Volume CCCXLVI- Kickpuncher 5: The Kickening
For the Week of 4/3/12
Videoport gives you a free movie every, single day. And, since we have, you know, all the movies ever, you’ll always find something worth taking home.
Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental!
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests remakes. This week, I found myself in the unlikely position of defending the often derided Hollywood habit of capitalizing on past successes or audience nostalgia by remakes instead of creating original films from scratch. Sure, some remakes are flabby, vapid formula flicks, sloppily hammered together without vision or thought, but that should be an indictment of shoddy work, not source material; the producers, writers, and other creators of those messes weren’t going to make original works of merit, either. Remakes aren’t destined to failure. Plenty of films we now herald as classics are — duh duh DUH — remakes. John Huston’s fast-talking noir The Maltese Falcon, immortalizing Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and featuring indelible classic noir performances from Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and Sidney Greenstreet? A remake. (Fun fact: George Raft, who was tapped first for the role of Spade, cited a clause in his studio contract that expressly freed him from acting in remakes. Thank you, George Raft, for stepping aside.) Classic fast-talking screwball His Girl Friday revisits The Front Page, adding a whopping jolt of comedy potential and sexual tension by casting Rosalind Russell in the (previously male) role of the erstwhile reporter being courted by her former editor. Billy Wilder’s gender-switching comedy Some Like It Hot, lauded by the AFI as the greatest comedy of all time, is a remake of 1935 French film Fanfare d’Amour. 1939’s Destry Rides Again, starring Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich, is a remake of a Tom Mix film by the same title, made only a few years earlier.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental!
>>> Elsa S. Customer continues to defend remakes with 1957’s An Affair to Remember (in Classics.) Most movie buffs know the three-hankie romance starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr (famous for establishing the meet-on-the-Empire-State-Building trope to popular culture) was winkingly paid tribute in the Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan vehicle Sleepless in Seattle. What you might not know: An Affair to Remember is a scene-by-scene remake of director Leo McCarey’s own 1939 Love Affair.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental!
>>>Dennis suggests Real Genius (in Comedy.) Val Kilmer seems to be rediscovering his sense of humor. Sure, he looked really weird in MacGruber (man, his head has gotten very oddly shaped), but his turn as the villainous Dieter Von Cunth in the surprisingly-enjoyable (and filthy) SNL-inspired flick was a welcome return to his former, long-forgotten goofery. Sure, he went all serious on us after a while, but Kilmer’s first movie was the delightfully-loopy Top Secret (from the creator of Airplane! and The Naked Gun), and he followed that up with this more conventional, yet equally-satisfying comedy, a depiction of the prankish existence of the too-smart-for-their-own-goods students of Pacific Tech, a West Coast haven for the scientifically-brilliant and socially-inept. Kilmer, at the height of his carefree charisma, stars as Chris Knight, resident supergenius slacker wiseass, who might be the next Einstein but who fills his days with chasing girls, avoiding classes, and staging elaborate pranks on the more studiously-inclined. As Chris tries to loosen up his reluctant, studious new roommate and uncovers the nefarious schemes of his smarmy professor (the peerlessly-unlikeable William Atherton), we’re treated to the young Kilmer’s effortless wiseassery, a virtuoso display of putdowns, one-liners, and general awesomeness. It’s so damned entertaining, that Kilmer’s decision to become a serious actor seems like a huge, huge mistake. Even before The Island of Doctor Moreau…
Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store!
>>>Elsa S. Customer’s remake defense continues with Heaven Can Wait (in Feature Drama.) This giddy 1970s screwball comedy Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty at his most likeable and featuring a snappy script by Buck Henry, is a great update to ’40s flick Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
>>>Regan suggests Submarino (in Foreign Language) and Submarine* (in British Comedy.) On Thursday, Edie and I went to yoga. It was cancelled, so naturally we went to Ruski’s for beer and grilled cheese. And then we were like, “I like the name Marty yeah that’s a good name” and then I went home to watch must-see tv and then I had a double feature of Submarino and Submarine. And the name Martin shows up in Submarino. But that’s not all- Submarino is about two brothers with a sh*tty childhood , but they’re not totally-sh*tty kids because they have great ideas of what to do to your mom when she p*sses on the kitchen floor…again. I really, really super-dooperly recommend Submarino, and Submarine’s okay, too. But not super-dooperly okay.
