to the wind. The plot just starts to move! And I mean move, like seriously MOVE. If there is one thing to highlight about this show, it is one hell of a ride. They do what I wish more shows would do, eventually get over themselves. They stop clinging to a gimmick from their desperate premise and just say f*** it, “Let’s find out what happens to these characters when we do this or this, how would they react if we actually made THIS happen…” And so far, what happens to these characters when they do some of THAT, pretty damn entertaining.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Faster (in Action.) I’ve always had an immediate liking for Dwayne Johnson (aka The
Rock, or, as Ms. Elsa S. Customer and I invariably refer to him “Mr. The Rock.”) Sure, in my secret younger career as a closet rasslin’ fan, I appreciated his undeniable in-ring charisma as an over-the-top anti-hero and I cheered for the big guy as he made his transition to the movies. He started off with some pretty standard musclehead stuff (The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King) where his physique/mystique did most of the heavy lifting as it were, but when he was actually allowed to act, he proved that that blustery wrestler’s charisma could carry over into capable action leading man territory. I mean, he’s never gonna be Brando (or even Will Smith), but in movies like The Rundown, Reno 911: Miami, The Other Guys, and Be Cool, Mr. The Rock’s shown himself a funny, formidable, and, yeah, massively-jacked presence. But, it must be said, Mr. The Rock’s career has seemed in a bit of a muscly rut. I mean Race to Witch Mountain? The Game Plan? The Tooth Fairy? It’s like he’s been taking career advice from Schwarzenegger, but only in his Kindergarten Cop days. Finally, in Faster, someone’s given Mr. TR something a little different. Sure, he’s a badass, but in this one, he gets to display a harder edge that can only help his screen profile. Faster‘s plot is basic, even cliche; MTR gets out of prison in the first scene and heads out for some revenge. What sets the film apart from most of the standard action section blandness is how damned no-nonsense the whole thing is; from the opening, when, stepping out of the prison gates and realizing no one is there to pick him up, MTR just starts running away from there, down the dusty desert highway. That’s the pace the film sets (appropriately enough, considering the title and everything), which is really refreshing. It’s shocking how absolutely poky most Hollywood action movies are in just getting on with it. Faster is like a steamroller, and it smartly springs its action setpieces on you about a beat before most movies would. Again, refreshing. And, like the movie itself, MTR, looking as huge as he ever has, is all silent determination, striding, coiled and implacable, from one effectively violent (and straight ahead) encounter to the next. Along the way, the plot is parceled out in neat little chunks, with seedy cop Billy Bob Thornton doing the thing he was seemingly born to do in pursuit. Faster is a lean, mean, fast-paced little number, and Dwayne Johnson (yeah, I said it) makes a solid step forward.
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!)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Caddyshack (in Comedy.) I usually give a long-winded review of a film or an involved dissection of its charms… but I don’t have to do that here, do I? C’mon, it’s Caddyshack! It’s Bill Murray before his face crumpled into a permanent sadness crinkle! It’s Rodney Dangerfield at his Dangerfieldiest! It’s Chevy Chase just a tiny bit before we all started wanting to kick him in his chin dimple all the time! And it has roughly ten boingjillion of the funniest lines ever.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis suggests Kill Bill ,Volumes 1 and 2 (in Martial Arts.) Here’s a memo to everyone who seems to have taken up ‘beating up on Quentin Tarantino ‘ as their cliched sport: you are ridiculous. Re-watching this action revenge epic for about the tenth time (which is easy, since I own it, along with all of Quentin’s other movies), I found myself getting cheesed off, and not for the first time. “Oh Quentin’s just rehashing old movie genres. Oh, Quentin’s only replaying his fantasies of the films he saw as a kid.” God, you people are just the dumbest. So what if this particular director was raised on kung fu movies, blaxploitation movies, 70’s gangster movies and the like and has forged his career out of a
distillation of the same into his own brand of referential films? Jesus, people, have any of you noticed how every scene of every one of his movies is composed of scene upon scene of pure, unadulterated awesomeness? I mean, sure, (if you’re an utter bore), you might quibble over the essential ‘meta’-ness of QT’s movies, but then I would think far, far less of you. Quentin was raised, like I, and every other Videoport geek, on movies, and we loved them. I mean loved. All Quentin did was take his starry-eyed memories of sleazy, exciting, films he was probably too young to see and turned those memories into complete cinematic enjoyment. All of his films (well, maybe not Death Proof, which is more of a goof) are in the top twenty of my favorite films of all time. Seriously. No one else can say that- not Altman, not Kurosawa, not Sayles. Nobody. And, as for Kill Bill, I’ll just leave you with the fact that, after seeing Part 1 (which showed first since the studio mandated it be split in half), I walked out of the theater pissed off; I could’ve sat in the theater and watched Uma Thuman’s quest for revenge (seasoned as it was through anime, martial arts, chop-socky, and other films) play out for another three hours, and been giddy, as only another film freak can be, at the end. Quentin is the film fan’s director. His films are made of fun. Everyone else should just shut the hell up.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>It’s free. Make a kid happy.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Ms. Elsa S. Customer suggests Stage Fright (in Mystery/Thriller.) Most of Hitchcock’s early films hold up pretty well. Um, most of ’em. Despite an uncharacteristically modern narrative structure and several long takes reminiscent of Hitch’s famously self-conscious Rope, Stage Fright… well, it just doesn’t. It’s got the makings of a tidy little thriller: an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (Richard Todd) turns to a young actress (Jane Wyman) for help when he’s suspected of murdering the husband of his exotic leading lady and duh duh DUHHHH secret lover (played to the hilt by Marlene Dietrich, natch, and
she’s as delicious as always). Predictably, our fresh-faced ingenue goes all Nancy Drew to help out her friend, and I think that’s what sinks the flick: it’s just too darned adorable and winky. The playful self-amused tone contrasts jarringly with the layers of passion and betrayal implicit in the crime and with the gory evidence, a dress smeared with the victim’s blood. So why am I recommending it? Two solid reasons! 1. During the show-within-a-show, Dietrich gives a strikingly languid performance of “The Laziest Girl in Town.” 2. Early on, you get to hear Mahwenah Dietwich utter the phrase “We had a terrible quarrel!” The phonetic delight of her accent trilling its way through those consonants is all but impossible to render here; you have to hear it for yourself.
