Volume CCCXXVI- Humorous Movie Title #326
For the Week of 11/15/11
Videoport says get your holiday shopping just out of the way already! We’ve got goft certificates for the movie-lovers on your list and, psst, we give you a free rental for every movie you buy from us. (But they don’t need to know that…)
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 ‘Bones’ (in Mystery/Thriller.) Unlike most police procedurals, Bones is a perfect candidate for a popcorn-chomping, watching-in-order, lazy-Sunday-or-lazy-anyday TV marathon. It’s got a cozy balance of character development, lighthearted collegial comradery, mystery and intrigue, all spiced up with some full-on GLORK ROTTING HUMAN REMAINS ACK! Seriously, y’all: this is perhaps the gloppiest, soupiest, most graphically grossing-out mainstream show I’ve ever seen. It’s kinda hard to believe that this grue and gore is watched and adored by normal humans and advertisers alike, but the tone of the show manages to make it all very loveable. So why back up to season 1 and watch the show in order? Well, let’s see: for newcomers, it’s worth meeting prickly, cool, single-mindedly rational forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) the way her new partner, FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz), does, and to watch their wildly varying styles of investigation settle into a complementary pattern. And getting to know the team is delicious; the sheer joy that this patchwork group of nutbar genius scientists takes in the information wrung from the gloppy, sloppy evidence is what makes the show so compulsively watchable. Even more than that, after a couple of seasons getting to know and care about these characters, we get to see them pull together to catch a serial killer and [spoiler redacted OH MY GOSH!] See, the catch is: I can’t tell you why you want to watch it in order without spoiling the reason why you want to watch it in order. But we’ve known each other a while, right? And we have a certain amount of trust built up, don’t we, [YOUR NAME HERE]? So maybe just trust me on this. (Props to my sister-in-law T., who urged me to give Bones a try, even to back up a few seasons and catch up. She was dead right.)
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis suggests you take ACTION on some of Videoport’s CLASSIC money-saving deals for the holiday! (Apologies, but no one sent me a Tuesday movie review this week…) With the holiday season barreling down upon you like a runaway, gingerbread freight train, here are some ways to make the experience a little less painful, courtesy of Videoport:
1. Buy movies from us and get a little something for yourself! Yup, whenever you buy a movie from Videoport (instead of some faceless, corporate chain), we give you a free rental for yourself. It’s like we’re rewarding you for being generous to others! (Plus, we can order anything you need, and we don’t charge shipping.)
2. Videoport gift certificates! These are just a great gift.
3. We have these ginormous boxes of jelly beans!
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!)
>>> Videoport customer Meghan C suggests Laibach: A Film from Slovenia(in Popular Music.) The other Wednesday we got excited about renting movies, but then we remembered that our DVD
player was broken. And THEN we remembered that Videoport still carries VHS tapes, albeit in limited quantities. The result was a painstaking cruise through the store looking for a) movies on VHS and b) movies on VHS that looked interesting. I’m pleased to say that I tracked down enough movies for the Wednesday $7 extravaganza, and even more pleased to say that, while exceptionally weird, our VHS selections were rather delightful. Probably the weirdest, and my favorite, was “Laibach: A Film from Slovenia.” Now, my fella likes to put on a movie whilst falling asleep, and he’s a real night owl. I have to wake up at a godawful early hour for work, so I often wake up while his fall-asleep selection is still playing. It’s often a little disorienting, but I can’t recall anything quite as baffling as waking up to a man in an army drab keffiyeh in front of a green screened snow-topped mountain range growling lyrics in Slovenian over a drum-heavy industrial soundtrack with hints of classical brass. Intrigued, I rewound (flashback!) and watched from the beginning. Turns out the documentary is a peculiar blend of performance by and interviews with Slovenian bizarro-performance-art-avant-industrial group Laibach and supportive testimony and earnest critique by postmodern Slovenian critic Slavoj Zizek. Formed sometime around the death of Tito, it’s unclear whether the group appropriates the symbols and uniforms of totalitarianism as some sort of total-submersion performance art in opposition to dictatorial rule or if they really dig on a police state. I’m gonna have to go with Zizek and give them the benefit of the doubt: They seem like a smart bunch of dudes poking at a particularly tender national soft spot, namely the nation’s communist dictatorial past. This is a moderately interesting movie for it’s documentarian exploration, but mostly I was hypnotized by the crazy-pants music videos sprinkled liberally throughout. Aside from the mountain, we also get some crazy darkened room/movie projector and interpretive dance. You’ll find this movie in the Music section, so it’s a good be for a free Thursday rental. Maybe if you’re real, real nice they’ll count it as a Worldly Wednesday whatnot* (I mean, if you’re willing to watch Slovenian music videos pm VHS, it should count for something, right?) Recent conversations with friends tell me that most people don’t have a VHS play at all, but if you’re looking for something to satisfy your analog soul, get on this.
