VideoReport #325

Volume CCCXXV- Paul Blart: Bad Lieutenant

For the Week of 11/8/11

Videoport reminds you that, for each movie you buy from us (instead of some heartless online corporation), you get a free rental for yourself (plus we don’t charge you shipping.) This message has been brought to you from the “holy crap, they’ve started playing Christmas music in malls already” department.

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.

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Red Eye (in Mystery/ Thriller.) To describe a movie as competent, solid, and efficient sounds like damning with faint praise, but to its credit, Red Eye is all these things. Even better, it’s relatable. We’ve all been where Lisa (Rachel McAdams) starts out: her flight is delayed, she’s tired and sad, and she just wants to get home without any incident. But this is a movie, so you know darn well she’s not gonna. This is more than just a bumpy flight. Through no fault of her own, Lisa becomes a pawn in a grand plot, all orchestrated from right there on the plane. And it’s not just Lisa who’s relatable; the plot is exactly big enough to be believed without stretching credulity, and the film itself gives us just as much action as the plot requires without too much overblown splashiness. Veteran director Wes Craven understands the tropes of thrillers and action flicks impossibly well, and in Red Eye he doles them out perfectly, beat for beat, for our (and, I’m sure, his own) entertainment. But this isn’t a winking self-referential self-satire like Craven’s 1996 Scream. The narrative of Red Eyeisn’t self-aware, just

McAdams in 'Slings & Arrows.' Which you should really watch.

clean and clever. Lisa isn’t genre-savvy, she’s just plain savvy. I like that about her: she’s not a hero, risking all for glory and taking crazy chances, but she’s not a victim, either. She feels very real to me, partly thanks to the luminous McAdams’ grounded and sensitive acting, and partly because the plot never pushes her beyond believability. (You’ll remember McAdams from Sherlock Holmes, Mean Girls, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and that Canadian series “Slings & Arrows” that Dennis and I keep hounding you to watch. Seriously, y’all, watch “Slings & Arrows.” The End.) Cillian Murphy (Inception, Sunshine, the Batman franchise) delivers a measured balance, too, first laying on a nicely credible amount of easy charm, then shifting into charmless uneasiness without tipping too far too fast. You get to see what makes these people tick without ever having it pounded into the story; Red Eye knows to show, not tell. Indeed, every small part in this small movie is cast thoughtfully and performed admirably, fleshing out the stock characters that populate the film. And when I say “stock characters,” for once I am saying it with appreciation. Each background character gets filled in for us with the quick shorthand of movie vocabulary, which is exactly as much character development as we need; the weight of Red Eye rests on McAdams and Murphy, and everything else is pared down to the essentials. No one is pretending this is A Great Film, but it knows exactly what it is: a very satisfying action-suspense flick. It’s competent, solid, perfectly efficient, and very enjoyable. So there.

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

>>>Dennis suggests Tekken(in Martial Arts), because why the hell not? Sure, we could get all hoity-toity

Don't worry, they're gonna start kicking each other soon.

here about movies based on video games just because they’re shameless corporate marketing wrapped in crap execution and drizzled with a steaming gravy of creative bankruptcy, but who wants to be that much of a bore. If you’re gonna go ahead and voluntarily watch a video game movie, reviewing it as if you’re above watching it in the first place makes you a complete douche. So I watched this on a couple of lunch breaks here at Videoport and while it’s perfunctory and pretty lame, it’s certainly not the worst video game-spawned cinematic atrocity I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen, well, a lot.) It’s better than, for example: Doom, DOA, Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, the other Street Fighter, Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat, the other Mortal Kombat, Wing Commander, and, obviously, any of the abominations from professional worst director in world history Uwe Boll (Alone in the Dark, the BloodRaynes, In the Name of the King, House of the Dead). And if it’s not quite as good as things like Hitman, the Resident Evils, Silent Hill, Max Payne, Prince of Persia, et all, it’s only because Tekken couldn’t lure any real actors slumming it for an addition on the country house (Tekken makes do with 80’s martial arts also-rans like Gary Daniels and Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa.) For those of you who haven’t stayed up until four in the morning getting your digital arse kicked by expert Tekken-er The Guak (government name withheld) at his lair, Fort Awesome, here’s the gist: there’s a fighting tournament. You fight each other. Sure, there’s some backstory about a sinister organization running the thing and all, but it’s basically just arse-kicking. In the movie version, they waste some time setting up some sort of dystopian future deal, but they get to the kicking pretty smartly, with all the colorfully-ridiculous fighters whomping the crap out of each other at a moderately-entertaining clip (although the director feels it necessary to chop every fight up into approximately 7,000 little hyper pieces.) I dunno, what else do you want?

