Volume CCCLXI- Revenge of the Indie Video Store
For the Week of 7/17/12
Videoport is the place where you can just come in and pick up anything you’ve ever wanted to see. It’s all right here for you. Right here…
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! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests The Shining (in Horror.) If one more person jocularly asks me “Hot enough for ya?” I am going to LOSE IT, y’all. My personal remedy for these high-humidity, high-heat-index, high-hellishness-factor days: a biiiiiig glass of ice water followed by a biiiiiig lemonade (substitute “a biiiiiig gin & tonic” or a “biiiiiig vodka lemonade” as needed), a fan pointed right at me, and a screening of a favorite wintery film… and for my money, The Shining* is the winteriest of the wintery films. Apparently once my hindbrain gets addled by summertime heat, some of the higher rational thought gets shut down and I can trick it: Hey, it’s snowing there inside that shiny box! I must be cold. Brrrrrr. Annnnnnyhow:I recently caught about half of The Shining on TV because it falls into the category of movies I can Never Not Watch. (See also The Shawshank Redemption, The Maltese Falcon, Barton Fink.) I am constitutionally unable to turn off The Shining, even if it’s to replace the pallid edited-for-TV version with the far superior DVD copy that I ACTUALLY OWN AND IS TEN FEET AWAY. Man, I am telling you: The Shining on basic cable is some weak sauce. Seriously feeble. It’s no surprise that stripping out the expletives and most devastatingly scary scenes reduces the film’s impact — and boy howdy, does it ever! Hearing Jack berate Wendy over her attempts to “faff up” his chance at redemption is pretty jarring, and not in a good way. When the censors replace a vicious racial epithet with the mild disapproving phrase “no-good,” they weaken our visceral horror at the unbridled hate these specters (or Jack’s unconscious, depending on your interpretation) spew at their foes. And the commercial breaks strike a death blow: The Shining is a film to be watched in one piece, in darkness, in isolation — to be absorbed in dumb-struck horror as the soul-numbing stream-of-consciousness days and nights slip by on the screen. Two-minute breaks to hawk shaving cream and Subway sandwiches reduce the film to snippets of unpleasantness punctuated by screaming. Kubrick’s stripped-down version of The Shining is like a drum: it resonates because it is empty. Filling it up with sales pitches muffles every blow.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests you get to know your titular characters! In 1934’s The Thin Man, the titular thin man is not detective Nick Charles (William Powell) but the scientist fella he’s looking for. Ratatouille is the name of a classic Provencal dish, not of a cartoon rat. (His name’s Remy.) “Doctor Who” is not a name but a question; the answer is “Just ‘The Doctor.”
>>>Videoport customer Rob H (via our Facebook page “Videoport Jones”) decidedly does not suggests you rent Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (in Action/Adventure.) The new Ghost Rider is one of the absolute worst films I’ve seen in a dog’s age. Bad acting, bad dialogue, predictable story… the effects couldn’t even carry it. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Shite.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!
>>>Dennis suggests giving Videoport money to save you money. Yup- it works out really well for us both: if you pre-pay $20 on your rental account, we give you $25 worth of store credit. And $30 buys you $40 worth of store creit. I dunno if your a math person, but I’m pretty sure that’s five or ten free dollars, respectively.
>>>Videoport customer John S. suggests The Way (in Feature Drama), saying “An absolute must see for anyone who travels. Not talking vacations, talking journeys.”
Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!
>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Return of the Jedi (n Sci Fi/Fantasy.) Give yourself a respite from the summertime heat: pop in the movie, turn down the lights, turn up the fan or AC, and fantasize about spending a long cold night on a wintery planet. It’s getting Hoth in here! Bonus riddle: What temperate is a tauntaun? … … … LUKEWARM!
>>>Dennis suggests the Zatoichifilms (in Made in Japan.) It’s always interesting when, seemingly for no reason, there’s a run on some obscure film (we video clerks make our own fun.) Sure, sometimes we
find out that said film got mentioned on NPR or something, but sometimes it’s just a weird confluence of interest in something unexpected and, recently, I’ve noticed a few people checking out the extensive selection of films featuring Shintaro Katsu as the legendary blind swordsman Zatoichi. The series began in 1962 and continued through, oh, about a billion more films featuring the blind samurai’s improbable yet entertaining reign of sightless slashing. Also, Japanese cult director/star Takeshi Kitano/Beat Takesho made his own updated version of the character in his 2003 remake. So keep it up, Videoporters! We love it when you take a chance…
Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!