*Editor’s note: Sure, why not?
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis suggests ‘The Ricky Gervais Show’ (in Comedy.) Guaranteed to induce giggle-fits, this HBO show is the animated version of the podcast Gervais and his writing partner (they created ‘The Office’ and ‘Extras’) Stephen Merchant. Obviously, they are two of the funniest guys on the planet, and the animations used to illustrate the often absurd tangents their conversations sail onto, but the real comedy guts of the show are Gervais and Merchant’s invariably-baffled ridicule of their third podcast, and absolutely-bewildering little guy named Carl Pilkington. Introduced as some sort of radio producer, Pilkington combines ignorance, gullibility, and a completely-deadpan delivery in one of the most jaw-droppingly weird real-life characters I’ve ever seen. For Gervais and Merchant, the day they met this born comic foil must have been the happiest of their lives, as their explosively-derisive responses to yet another completely-nonsensical assertion (like, say, his poorly-thought-out plan for babies to be born from the dead bodies of 78 year old people in order to control population, or his assertion that the Russians have trained monkeys to land on the moon) are, again, pure improvisational comedy gold. I mean, it can’t be a put-on, can it? If so, that would make Pilkington the greatest conceptual comic since Andy Kaufman. (They’ve since gone on to create a travel show for Carl, sending possibly the most provincial, least curious human being on the planet to see the wonders of the world.) Just complete giggle-bait.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests “The Muppet Show.” “I kinda feel like I missed The Muppets,” said my eldest niece. It had never occurred to me that we, her elders, had so woefully neglected her cultural education, and I intend to make amends ASAP with a dinner at my place, over which we’ll
watch three or four of the best Muppet Show episodes. Now I just have to decide which ones those are. Clearly the excellent John Cleese episode, which makes such hay out of the Muppets’ interactions with the belligerent Cleese, will have to wait until she’s seen enough of the show to have a sense of the characters. Similarly, the frenetically mad Peter Sellers episode, in which Sellers asserts his own non-existence, requires some building-up-to. Do I start out with Debbie Harry? Mummenschanz? Vincent Price? (Question: do young persons know about Vincent Price’s reputation as master of monster movies? OH NO, what a muddle this intergenerational transmission of culture can be.)
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Andy suggests Cursed (in Horror). I love werewolf movies. Expect to see a shelf in the Staff Picks section to be devoted to werewolf movies* very soon, when it’s time to take down all those holiday movies currently clogging that section. Wes Craven’s Cursedwill be on that shelf. I saw the PG-13 version in the theater and just recently watched the “unrated” version — it’s Craven’s original R-rated cut. I
kind of like it. It nicely walks the horror/comedy line, though admittedly not nearly as well as Scream, Scream 4, or even Scream 2. Cursed is still better than Scream 3, if that’s worth anything. Despite a script by Scream collaborator Kevin Williamson, Cursed is often sloppy, but the movie still delivers where it counts. The violence is nasty, though not plentiful. There are lots of references to earlier werewolf movies. That is now an essential part of the genre, ever since An American Werewolf in London and The Howling, both overflowing with in-jokes. Jesse Eisenberg’s Teen Wolf subplot delivers. Just substitute basketball with wrestling and, VIOLA!, recycled movie magic! Cursed is also blessed with excellent casting, especially for comedy fans. Three actors later became major cast members in Arrested Development (the greatest TV comedy of the 2000s): Portia de Rossi, Judy Greer, and Scott Baio — they don’t have a lot of funny stuff to do, but they’re there (as is Nick Offerman, Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation). Unfortunately, Cursed is also burdened with some crappy casting. Moon-faced actress Christina Ricci was an obvious choice for a werewolf movie, but she’s just not that good an actor-person**, and her character is the least interesting person in the movie. And her love thing with Joshua Jackson is more essential to the plot than actually convincing. But Cursed is still violent and funny and has many good moments, even if it’s a disappointment. Horror fans, especially werewolf movie fans, have seen much, much worse.
*This werewolf section will be pretty great, though a good chunk of it will be devoted to the Twilight and Underworld series’. In both series, werewolves fight vampires in sometimes epic battles. Who, you ask, would win in a real-life battle between werewolves and vampires? That’s simple: The Mummy. Slow and steady always wins the race. Mummies are the turtles of the monster realm.