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 recommends brushing up on a great character actor on DVD!Hey, you guys, I watched regular old TV and guess what I learned? A. I like watching TV on DVD muuuuuuuch better;

Sisto, helpfully labeled.

with TV on DVD (from Videoport! WOOT!) I get to pick and choose among the best shows out there, skip all the ads, and shotgun three or four episodes in a row. B. Hey, you guys, hey, listen: there’s a new series where Jeremy Sisto is playing someone’s dad. A TEENAGED-someone’s dad. Hey, remember when Jeremy Sisto was the go-to bad-boy for indie films and edgy dramas alike? Let’s return to our youth, or at least Jeremy Sisto’s youth, or maybe just my youth: check out Jeremy Sisto in groundbreaking, award-winning dramedy “Six Feet Under” (in Drama), in excellent horror/character study May (in Horror), and in 90s Jane-Austen-update Clueless (in Comedy).

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

>>>Dennis suggests Turkey Bowl(in Comedy.) No one’s going to rent this. I understand that. This is exactly the sort of microbudgeted indie trifle destined solely to be championed by several lonely film geeks before being forgotten completely (or perhaps rediscovered once one of its top-to-bottom talented young stars breaks out in something else.) Indeed, I have already attempted to recommend Turkey Bowl to several Videoport customers, all of whom invariably have smiled politely, nodded, and then snuck it back on the shelf when they thought I wasn’t looking. Fine, but I’m not giving up-

Okay, lets blow one lonely film geek's mind on two! Break!

this little film is one of the best things I’ve seen in months, and I just want you to be happy, people. Made by a group of presumably-struggling young actors, all using their own first names and all of whom have credits like “waitress,” “prying neighbor,” “young lawyer,” and, well, “waitress,” Turkey Bowl is the record of a yearly touch football game organized by a disparate group of college friends. And that’s it. In its short, 65 minute running time, the film takes a few minutes to watch everyone gather and chat before they divvy up into teams and start the game. And then it’s the game. And that’s, as I say, it. And I was riveted, frankly. It’s a novel (and sort of bold, really) strategy for a character study and the film, directed and written by one Kyle Smith, uses its gimmick for some of the most natural, and funny, character development around. It reminded me of John Sayles’ Return of the Secaucus Seven in that way (and indeed, that film’s basketball sequence may have been an inspiration)- the reunion of a group of college friends who have been drifting apart lets us listen in to their conversations and interactions and gradually divine their pasts, and their present conflicts. Except, as I’ve been saying, this is just the touch football game. One thing Turkey Bowl does astoundingly well is to introduce a large number of characters only through seemingly-inconsequential, largely football-related dialogue, and make them distinct, and engaging, even as they at first seem to fit into obvious types (the hyper-competitive jock, the self-deprecating snarker, a bickering couple, etc.) Another thing the film does exceptionally well is to present the actual game, for all of its sloppy play and frequent digressions, with crystal clarity- obviously we don’t really care who’s going to win any more than most of the players do, but director Smith’s facility with visual storytelling is far above the average Hollywood action director. They should take lessons. Adding to the film’s dynamic, one of the friends invites a couple of guys she just met to join the traditional game- and they, unlike the solidly white and well-off friends, are black and latino, respectively, and their presence in the group dynamic brings some perhaps needed friction to the proceedings. Not that anything especially momentous, or even noteworthy happens- it’s just friends, playing a game. Some things get said, a lot more we figure out for ourselves. It’s funny, and charming, and even a little exciting. It ends with a great little gag over the end credits that made me laugh out loud. It’s a great little movie full of bright, funny actors I hope to see more of. You should watch it. It’ll make you excited to see what can be done by smart, creative people with a camera and a handful of pocket change.

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

>>>Andy suggests The Rocketeer. Last week’s superhero flick Captain America: The First Avenger was pretty good, but I, for one, was not surprised. The same director made The Rocketeer way back in 1991, and it’s the same kind of deal. Both are fun, nostalgic, let’s-fight-the-Nazzies superhero stories with good period flavor. Director Joe Johnston clearly has an interest in WWII-era American life, and especially American films from that time. So, if you liked Captain America, The Rocketeer might become your new favorite movie.

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

>>>For Saturday, Videoport customer John S. offers some constructive criticism to his fellow Videoport customers. (I’m just gonna step out of the way…) “Maybe it’s time for Dennis to resume his diatribes against the mishandling of DVDs, without restricting the subject to kids’ movies. In this meantime: Damn the inbred, peasant halfwit, degenerate spawn of foul and reckless couplings whose indifference to the proper usage of videodiscs deprived me and mine of the denouement of the excellent film The Haunting (original version.) The last two scenes were unviewable due to scratches, perhaps due to the use of the disc to reduce a pill to some kind of inhalable fragments. The damage at that crucial point in the movie was likely unintentional, as to believe otherwise would be attributing to the cloddish miscreant a degree of subtlety and intelligence that he would find unimaginable.”

Editor’s note: I think what John is trying to get across here (and I think I’m on solid footing with this), is DO NOT TOUCH THE SHINY SIDE OF OUR DVDS.

