Volume CCCXXXII- New Year’s Evil
For the Week of 12/27/11
Videoport thanks all of you out there in Videoport-land for supporting us (as opposed to some soulless internet concern or ridiculous vending machine) throughout 2011. We love ya’, and we’re going to continue to rock your world in 2012, cinematically-speaking.
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 ‘Futurama’ (in Animation.) It’s New Year’s Eve 1999 and schlubby Philip J. Fry is still at work delivering pizzas. Just after midnight, Fry stumbles onto a cryogenics lab — and into a cryogenic chamber! — and awakens in THE WORLD OF TOMORROW! The New York City of 3000 would be befuddling to even the brightest of contemporary minds, but Fry is pretty dimwitted to begin with, so the suicide booths, pneumatic transit, autonomous robots, and all the owls spin his head pretty hard. Fortunately, Fry tracks down a distant descendant to sponge off, because The Future is hard, y’all.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.) >>>Dennis suggests Ms. 45 (in Action Adventure.) You want grit? I’ll give you grit. This 1981 urban crime thriller was one of the first films of perennial out-of-the-mainstream New York auteur Abel Ferrara, who went on to entertain and unnerve an increasingly-small cult of fans of his violent, intense, and, yeah, gritty indie movies like The Funeral, The Blackout, King of New York, Bad Lieutenant, The Addiction, ‘R Xmas, New Rose Hotel and others you haven’t heard of. In this one, a mute, poor NYC seamstress has, let’s just say, a really bad day; raped by a creep in an alley, she stumbles home to her terrible apartment, only to find an a-hole robbing her; guess what he does then… Yeah. So, after dispatching her second-in-a-day attacker, our heroine (played with surprising intensity by Nastassja Kinski lookalike Zoe Lund), let’s just say, snaps and takes to the streets in an ever-escalating rampage of revenge against the scummiest men of New York City (which means they’re the scummiest men in the history of the world.) Sure it sounds like crass exploitation (and it sorta is), but in Ferrara’s hands, the movie takes on a weird depth; unlike the unabashedly-fascist contemporary vigilante thrillers like Dirty Harry, Walking Tall, or any of the Death Wishes, Ms. 45 attains a mysterious, and disturbing, intensity as the eerily-beautiful Lund (whose career equally-mysteriously petered out) drifts further and further into man-hating madness. The finale, set at a decadent costume party where Lund wreaks havoc as a sexy, pistol-packing nun, is something you’re not going to forget, either.
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 Jog recommends, if I’m reading this correctly, that you do not watch Horrible Bosses (in Comedy), saying, “Horrible Bosses is a horrible movie.” I’m almost certain that’s what she’s getting at…
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.) >>>Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘The Office Christmas Special’ (in British Comedy.) The chummy warmth of the (deservedly beloved) U.S. remake fuzzied my memory of the (also deservedly beloved) original series. “The Office”(U.K.) is best described with the kinds of adjectives you’d normally associate with
poisoned wine: acid, acrid, caustic, dry. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant push past “cringe comedy” and straight into social-anxiety-disorder territory. Things I said aloud while watching “The Office Christmas Special”: “NO, David Brent, no!”; “Augh, my upper lip is sweating”; “It’s like being trapped in an elevator”; “Oh no, I’m sweating all over!”; “This is too hard! (That’s what she said.)” And that’s just the first half; for the second half, I was mostly just watching silently, my hands kneading a sofa cushion in mixed frustration, anxiety, and amusement. At one point I rose and kicked the sofa. NO, David Brent, NO!
