Volume CCCXXIII- Paul Blart: Timecop
For the Week of 10/25/11
Videoport gives you a free movies every day. Why not take an extra horror movie for Halloween? Sleep is overrated…
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.
>>> In this week leading up to Halloween, Elsa S. Customer suggests cozying up with some of the truly great haunted-house movies, starting with The Shining (in Horror), arguably the king* of haunted-house movies. Stephen King complained that Stanley Kubrick’s adaption stripped away most of the motivation and plot, but I contend that the film (co-written by Diane Johnson and Kubrick) necessarily pares away distractions from a baroquely overplotted novel. While that elaborate web of motifs may work in a page-turning book, onscreen they would meld into a sloppy, tension-smothering stew of images. (And if you don’t believe that, check out the King-endorsed miniseries [also in the Horror section]: a flabby, slogging mess.) Kubrick’s film creates terror from nothing by winding up the three main players, emptying out that enormous labyrinthian space, and letting them blunder around in there. Kubrick’s The Shining is like a drum: it resonates because it is empty. [*See what I did there?]
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests The Ring(in Horror.) For once, I’m going to make a case for an American-language remake. Naomi Watts brings a somber, unnerving note to her role as Rachel, a reporter following up
doggedly on a story about an urban legend and a string of teenager’s deaths. The blankness that sometimes overtakes Rachel’s face makes the sometimes dubious plot turns all too convincing. The Ring does fill the standard criterion of a haunted-house tale (by identifying one place as the site of a terrible deed and the locus for a ghost’s manifestation) but it also transcends the genre by unleashing it. No longer can we rest easy, knowing that the punishing spirit is safely stashed away in its house; in the logic of The Ring, it can (and WILL) follow us anywhere. Not only that, but The Ring devastatingly throws off the rules of resolution so familiar from campfire tales and old-timey short stories; we think we know how to quiet the dead, but we are oh so wrong.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests The Haunting (in Horror, but we’ll count it as a classic.) (note: Be sure
you get the 1963 original starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom, not the flabby 1999 remake.) It’s a well-chewed nugget of story: a motley group is called together to stay in — and to study — a notorious and putatively haunted house. But Robert Wise’s The Haunting (based on Shirley Jackson’s justly renowned novel The Haunting of Hill House) sets the standard for this trope. Instead of cheap jumps and scare chords, this film allows the pressure to simmer away slowly, letting us absorb not only the drab grimness of Hill House’s foreboding rooms but also the mounting tensions between the characters, especially between timid Nell and her roommate, the entrancing bohemian Theo.
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 A Tale of Two Sisters (in Assorted Asian Exploitation.) A Tale of TwoSisters is based on a Korean folktale known as Rose Flower & Red Lotus, and despite its thoroughly contemporary setting and tone, the modern psychological thriller/haunted-house tale retains some of that folk-story pedigree in its balance and grace. The essence of the tale is as familiar as any fairy tale: two troubled girls cling to each other in the face of family strife, a most-unwelcome stepmother, and their belief that some evil force is manifesting itself in their rooms at night. It’s stylish and suspenseful without ever being dismissively slick, at times genuinely terrifying, and in equal parts devastating and heartening in its glimpse inside a family’s private moments.
>>>Elsa S. Customer says how about a Spanish-language haunted-house double-feature? With
The Devil’s Backbone, director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Cronos) manages to deliver a genuinely harrowing ghost story wrapped in a surprising blanket of genuine warmth and heart. While his father is off fighting in the Spanish Civil War, young Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is consigned to an orphanage, and we join him as he explores the landscape, learning its mysteries and trying to carve out a place for himself. Del Toro is a master of atmosphere and darkness, but more than that, he knows how to allow character to shape a story until each moment is a dark little poem. In The
Orphanage, director J.A. Bayona (funded in part and advised by del Toro) brings a similarly sorrowful tale to light; Laura (Belén Rueda) brings her husband and newly adopted son Simon to the long-abandoned orphanage where she herself grew up; Laura plans to refurbish the building and start a center for disabled children. Though The Orphanage delivers some chilling moments (including at least one that made us two seasoned horror-movie fans jump and holler), it also creates a curious and potent blend of sorrow and sweetness, an elegiac note in an often debased genre.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Elsa S. Customer keeps the haunted houses coming with Session 9(in Horror.) Okay, it’s not a house, strictly speaking, but director Brad Andersen’s low-budget high-tension psychological thriller captures the
essence of haunted-house stories. A small team works long hours at on the lonely grounds of an abandoned mental hospital; each member of the four-man team brings his own personal pressures to the job with them, but their tension is compounded by the rush job and by the oppressive atmosphere of the site. The hulking architecture of the actual long-derelict Danvers State Hospital lends its uniquely sinister air to the film, casting dread and a literal shadow over the landscape.