*Editor’s note: See! This sort of tenuously-connected double feature is exactly the sort of movie project Videoport’s daily specials make a great freaking idea! Plus, grilled cheeses are very tasty.
Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!
>>>Elsa S. Customer takes her remake defense to the kids section with The Wizard of Oz. Another classic remake: this family favorite (and source of scary-monkey nightmares since 1939) wasn’t the first Oz movie, not by a long shot: it’s the sixth film project based on Frank L. Baum’s Wonderful World of Oz. Enjoy the ruby slippers, yellow brick road, and Emerald City!
Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!
>>>For Saturday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Pennies from Heaven (in Musicals.) It’s 1934, and two-bit sheet-music salesman Arthur Parker (Steve Martin) is deeply unsatisfied: with his work, with his marriage, with the drab everyday world he lives in. He wants to break out and seek adventure, romance, excitement, riches. He wants money to open his own record shop, he yearns to express his ardor, and he hankers for a little hanky-panky, but his prim and prudent wife Joan (Jessica Harper) won’t give up her nest-egg (if you know what I mean and I think that you do). Arthur takes up with a shy schoolmarm (Broadway baby Bernadette Peters) who harbors silver-screen dreams like his own. But nothing seems to make him happy, because nothing can. Arthur’s inner contradictions are crushing. He rejects tangible pleasure at every turn: he pushes away meals though he’s hungry; he brushes off his wife’s hard-won wooing; after his lyrical daydreams of gently wooing his dream girl, instead he pushes her into a hasty pity-hump on the parlor sofa. When a lady of the evening asks Arthur if he’d like to “have a good time,” he growls “No, I like being miserable!” Moments later he coos dreamily, “But I want to live in a world where the songs come true.” This is the heart of his ambivalence: Arthur craves the flimsy joys of fantasy, not the modest but attainable pleasures of the real world. He doesn’t want plain ol’ happiness; he wants the glamour of a Happy Ending, Hollywood style. Coming on the heels of Steve Martin’s The Jerk, Pennies from Heaven was woefully mis-marketed as a fond fantasy, a glance back at the giddy musicals of the 1930s. That misguided campaign must have made the film all the more jarring for contemporary audiences. Pennies from Heaven is a fantasy, all right, but a deliberately jarring one; the main characters break into song and dance to express their inner desires and fears, but after these glimpses into the dazzling paradise of the musical fantasies, their clunking return to the all-too-real world of grim Depression-era desperation stings viciously. With its cruel interplay of luminous pipe dreams and dismal reality, Pennies from Heaven portrays the alienating effect of glitzy Hollywood fantasy as effectively as Sunset Boulevard or Mulholland Dr., raising up the characters to grace the silver screen, then thumping them — and us — unceremoniously back to the dim, heavily shadowed rooms and streets of Arthur’s everyday. In these tawdry studies in dark and light, director Herbert Ross deliberately evokes paintings from the ashcan school, a point that gets hammered home when we see Arthur and Eileen through the famous diner window from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Then the angle changes, placing us inside the famous painting. It’s a risky ploy that Ross carries off again and again with breathtaking ease, recreating several Ashcan landscapes that give depth to the film’s heart even as they blend seamlessly into the garish, gimcrack world of reality.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer closes her case by reminding you that Scorsese’s acclaimed The Departed (in Mystery/Thriller), the story of a tense and potential bloody investigation into police corruption, is an English-language remake of 2002’s Infernal Affairs (in Made in Hong Kong.) Case closed.