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary). >>>Dennis suggests MUPPETS! Seriously, guys, with the new, Jason Segel-directed Muppet revival movie reminding everyone why we loved these puppet-y oddballs in the first place, why not check out seasons of ‘The Muppet Show,’ or any of the three original Muppet movies (The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, or The Muppets Take Manhattan.) You should probably avoid all other, post-Jim Henson aux-Muppet imposters. Although The Muppet Christmas Carol wasn’t too bad, and they actually found a way to make the insufferable Robin the frog reasonably sufferable. Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.) >>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests The Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975 (in Documentary.) This documentary begins with the disclaimer: “This films consists of footage shot by Swedish reporters 1967-1975. It does not presume to tell the whole story of the Black Power Movement, but to show how it was perceived by some Swedish filmmakers.” That unique perspective on this endlessly-fascinating (and endlessly-documented) era in American history lends the film’s examination of the flowering and tumultuous growth of the Black Power movement an added level of interest for viewers who think they’ve seen and heard it all. It’s, of course, embarrassing (but hardly surprising) that foreign journalists were able to provide a more insightful picture of the civil rights movement than the contemporary US media; “outsiders,” while necessarily prone to ask naive questions, are also less likely to overlook facts and ideas based on cultural prejudices. As contemporary scholar Robin Kelley explains in one of the film’s voice overs, the Swedish reporting, “is even more fascinating because there’s a sense of innocence…and a global perspective.” That outsider’s perspective is evident in the film as the collected interviews give more attention to activists whose legacies, when compared to those of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, have faded somewhat. More militant and forthrightly-revolutionary leaders such as Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, and Eldridge Cleaver, whose agendas went beyond the initial (and more palatable to middle America) demonstrations of Dr. King into more radical and threatening calls for economic and political revolution, are given time to express their ideas by crews from Socialist Sweden. And it’s interesting to see how black interviewees seem more willing to open up to white journalists from outside their own country. For viewers skeptical of the entertainment value of message-driven documentaries, “The Black Power Mix Tape” provides a mixed bag. On the plus side, the film casts light on some oft-ignored events in the civil rights movement, such as the Attica prison riot, Cleaver being given sanctuary (and a Black Panther embassy) by newly-independent Algeria, and the still-defiant Angela Davis’ trial (literally for her life) against California governor Ronald Reagan. The titular “mix tape” idea is apt- the film traces the history of the Black Power movement through an overlapping sequence of interviews, voice-overs, filmed footage, and judicious use of period and original music from Questlove. Not a comprehensive history so much as an effectively-impressionistic patchwork which gradually creates a compelling portrait. On the minus side, the film loses focus as the years roll on, with more generic footage and a dearth of latter-day charismatic spokespeople perhaps explainable by the fact that, as the fight ground on, many of those leaders ended up dead or jailed, or, as the film contends, derailed by the scourge of drugs that essentially crippled a generation. As to a final message, “The Black Power Mix Tape” seems to hold hope that, by keeping alive the lessons and teachers of the past on films, a new generation will be inspired to fight for justice. Mentioning “the 1%” by name, activist Sonia Sanchez urges everyone to fight the good fight for social and economic justice, noting, “the reward is knowing that when you die, there’s a better world for your children. This is a lifetime job.” >>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘Peep Show’ (in British Comedy.) Following the too-mundane-to-call-adventurous adventures of Croyden flatmates Mark (David Mitchell) and Jeremy (Robert Webb), Peep Showis the longest-running Channel $ sitcom evvvvvvvver, which is kinda hard to
believe until you get a few episodes under your belt and realize how addictive it is to spend time with these two horrible wankers. The show employs plenty of POV shots and stream-of-consciousness narrating tracks to get us right inside their heads. Hearing the appalling interior monologues of these two averagely-repulsive people proves to be surprisingly appealing, which suggests to me that I might be averagely-repulsive and utterly appalling. If maybe it’s slowly dawning on you that you’re averagely-repulsive and utterly appalling too — well, um, sorry for that revelation, and also… enjoy!
New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘Archer’- season 2 (one of the best shows on tv, this rude, hilarious animated spy series about the douche-iest secret agent in the world [voiced by the brilliant Jon Benjamin] is back for more completely-inappropriate laughs), Apollo 18 (“One small step for man, one giant leap for OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!?!??” should have been the tag line for this low-budget Blair Witchis