>>> Let’s see, you can get a free movie from the kids section without having to rent anything else. Hmmm…yup, that’s pretty good.
Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests God Bless America(in Incredibly Strange.) While I always thought that his wildman, sweaty, growly standup act was very funny (and a lot smarter than people gave it/him
credit for), those in the know know Bobcat Goldthwait now as the writer and director of some of the most audacious dark comedies around today. Of course, they’re twisted, disreputable, and genuinely upsetting along with being hilarious, but that’s why we love the Bobcat. I mean, those of us who do. His directing career began with the utterly bizarre Shakes the Clown, a weirdo allegory of both his career as a comedian and his battle with alcoholism, all played out in clown makeup. Bobcat’s sort of distanced himself from Shakes, but it’s still good for some very weird laughs. After that came Sleeping Dogs Lie, which impossibly mined some laugh and genuine emotion from the tale of a woman’s, um, surprising sexual revelation to her fiancee. After that came World’s Greatest Dad (which I thought was one of 2009’s best films) which counts as co-greatest achievements making teen suicide funny and eliciting a contained, funny, and moving performance from Robin Williams. And now, in God Bless America, the Bobcat, always an intelligently caustic satirist of human banality, turns that savage comic anger full force on the vapidity of American culture, with expected, but very, very out there results. It’s the story of a put-upon middle aged guy (played with extraordinary and improbable empathy by Joel Murray- Mad Men’s Freddy Rumsen and Bill’s little brother) who, in one particularly awful couple of days, loses everything and, well, I guess snaps is the right word. Contemplating suicide, he’s inspired instead to take out his utter frustrations on all the things in pop culture that he feels makes the world a horrible, nattering, vapid wasteland of reality shows, humiliating tv talent series, talk radio, and people who talk and text in movie theaters. Reluctantly picking up a like-minded teenaged girl accomplice along the way, Murray’s unlikely avenging angel cuts a murderous swath through, essentially everyone in pop culture that dumb people won’t stop nattering about. It’s, typically for Bobcat, a ballsy, designed-to-offend conceit and, like Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, it’s gonna offend; according to Bobcat, some people, maybe most people in this country are just the pits. Watching the worst things, listening to the worst things, talking nothing but regurgitated sound bites, catchphrases and nonsense- all the dumb people, they just deserve to die. Yeah. God Bless America gets a lot of mileage out of that sort of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” wish fulfillment (of course, those being the wishes of us, the smart people), and if it sounds mean-spirited and offensive as well as understandable, well, welcome to the Bobcat’s world. He’s aided immeasurably by Murray’s sad-eyed everyman decency (which makes his actions that much more troubling.) Watch out, America- someone’s listening to your jabbering nonsense- and he’s got a gun.
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Last Night (in Feature Drama.) What with Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 Last Day on Earth coming out this week with the promise of some moody, emotionally-intense end of the world angst, I recommend pairing that one up with this haunting, oddball little Canadian drama on the same subject. Like in 4:44, it’s the last day in the world; we don’t know what’s going to happen, except that everyone knows that, at a specific point today, the world is gonna end. It’s a surefire dramatic setup- take a group of disparate characters, add this unfathomable pressure, and watch what happens. Eschewing Michael Bay-style ‘sposions and special effects of any kind, these dramas are more interested in exploring how some ordinary folks face something so inconceivably-huge, and Last Nightposits a
particularly eccentric and moving apocalypse. And mostly polite- it is Canadian, after all. Written, directed by, and starring north of the border cinematic institution Don McKellar (The Red Violin, Childstar, Highway 61), Last Night follows McKellar’s ordinary guy as he makes his preparations to face the rapidly approaching extinction of all humanity with seeming equanimity; picking out the perfect music, having typically-terse and dismissive conversations with his parents, and generally seeming rather benignly-resigned about it all. Into these preparations comes unwelcome distraction in the beguilingly beautiful form of Sandra Oh (people know her from Grey’s Anatomy nowadays) whose attempt to secure a bottle of good wine en route to a final night with her husband is interrupted by some odd street mayhem. Reluctantly breaking up his plans, McKellar agrees to shepherd Oh on a journey to secure a vehicle from a friend (Callum Keith Rennie- you know him from Battlestar Galactica) who we’ve seen doing some vaguely shady things in his apartment. Along the way, the characters talk and encounter various other pre-apocalypse denizens of a mostly serenely deserted Toronto, allowing for a series of funny, eerie, eccentric, and/or haunting run-ins, and, eventually of course, some bonding. Last Night is as uniquely moving as it is in spite of. or because of, its deadpan low-key approach to something so horrible. Throw in David Cronenberg as a strange bureaucrat with a strange mission, some unsettling hints at unseen developments behind the placid facade, and a truly moving and beautiful last scene, and Last Night will stick with you. At least until the end of the world.