**I still like her, though, for her more adventurous roles in Pumpkin, Buffalo ’66, and the Addams Family movies.
>>>For Sunday, Videoport customer John M suggests Something Wild (in the Criterion Collection.) Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild is likely one of the most brilliant and devious movies of the 1980s, featuring immaculate and perfectly judged performances from everyone in the cast. It easily ranks as one of Jeff Daniels’ finest performances along with his brilliantly surly turn in The Squid and the Whale. He stars as a “closet rebel” named Charlie, an apparently mild-mannered and
fresh-faced businessman who likes to skip out on a diner check now and then. Essentially he’s a walking cliche who likes to think of himself as an outsider. Melanie Griffith plays a sexy dominatrix type wild child with a Louise Brooks du (hence the name Lulu) who catches him in the act and takes him on a truly wild road trip filled with unpredictable incidents. Its a difficult movie to talk about because it has wild shifts in tone that are often stunning. Ray Liotta is the wild card in a flick which works as both a love triangle and a road movie. It is probably his shining moment. His ferociously edgy and magnetic performance as an ex-lover (as well as an ex-con) of Griffiths’ character is truly something to behold. A thug named Ray with a white t-shirt and a pack of cigs rolled up snugly in the sleeve, he manages to charm and threaten with lightning precision. He seems to use his un-sophisticated appearance to disarm his rivals. the tension in this bizarre love triangle is completely gripping and says a lot about human relationships. But as a pure entertainment it never loses steam from beginning to end. Jonathan Demme directs E. Max Fryes’ brilliant and layered script with complete confidence and every moment has an un-mistakably inventive edge and attention to detail. The soundtrack is marvelous with David Bryne memorably playing over the opening and closing credits. As well as The Feelies, who also perform live in one of the films most pivotal sequences (featuring an all time classic dance sequence). Something Wild is a movie that is completely alive for the entire length of it’s running time. Beautifully shot by expert dp Tak Fujimoto, the visuals are funky and vibrant throughout. But it wouldn’t be nearly as memorable if it weren’t for the perfectly judged chemistry between the leads. Griffith expertly captures the alluring charm of an in charge and wild woman who only shows her vulnerability in the most subtle ways, its one of her best roles outside of Body Double. The relationship between Griffith and Daniels is charming and romantic with just the right amount of danger and unpredictability. But it might be the chemistry between rivals and “outsiders” from opposite sides of the track that really gives the film its true kick. Its a thrill to watch Liotta intimidate and charm Daniels in equal measure and to observe the hero catch up and try to match his intimidating nemesis with surprising agility. The chemistry between these two is so dynamic and weird. They seem to genuinely like each other even though they are constantly battling each other with their wits though Liotta has the edge because he is someone who has clearly played this game before. The supporting cast is filled with terrific character actors like Tracey (Repo Man) Walter and even features a cameo from all-time cinematic wizard John Waters. Recently released on Criterion dvd this is undoubtably one of the most dangerous purchases of the year.
New Releases This Week at Videoport: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2 (some of you may have heard of this…), Larry Crowne(America’s mandatory sweethearts Tom
Hanks and Julia Roberts star in this Hanks-directed nice-a-thon about a middle aged guy going back to college and falling for a nice teacher; I hear it’s nice…), Beginners (Look for old pro Christopher Plummer at Oscar time for his portrayal of an elderly father whose late-life coming out of the closet makes his grown son [Ewan McGregor] more than a little confused; crowd-pleaser, heart-warmer…call it what you will), White Chapel: The Ripper Returns (new BBC mystery series! You love those! This time, the guy from MI-5 [which you also love] stars as a posh detective convinced there’s a Jack the Ripper copycat carving his way through the titular neighborhood’s prostitute population), Flypaper (Maine’s own Patrick Dempsey brings his patented sensitive hunkiness this tale of a guy trapped in a bank being held up by two gangs simultaneously and trying to protect teller, and secret crush, Ashley Judd), Bellflower (completely-bananas-looking thriller about two guys who create customized, Mad Max-style muscle cars and flamethrowers whose dedication to preparing for the apocalypse is threatened by, what else, a girl), The Tree (Charlotte Gainsbourg stars in this mysterious Australian drama about a grieving family dealing with loss…and the fact that nature seems to be attacking their rural house; it’s getting compared to movies like Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave, so that’s not a bad thing), The Names of Love (sexy French comedy about a saucy young left-wing woman who seduces her political opponents into complacently-satiated submission, at least until she meets a conservative dude who seems immune to her charms; on a personal note, I think many of the world’s problems could be avoided if people on both sides of the spectrum adopted this strategy- this could work, people!), The Drummond Will (award-winning British dark comedy about a pair of mismatched brothers discovering a huge bag full of money in their dead father’s decrepit village house and going to ghoulish lengths to keep it.)
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Bellflower, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2.