>>>Dennis suggests a suspiciously-familiar double feature of Bored to Death and Andy Barker, P.I. (in Comedy.) I’d like to start off by denying, in the strongest possible terms, that acclaimed author Jonathan Ames ripped off the concept for his recently-cancelled, and very funny, series Bored to Death from the long-ago-cancelled, and also very funny, Andy Richter series Andy Barker, P.I. I mean, in Bored to Death, Jason Schwartzman (as Jonathan Ames) plays a goofy, bored writer who decides to play at being a private eye, while in Andy Barker, Andy Richter plays a goofy, bored accountant who decides to play at being a private eye. But the similarities stop there. Oh, except that they each have a snarky, slightly-reluctant sidekick (Schwartman’s got Zach Galifianakis, while Richter’s got Arrested Development‘s Tony Hale.) But that’s all. Of course, I kid- I mean it’s not like anyone ever saw Andy Barker (even though it was created by Richter’s hetero life partner Conan O’Brien), but it’s still fun to compare the two, again, suspiciously-similar shows. Bored to Death is more a post-modern, deadpan goof, with Schwartzman doing his best Jason Schwartzman impression; I don’t mean that as a knock- I’ve always thought the particularly Schwartmanic blend of irony, self-deprecation, and smarm was something unique to the American cinema. Plus, Galiafanakis and Ted Danson supply world-class support as Schwartman’s amateur detective makes his ironic way through Brooklyn’s most eccentric cases. Andy Barker, on the other hand, coasts by on the weirdly-indefinable charm of perpetual sidekick Andy Richter. I love Andy. Seemingly everybody loves Andy. But, since, in the worlds of Andy himself (in the persona of Andy’s faux brother from Arrested Development) “Andy can’t attract a real audience,” he’s left a couple of above-average sitcoms (this one and Andy Richter Controls the Universe) in his amiable wake before seemingly abandoning the idea that he’s leading man material and settling back into the comfortable role of Conan’s sidekick/best buddy. Andy Barker gets good mileage out of the contrast between various miscreants and slightly-dangerous situations and Andy’s genial, aw-shucks responses. Like Andy Richter, Andy Barker is pleasant, funny, and kind of sweetly-forgettable. In fact, I think of Andy Barker as Bored to Death‘s capable sidekick.
New Releases this week at Videoport: War Horse (Steven Spielberg straps on his old school sentimental director’s clothes for this WWI tearjerker about a young guy, drafted into service alongside his beloved horsey, and the various misadventures that keep them apart; you will weep your face off-it’s the Spielberg guarantee!), We Bought a Zoo (Matt Damon stars as a dad who moves his family into the titular zoo; directed for maximum heart-warmth by Cameron Crowe of Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire fame ), Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (genuinely-touching biography of Kevin Clash, a six foot black man from Baltimore whose lifelong love of puppetry led him to be the guy behind Elmo, possibly the most popular kids show character of all time), ‘Torchwood- Miracle Day’ (everybody’s favorite pansexual Dr. Who pal Captain Jack Harkness is back, fighting for the earth against all manner of extraterrestrial creeps), ‘Eagleheart’- season 1 (Chris Elliott brings his particular brand of entertainingly-offputting comedy weirdness to his new series wherein he plays the most murderously-violent Texas Ranger in, well, Texas), Tyrannosaur (the excellent actor Paddy Considine [In America, My Summer of Love] makes his directorial debut with this completely-gut-wrenching drama about the unlikely sort-of friendship between a battered Christian housewife [Hot Fuzz‘ Olivia Coleman and a tortured, violent, alcoholic the spellbinding Peter Mullan [Session 9, The Red Riding Trilogy]; seriously, both Regan and Dennis watched this one on various lunch hours and came back to work with haunted, vacant eyes. Fun!), The Odds (murder mystery set in the world of illegal teenage poker players; damn those teenage poker murderers!), Confucius (arguably coolest man in the universe [actually, the results are in- he is officially the coolest man in the universe] Chow Yun Fat stars in this biopic of the legendary titular Chinese philosopher), The Double Hour (Italian thriller about a cop and an immigrant chambermaid whose speed-dating-spawned romance is threatened by some deep dark secrets from her past).
New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: War Horse, ‘Band of Brothers,’ American Pie, Battle Royale: The Director’s Cut, Battle Royale: The Theatrical Cut, Battle Royale 2, Tangled, Secretariat, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Running with Scissors, A Dangerous Method, In the Land of Blood and Honey, Confucius, Another Earth.
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