New Releases this week at Videoport: The Three Stooges (the venerable comedy team gets a big screen update in this comedy from the Farrelly brothers [There’s Something About Mary]), Lockout (Guy Pearce gets himself all buffed out to rescue the president’s daughter from a high tech prison…IN SPACE! in this sci fi action update of Escape from New York...IN SPACE!), Get the Gringo (Mel Gibson plays an angry, violent white guy beating the hell out of all manner of Mexicans…in this movie. Which went direct to DVD. Which we don’t think is any sort of karmic justice or anything…), Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Ewan McGregor stars in this heartwarmer about a mild mannered fisheries expert sent to help a whimsical sheik realize his plan to introduce the sport of fly fishing to the desert), Casa de Mi Padre(Will Ferrell conclusively proves his comic invincibility by starring in this Spanish language goofball comedy costarring Gael Garcia Bernal,
and Diego Luna; seriously- Will Ferrell is made of comedy…), Friends With Kids (starring pretty much all the cool kids [Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph], most of whom were in Bridesmaids together, this indie romcom about a pair of platonic best pals whose decision to have a kid together unsurprisingly has some unexpected consequences), Intruders (Clive Owen stars in this creepy-looking chiller about a grieving father who realizes his traumatized daughter if being stalked by a mythical boogeyman called Hollow Face), ‘Inbetweeners’- the complete series (in this wildly popular British sitcom, a quartet of suburban teenaged boys cope with hormones, girls, booze, and other such hilariously-disreputable things), 4:44 Last Day on Earth (director Abel Ferrara [The Funeral, Bad Lieutenant] brings his typically-intense, moody sensibility to this drama about a man and woman deciding to spend their last day on earth together exploring their deepest darkest secrets…because the world is going to end at 4:44!!! Starring Willem Dafoe. [And see Sunday’s review for another moving end of the world drama!]), Extraterrestrial (remember how much you liked the fiendishly clever Timecrimes? Wait, you haven’t seen Timecrimes? Well go rent Timecrimes [in the Sci Fi section]; I’ll wait. Dumdedumdedum… Well- pretty great, right? Well now you’re gonna rent the new film from Timecrimes’ director Nacho Vigalondo about a man and woman who wake up in the woman’s bed one day with no memory of how they got there and have to deal with a jealous ex-boyfriend, a mysteriously deserted city…and maybe, just maybe, an alien invasion!), A Bag of Hammers (indie comedy about two misfit best friends whose eternal adolescence is transformed when they take in a precocious abandoned child), Not Forgotten (The Mentalist himself Simon Baker stars as a dad whose secret past comes back into play when his daughter is kidnapped in a Texas border town), ‘Adventure Time’- season 1 (animated series about a boy and his talking dog [voiced by Futurama’s Bender, John Di Maggio), Boys on the Run (typically weird sex comedy from Japan about a self-pleasing vending machine salesman and the pretty girl who might just be interested in him), Dasepo Naughty Girls (if the phrase “based on the naughty Korean webcomic” doesn’t get you interested in this tale of sexy shenanigans at a high school, well, then…)
New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Get the Gringo, The Three Stooges, Casa de Mi Padre, Intruders, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, 4:44 Last Days on Earth, Stuck, The Ides of March, (500) Days of Summer, Somewhere, Take Shelter.