>>>For Sunday, Former Videoporter Stockman suggests Dear Frankie (in Feature Drama.) You know those movies that are just plain interesting? This is one of them. It’s not amazing, it’s not awe inspiring, it doesn’t have overwhelming noteworthy performances, writing, or directing. It’s just plain interesting. It’s a sweet character driven story and you just want to know what happens to all the characters in this little slice of their lives. If anything, I often find it helps in slice of life stories to exist firmly in neutral territory. The really awful ones leave you disgusted with the pointlessness of even making a slice of life type movie and the amazing ones actually leave you wanting more. It’s the neutral ones that make you happy to be given a couple hours of voyeurism into the lives of engaging characters. Frankie’s mom has created a fictionalized father who travels abroad to give the young lad something tangible to relate to. Naturally such lies eventually go awry when the coincidence of reality looms and Mom o’ Frankie looks to find someone who will play Frankie’s father. Enter handsome stranger Gerard Butler. No, this is not a romance, or a comedy, or a romantic comedy. It does have accents of romance and comedy and drama in it, but it is all understated. My ultimate word for it would be sweet. It is a sweet movie; sure it’s a bit girly, but it’s a truly pleasant way to pass some time and you walk away satisfied at time well spent and a story well told.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Bridesmaids (SNL‘s Kristen Wiig makes the tv-to-movie star transition in a major way in this successful, and very funny, comedy about a down-on-her-luck best friend whose wedding duties for her best pal [the super cool Maya Rudolph] go all kerfluey; rude, crude, and hilarious, with a great comic turn by Jon Hamm and a classic supporting role from Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy), ‘Modern Family’- season 2 (freshly annointed with a bunch o’Emmy awards, this multi-family comedy series brings the funny), ‘Castle’- season 3 (nerd god Nathan Fillion [‘Firefly’] makes this comic cop series about a mystery writer assisting the police into surprisingly-enjoyable viewing),‘The
Mentalist’- season 3 (blandly-handsome [“blandsome”?] Simon Baker is back in this popular series about a detective who solves mysteries…with the power of his mind!!!), ‘The Kennedys’ (the History Channel bowed to pressure from, among others, the titular clan itself and refused to air this miniseries about the political dynasty starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes), ‘Raising Hope’- season 1 (indie queen Martha Plimpton [I Shot Andy Warhol] stars in this sitcom about one of those humorously-dysfunctional families), 51 (Sean Connery’s son directed this Syfy Channel movie about aliens running amok at the titular government installation; from the After Dark Horror Fest), Bride Flight (acclaimed drama about three brides whose lives change in satisfyingly-dramatic ways when the emigrate to New Zealand as war wives), Rec 2 (that zombie rabies plague they were trying to contain in the first Rec was, well, not properly contained, it seems…), ‘The Vampire Diaries’- seasons 1&2 (see Stockman’s Monday review of this high school vampire horror series, and then get rentin’), Sonic Youth 1991: The Year Punk Broke (check Videoport’s Popular Music section for this documentary about, well, you read the title, right?), ‘Camelot’- season 1 (the current TV trend of sexing up historical dramas continues with this one about the gang at the round table), Outside the Law (gripping French thriller about the Algerian struggle for independence from France in the 1950s), Undertow (haunting Peruvian love story about a closeted gay man, his pregnant wife, and the ghost of his drowned gay lover), The Big Uneasy (Harry Shearer’s convincingly-upsetting documentary about the real reasons for the devastation of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina), The Putt Putt Syndrome(filmed in Maine and made by a
Mainer, this national release comedy about a husband [Jason London] being tempted by his cynical friend’s deconstruction of his happy marriage can be found in Videoport’s comedy section), Skateland (indie drama about the teen manager of the titular 1980’s Texas skating rink forced to deal with some life-changing stuff), Gantz (live action version of the necessarily-bonkers anime series, this Japanese sci fi thriller has teenagers in cool space armor tasked with hunting down invading aliens, I believe), Cold Weather (taking place in the other Portland, this well-reviewed indie thriller finds two detective novel-obsessed dropouts investigating the disappearance of an ex-girlfriend), Last Night (professional gorgeous people Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington play a married couple, apart for a night, each confronted with some serious temptation in this drama), I Will Follow (indie drama about a grieving woman’s day, and the twelve visitors who try to cheer her up; seriously, that’s a lot of casseroles…)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: The Sonny and Cher Christmas Collection (“why did you get this, Videoport?”, you might ask. “Why the hell not?”, we might reply.)
New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: All the Star Wars movies (completely re-destroyed by George Lucas yet again, but all shiny and new!), Dawn of the Dead (the original!), The Tempest (for some reason, only the blu ray of this Shakespeare adaptation starring Helen Mirren comes out this week; the DVD doesn’t get released until December!?!?? Nope, we don’t know why either…), Bridesmaids.
Come out to the State Theatre on Halloween Night for zombie fun, as we co-sponsor a double feature of the original Dawn of the Dead and the just plain awesome Shaun of the Dead. There’s a zombie costume contest (with Videoport gift certificates for prizes), and local zombie short “Last Call” in between the films. Tickets available at Videoport: just $6 here, 8 at the door. ZOMBIES!!!