>>>Videoport customer Danuta suggests (via Post-It note on a copy of The Trip [in British Comedy.]) “If you like this movie, do watch the deleted scenes!”
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>April suggests some more free kids Friday Halloween movies! Looking for something a little bit rude for Halloween? Try Little Monsters with Howie Mandel and Fred Savage! Remember this one, 80’s kids? Howie Mandel pees in someone’s apple juice. It’s crazy! It’s like Monsters Inc. but gross and weird. If that one is a bit much for you, I’d tell you to rent The Ghost and Mr. Chicken with Don Knotts. I think he’s the best thing ever. How could you not love Don Knotts? He’s just so gosh darn loveable.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Videoport customer Jason suggests Attack the Block (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) This film was once described to me as “The Wire meets Alien.” It is hard to think of a description that could do more to elevate my expectations (“Firefly” meets Seven Samurai? “Arrested Development” meets Citizen Kane? I could play this game for hours), combine that with the Shaun of the Dead connection and I was pretty much setting my self up for disappointment. I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed. Attack of the Block is the story of an alien invasion set in a public housing block in South London. The aliens can’t always land in small town America or suburbia, can they? The location is not just a gimmick. Every detail, from the imposing functionalism of the building to the racial and class tensions of the housing complex, become part of the believable backdrop of the film. The aliens are clearly done on the cheap, but the emphasis is on the action so you hardly notice. If Super 8 is this year’s tribute to Spielberg, all full of childhood wonder and small town innocence, then Attack the Block is perhaps this year’s tribute to John Carpenter, with more of sense of urban conflict and urban decay. Oh, now I have totally raised your expectations.
>>>And Videoport customer Ryan also suggests Attack the Block (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) I found Attack the Block to be refreshing, funny, somewhat less painfully predictable than the usual Hollywood fare, and passable in terms of acting by the cast. Given my usual disdain for the vast majority of media content out there today, that’s high praise… particularly for a film that could be marginally described as both “sci-fi” and “silly,” two terms that I’m normally loathe to use to describe the same film….
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer’s haunted house tour concludes with Stir of Echoes(in
Mystery/Thriller.) This gritty little chiller defies a trope common to the haunted-house genre. Instead of a blandly comfortable upper-middle-class family stumbling upon a vacant ramshackle mansion and snapping it up for a song (without ever wondering about its dark history), Stir of Echoes starts off in a working-class Chicago neighborhood where telephone lineman Tom (Kevin Bacon) lives with his wife and kid. Tom is a forthright, no-nonsense guy who has little time for the mystical puffery spouted by his sister-in-law (Ileana Douglas), which makes his upcoming experiences all the more jolting. It’s a rough, plucky story about trying to carve out a life in rough times, even though death lurks in the corners.
