VideoReport #378

Volume CCCLXXVIII- Maximum Overdrive 2: Maximummer Overdriver

For the Week of 11/13/12

 Videoport gives you a free movie every day. And since we’ve got all the movies, you’ll never run out.

 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!

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests ‘Monk’ (in Mystery/Thriller.) In S6, ep9, “Mister Monk is Up All Night,” Capt. Stottlemeyer gives Monk some maybe-good, maybe-terrible, but oh-so-kindly-delivered advice for conquering his days-long bout of insomnia: “You’re gonna go to a bar down on Pearl Street, it’s called Pastor’s Tavern. You’re gonna order one shot, a single-malt scotch. “ [Monk: “I don’t drink!”] “You’re gonna drink tonight. There’s a big fish tank behind the bar with one little fish. You’re gonna watch the little fishy swim round and round. You’re gonna watch the bubbles go up. You’re gonna drink your Scotch. Then you’re gonna go home and you’re gonna go to sleep. […] Works for me every time. Sweet dreams, Monk. [as Monk walks away] Hey, hey: Pearl Street.” Does it sound like a slight if I say “Monk” — with its easy-going procedural process, its broad character-driven humor, and its gentle predictability — is a sure-fire comfort when I’m overtired and sleepless? But it is, and I love “Monk” for that. When I’m down with the flu, or looking forward to a long rainy evening, or just plain tuckered out, I love to watch “Monk.” So if you’re having trouble relaxing, here’s what I suggest: You’re going to go to this great place I know on the corner of Middle Street and Pearl Street, it’s called Videoport. There’s a TV there at the end of the first aisle. You’re going to watch the movie playing until something makes you laugh. You’re going to get your “Monk” DVDs and go home. Snuggle down on the couch or in bed and watch “Monk.” You’ll relax and laugh and relax even more. The show will end, and then you’ll sleep. Sweet dreams… Hey, hey: Pearl and Middle.

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!

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests Roman Holiday (in Classics.) Listen, I have tremendous respect for Associate Justice Sotomayor, and I applaud her for her recent appearance on Sesame Street, in which she taught frilly-pink princess-daydreaming Muppet Abby about the importance of having real-world goals and to hope and plan for a real job and a career. But with all due deference, please forgive me if I correct you, Madam Justice: being a princess is not a common or easily attainable job, but it most certainly is “a real job.” And frankly, it looks like a terrible job. Golly, hasn’t Associate Justice Sotomayor ever seen Roman Holiday? Poor Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn), standing there endlessly at stuffy state affairs, forever shaking hands and trying to beam out regal graciousness, all the while sneaking her weary feet, hidden by the long hem of her heavy ball gown, out of her stiff princess shoes to flex and stretch them. All the tedious courtesy and diplomacy and endless stately proceedings. (Then, of course, she takes an unauthorized, anonymous, and most un-regal furlough with dashing American journalist Joe Bradley [Gregory Peck].) The first act of Roman Holiday makes it clear that being a princess is no daydream: it’s a full-time job, lavish with privilege, of course, but just as packed with obligations and restrictions. We shouldn’t just teach children that aspirations to royalty are unlikely; we should teach them that other, more attainable pursuits are more also fulfilling, more empowering, and more life-affirming. But I take your larger point, Madam Justice: We should teach our children, especially our daughters, that life has better things to offer than princesshood, and that their talents and gifts can do more for them than all the gleaming jewels and pretty dresses in the whole wide world. And thank you for that.

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!

>>>Get some free money at Videoport! Videoport’s payment deals give you free money. That’s it. $20 buys you $25 worth of rentals and $30 buys you $40 worth. You’re gonna spend that money anyway, since Videoport has all the movies and is so great and awesome and stuff- so why wouldn’t you get free money for yourself? No reason I can see…

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!

>>>Dennis recycles his review of The Queen of Versailles (in Documentary) from his column in the Portland Press Herald. “It may have been Camelot for Jack and Jacqueline/ But on the Che Guevara highway filling up with gasoline/ Fidel Castro’s brother spies a rich lady who’s crying/ Over luxury’s disappointment/ So he walks over and he’s trying/To sympathize with her but thinks that he should warn herThat the Third World is just around the corner.”- Billy Bragg, “Waiting for the Great Leap Forward”

The Queen of Versailles, the maddeningly entertaining new documentary from director Lauren Greenfield will test the true limits of your empathy. Chronicling two tumultuous years in the life of billionaire time

Go ahead and love us. We dare you.