>>>For Sunday, Andy suggest Chamber of Horrors* (in Classics). My movie-loving history has shown

He can just snap-tite any murder attachment on there...

me that I am truly a sucker for gimmicky horror movies set in wax museums. The 1953 Vincent Price film House of Wax, filmed in 3D**, is one of my very favorite films of all time. Mystery of the Wax Museum, from 1933, is a super cool movie that was shot in beautiful, painterly two-strip Technicolor. Then there’s the 2005 House of Wax remake. Ugh. Despite the gimmick of the clearly talentless Paris Hilton in an “acting” role, this dull horror flick couldn’t be saved***. But that one is an exception to the rule. Recently I watched Chamber of Horrors (1966), featuring two fun gimmicks: The Fear Flasher and The Horror Horn. Basically, when something scary happens in the movie, a fake-sounding horn blasts on the soundtrack and the screen flashes red for a few seconds. But, like Mystery of the Wax Museum and House of Wax (’53), Chamber of Horrors stands on its own, despite the gimmicks. It’s a fun, violent movie with a weird sense of humor**** and some nasty, delightfully macabre moments. The first scene is especially memorable: The villain forces a preacher at gunpoint to marry him to a corpse. That’s a sick and fantastic way to start a movie! But I would have liked this movie anyway, with all those scenes set inside the House of Wax, a great set crammed with mannequins re-enacting famous murders. There’s something about those wax figures. They’re realistic enough to almost pass for human, but fake and stiff… like a corpse. Chamber of Horrors also features one of the most enjoyably ridiculous final scenes of any movie I’ve seen in a long time, and a surprise Tony Curtis cameo*****!

*Chamber of Horrors is on a double-feature DVD with The Brides of Fu Manchu, an oh-so British adventure starring Christopher Lee as the diabolical supervillain Fu Manchu.

**Yes, I count 3D as a gimmick. Sorry, James Cameron.

***The 2005 House of Wax even got the premise wrong: it was set in a house that was made out of wax, which is both wrong and makes no sense. Duh.

****There are a lot of midget jokes made at the expense of Tun Tun, the little person actor who plays an artist at the Wax Museum. Tun Tun must have been a good sport.

*****Umm, except for the surprise. But there are lots of surpises I haven’t spoiled yet, if you dare to rent Chamber of Horrors!

New Releases This Week at Videoport: ‘Dr. Who’- season 6, part 2 (Matt Smith’s floppy-haired version of the venerable time lord is back; people seen to enjoy him!), Atlas Shrugged- part 1(this first

It really is very floppy...

half of a planned multi-film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s objectivist screed/novel [and Tea Party fave] bombed pretty hard in theaters, making its continuation sort of unlikely; there are those who are sad about that fact, and then there’s me…), Change-Up (I love me some Jason Bateman, and Ryan Reynolds is growing on me, so why haven’t I watched this raunchy body-switch comedy about a horny bachelor and his married pal swapping bodies? I think it was seeing a baby poop right into Bateman’s mouth in the trailers- man, I must be getting old…), 13 (when a film sits on the studio’s shelves for three years after it was completed, even though it’s got an eclectic-but-impressive cast [in this case Ray Winstone, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, 50 Cent], well, that not always a good sign…; still, this Americanized remake of the undeniably-intense foreign thriller 13 Tzameti [in the foreign section at Videoport, natch’] should benefit from the films’ inherently-nail-biting premise…which I’m not gonna spoil for you), Life in a Day (July 24th, 2010 becomes one of the most documented days in history with this film where two directors sent out a call for some 80,000 youtube users to film their lives and then culled the best stuff out of the some 4,500 hours of footage they received), The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (this raucous, joyous documentary about the titular yodeling, country-singing lesbian sibling comedy duo is the highest-grossing documentary in New Zealand history), The Sleeping Beauty (French provocateuse Catherine Breillat [Fat Girl, Bluebeard, The Last Mistress, Romance, Anatomy of Hell, etc] brings us yet another twisted fairy tale deconstruction with this creepily-erotic take on the fable of a cursed girl in a hundred-year coma living a disturbing dream life), Boy Wonder (ever wonder what a real-life Bruce Wayne would turn into? Check out this disturbing thriller about a young guy who turns vigilante after his mother is murdered to find out…), The Robber (German thriller about the improbable real-life career of a champion marathon runner who robs banks in his spare time), The Nutcracker (cool cast [Elle Fanning, John Turturro, Richard E. Grant, Shirley Henderson, Nathan Lane] try to liven up this new film adaptation of the old Christmas chestnut), Wake Up (documentary about a seemingly-normal guy who woke up one day to discover that he can see angels and the like; inspirational call to spiritual awakening or phony nutjob claiming to see things that don’t exist in actual reality? You decide…)

Videoport gives you free money. Totally true. You can buy yourself $25 worth of store credit for only $20, and $40 worth of credit for only $30. I’m not a math guy, but that seems to come out to five or ten free dollars for you, from us. Lemme check my figures here…yup. Free money for you.

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