space moon landing horror flick about that one NASA mission that nobody talks about…), ‘The Borgias’- season 1 (after ‘The Tudors‘ whetted everyone’s appetite for Brits in pantaloons being all evil and sexy, here comes Jeremy Irons as the legendarily-twisted head of the titular Italian political family; an alternative title: “Sex Pope!”), ‘Shameless’- season 1 (ever-engaging William H. Macy stars in this remake of the BBC series [available in the British Comedy section] about a gleefully-white-trashy family; costarring the equally-ever-reliable Joan Cusack), The Black Power Mix Tape (if you missed this unique documentary when it played at SPACE Gallery recently, then check out the Saturday review for the details), Pete Smalls Is Dead (director Alexandre Rockwell [In the Soup, 1/4 of Four Rooms] was once poised to be the next big indie director; he didn’t make it, but he’s called in some of his previous indie actor pals who did [like Peter Dinklage, Rosie Perez, Steve Buscemi, Seymour Cassel and others] to spice up his new film about a normal guy [Dinklage] embarking on an absurdly-convoluted adventure to get his kidnapped dog back), ‘The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret’ (hip comedy god David Cross created this cringe-comedy series about a hapless compulsive liar sent to London to peddle energy drinks; look for Cross’ ‘Arrested Development‘ pal Will Arnett, too), Love Crime (French language-resurgent Kristin Scott Thomas stars in this thriller about an executive who realizes that her young assistant’s (Ludivine Sagnier) ideas are well worth stealing), In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds (professional ‘worst director in the world’ Uwe Boll has created a sequel to a movie everyone hated based on a fantasy video game series; I’m just gonna let those facts sink in to your brain…), Hostel 3 (sure, there’s some social satire flying around alongside the body parts in the Hostel films, but this second sequel coming out direct-to-DVD and not being directed by Eli Roth may not be the best of signs…), Brighton Rock(based on the Graham Greene novel, this thriller follows the disturbing tale of a violent thug whose marriage to a witness of one of his crimes is predictably upsetting; costarring
Helen Mirren and John Hurt), A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (funny dudes Jason Sudekis and Tyler Labine star as a couple of regular guys trying to spice their lives up by organizing the titular sex-for-all featuring the likes of David Koechner, Nick Kroll, Leslie Bibb, Will Forte, Martin Starr, Alan Tudyk and other saucy comedy types…), Damnationland 2011 (the second annual compilation of Maine-made short horror films [organized by former Videoporter Allen Baldwin] comes to DVD to blow…your…mind…), Final Destination 5 (why mess with a successful formula? Blandly-pretty twenty-somethings cheat death in a freak accident, then get knocked off in increasingly-Mousetrap-style Rube-Goldbergian freak accidents,) Bunny & the Bull (Videoport’s April loves this British comedy about an agoraphobic guy who relives a European vacation through the souvenirs arranged in his apartment; see her ‘best of 2011’ list in this here newsletter!)
New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Final Destination 5, Apollo 18 Mission Impossible, Mission Impossible 3.
Videoporters’ The Best/Worst DVDs of 2011 (1st edition)
-‘The Ricky Gervais Show’- seasons 1&2. I own two of Karl Pilkington’s books. He’s amazing.
-The Fighter. Do I really have to say anything? It was good.
-I Love You, Philip Morris. Jim Carrey is good. Sweet. Funny.
-‘Wonders of the Universe.” Cool documentary presented by the handsome professor Brian Cox (not the actor Brian Cox.)
-Rabbit Hole. Directed by that guy who did Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
-The Trip. Two names. Steve Coogan. Rob Brydon. Brilliant.
-Bunny & the Bull. This came out in 2009 but we didn’t get a copy ’til I donated mine to the store. That counts, right?
-Public Speaking. Fran Lebowitz is great.
Dennis’ Best (in order of 2011 release)
-The Social Network
-Louis CK: Hilarious
-I Saw the Devil
-Everything Must Go
-The Big Uneasy
Dennis’ Best TV on DVD of 2011: The Ricky Gervais Show (seasons 1&2), The League (seasons 1&2), Mad Men (season 4), Community (season 2), The Office (season 7), Parks & Recreation (season 3), Children’s Hospital, 30 Rock (season 5), Portlandia (season 1.)
Dennis’ Worst of 2011
(of stuff I actually saw- I just don’t have time anymore to watch things I know will suck, generally, so these are mostly things I was really disappointed in…)
-My Soul to Take (Wes Craven never really had it, and now he’s lost it)
-You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (everybody loves Woody Allen again, but this 2011 release was the worst movie he’s ever made, with a final plot “twist” that would have been gently discouraged by a sophomore Creative Writing teacher)
-‘Kids in the Hall- Death Comes to Town’ (love the Kids, but this reunion miniseries is just not memorable; sorry [said with a Canadian accent])
-Black Swan (yeah, I said it; Natalie Portman is the most overrated actress in the world [other candidates: Halle Berry, Charlize Theron])
-The Green Hornet (I still like Seth Rogen, but this misbegotten superhero movie catered to his worst instincts)
-Green Lantern (not a good year for superheroes of this hue)
-Hall Pass (the Farrelly brothers had it for about a year, but it’s long, long gone; could you have the characters explain the concept of a “hall pass” one more time, guys?)
-Unknown (love Liam Neeson, but silly premise, dumb twist, and January Jones might actually be a robot)
-Vanishing on 7th St. (director Brad Anderson made the excellent horror movie Session 9; it may have been a fluke)
-Bloodrayne 3: The Third Reich (it’s Uwe Boll- I just couldn’t help myself…)
-Paul (not a bad movie, really; but considering that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost made it, this stoner alien comedy was a massive disappointment; also, again it brought out the worst in Seth Rogen)
-Your Highness (this is a bad movie; usually reliable guys like James Franco, Danny McBride and director David Gordon Green put their heads together and came up with the laziest, lamest, limpest comedy of the year; and, oh yeah, Natalie Portman’s in it, too…)