New Releases This Week at Videoport: Captain America (Marvel Comics continues to trounce rival DC in the movie department with this solid superhero flick starring the suitably-earnest, and blond, Chris Evans as the shield-slinging WWII Nazi-puncher), Winnie the Pooh (do we really need another feature film about the Pooh-bear? When it’s narrated by John Cleese, we do), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale(from Finland
comes the tale of an archaeological team that unearths an evil, murderous creature… that wears a red suit, has a long white beard, and visits children one night a year- yup, it’s that evil Santa movie you were waiting for! Why not rent this and Troll Hunter and see just what the hell they’re up to in Scandinavia), ‘Robot Chicken’- season 5 (once again, cool guy Seth Green and friends open up their toy boxes for some rude, stop-motion action figure fun), A Serbian Film(you know how
Videoport will slap a “no one under 18” sticker on some movies? Well, don’t be surprised if you see six or seven of ’em on this notorious import, the insanely, apocalyptically vicious tale of an aging porn star lured back into the filmmaking underworld; seriously, you don’t want to rent this, unless you do…), A Little Help (‘The Office’‘s own America’s sweetheart Jenna Fischer stars in this quirky comedy/drama about a put-upon/adorable dental hygienist forced to cope with some unexpected obstacles), Shaolin (Chinese superstar Andy Lau [Infernal Affairs, House of Flying Daggers] stars as a weary warlord whose retreat amongst the monks is interrupted by his martial artist-y past; Jackie Chan’s in there somewhere, too), Father of Invention (Kevin Spacey stars in this comedy about a former infomercial maven, jailed after one of his products maims everyone in sight, trying to rebuild his empire), Monte Carlo (tween queens Leighton Meester and Selena Gomez star in this demographically-targeted comedy about American girls mistaken for royalty while on a European vacation), Page One: Inside the New York Times (acclaimed documentary about the inner workings of the paper of record), Spooky Buddies(dogs in
Halloween costumes! You can’t resist it!), My Effortless Brilliance (from Lynn Shelton [director of Humpday] comes another minutely-observed indie dramedy about two estranged friends having an awkward reunion at a mountain cabin), Nora’s
Will (intriguing Mexican film about a philandering e-husband who finds himself tasked with following his deceased ex-wife’s mysterious list of tasks after she commits suicide), Severe Clear (wartime documentary about Mike Scotti, one of the first soldiers on the ground into Baghdad), The Rivals (Maine-made documentary details the titular football rivalry between blue collar Mountain Valley High in Rumford, and affluent Cape Elizabeth High.)
New Arrivals This Week at Videoport: Island of Lost Souls (the Criterion Collection gang brings us this deluxe edition of the still-freaky 1932 horror flick about a mad [really, really mad] scientist making hybrid people-animals on his own private isle), Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging (could this British coming-of-age comedy have a more British-y title? How about Lorries, Lifts, and Fannies? Or Prams, Knickers, and the Queen?), ‘Leverage’- season 2 (I know at least one Videoport customer family that’s gonna be very happy that we got the 2nd season fo this con-man caper show starring Timothy Hutton; if we can make just one family happy, then our day is that much brighter…), ‘V’- season 1 (‘Firefly’‘s Morena Baccarin takes over from Jane Badler [abstruse trivia alert!] as the queen of an
invading alien lizard army in this remake of the kind-of beloved 80’s sci fi series), The House By the Cemetery (fans of goopy Italian horror rejoice! Italian ‘master of horror’ Lucio Fulci’s haunted house splatter-fest comes to Videoport, just in time for Halloween.)
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray This Week at Videoport: Captain America, Rare Exports, Shaolin, Pulp Fiction.
(Now that Paranormal Activity 3 has become the biggest-opening horror movie of all time [seriously], here’s a list of horror flicks that take advantage of the fact that trying to catch the scariness, along with the characters, through the limited vision of a video camera can make you have to pee really badly.)
The Blair Witch Project
The Last Broadcast
Paranormal Activity 2
The Last Exorcism
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Diary of the Dead
The days are running out…the end is near…to get your discounted tickets to the Halloween night zombie double feature of the original Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead at the State Theatre! Just $6 if you get your tickets ahead of time from us ($8 at the door.) See you there…unless you’re chicken…
Did you miss this year’s Damnationland? No you didn’t.
The chillingly-awesome local horror anthology Damnationland 2011 is reopening the late, lamented Movies on Exchange St. this weekend only for many, many screenings! Check out www.damnationland.com for the details!