share mogul David Siegel, his wife Jackie, and their seven kids, the film begins as a portrait of nearly unimaginable opulence, with the Siegels (he a silver haired 70, she the curvaceous former beauty queen 30 years his junior) cuddling on a literal gilded throne and cooing about their upcoming move from their current mansion (with a mere 17 bathrooms) to their under-construction new one, a mammoth castle patterned on the titular French palace and containing, in addition to 30 bathrooms, a baseball diamond, bowling alley, an ice/roller rink and some $5 million worth of imported marble. For the film’s first half hour we’re treated to a parade of mounting evidence of the Siegels as paragons of American consumerism, almost stereotypical examples of the one percent’s heedless pursuit of luxury for its own sake. (Plus, David’s smug gloating about the possibly illegal methods he used to get George W. Bush elected isn’t especially endearing.*) But when the economic crisis hits, and David’s real estate empire is thrown into crisis nearly overnight, the Siegel’s wealth suddenly can’t insulate them from uncertainty and fear any longer, and The Queen of Versailles becomes a test of exactly how much the viewer can sympathize with the plight of two not overly likeable billionaires turned millionaires who suddenly begin to feel the barest hint of the everyday financial woes their wealth protected them from. As Greenfield’s cameras follow the Siegels, viewer’s empathy gene kicks in; it’s hard not to feel for people in trouble, and each is not without redeeming qualities. Born into relatively humble circumstances, David and Jackie seem a good fit; he, the self-made man with an eye for young pageant queens found a woman fleeing an abusive first marriage wanting nothing more than to be a a pampered society wife, and they seem quite content, as long as the money removes all obstacles. Unfortunately, when trouble hits, our ability to involve ourselves in the Siegel’s travails is undermined not only by their previous cloud of luxury, but by their respective lack of self-awareness as they bemoan their fate. For David, the parallels between the sub-prime mortgage practices which contributed to the financial meltdown and his cheap-money-fueled sales of luxurious time shares to people who can’t really afford them go largely unaddressed. Instead, he removes himself further emotionally from his family as he desperately scrambles to save both his uncompleted opulent dream home and the massive corporate skyscraper he built in Las Vegas, his stubborn quest to prop up the symbols of his former power seeming more vain than noble. As for Jackie, while her growing panic at David’s increasing distance and her family’s increasingly precarious position is hard to watch, her childlike bafflement at why this is happening to her (and her seemingly pathological inability to stop spending money) ultimately causes serious empathy fatigue. As a metaphor for the flawed values which contributed to the financial collapse, The Queen of Versailles is pretty illuminating. As a character study, it’s hard not to respond to David’s closing summation that, “We need to live within our means and don’t spend money that we don’t have” with a shrug, and perhaps a little anger.

*Subtracting from David’s likability: he was one of the CEOs who threatened his workers with losing their jobs if they didn’t vote for Mitt Romney.

Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!

>>> A free movie for the kids! Because we love ‘em!

Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Winter’s Bone (in Mystery/Thriller.) I avoided this universally-lauded film for the longest time, assuming it was just going to be a bummer. I know that’s a lame reason not to watch a movie (and I generally roll my eyes at anyone who uses the word “depressing” as if it were a legitimate criticism), but I just couldn’t work myself up to watch the damn thing. Well, as usual, I should never listen to my instincts- this was very good indeed, and wasn’t nearly as much of a slogging wallow as the description suggests. Sure the film, about a headstrong teenage girl (Jennifer Lawrence) setting out to find her deadbeat father through the seediest, most meth-infested dregs of Appalachia so that her family doesn’t lose their already-meager home, isn’t exactly a barrel o’ monkeys, but it’s not the soul-crushing downer I thought I was in for. Most of that has to do with Lawrence (super-uber-famous now for The Hunger Games) whose low key, dogged authenticity is the exact opposite of the sort of showy, practiced-accent tourist-ing you usually get when a Hollywood actor tries to dirty him/herself up and head South (for Oscar-cred.) Lawrence inhabits this world with a quiet authority as she navigates a world of drunks, meth-heads, drug dealers, and unsettlingly-cold-eyed types, most of whom she seems to be at least distantly related to. You believe in her, and yet you fear for her, too- she’s a determined young lady, but when it comes down to it, she’s a young woman alone in a world where young women are very, very vulnerable. And her uncle, who very reluctantly aids her in her quest, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. A menacing, violent, drugging dude all-too familiar with this world, Teardrop (played by Oscar-nominated John Hawkes) keeps you on your toes- there’s an unstable intelligence behind his eyes and you never know where he’s likely to go. As Lawrence’s journey takes her to ever darker and more perilous circumstances, Winter’s Bone drags you along with it, even to some places you might not want to go.

>>>For Sunday,  Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘Gilmore Girls’ (in Feature Drama.) Okay, “Gilmore Girls” people, you wore me down. I tried watching “Gilmore Girls,” the oh-so-charming fast-paced small-talk small-town mother-daughter dramedy that won such critical acclaim and fan adoration. During my first episode, I was lukewarm: this mother is flippant, this daughter is improbably adult and well-behaved (like all dramedy second-lead television daughters, it seems), this small town is improbably quirky, and the dialogue feels a little stilted and studied. But an hour or two of watching softened me up and let me get to know the characters, at which point —- hey, yeah! Suddenly, I understood the handful of friends, likely fans all, who told me they “just couldn’t get into” the fast-paced overly-underwritten banter of “The West Wing”; you really have to immerse yourself in the characters before you can hear them saying the words (instead of just hearing the writers speaking through actors). Once I got to know Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her bright, bright-eyed, bright-futured daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel), once I got to know the small town of Star Hollow and its denizens, once I got a handle on the fluid ins-and-outs of everyone’s domestic and romantic life, I warmed right up to the patter. As for that improbably quirkiness and the unlikely romantic fluidity? What was I thinking? I’m from Portland, which might as well be Star Hollow with more parking meters and apartment buildings. I know these people. I know these situations. I know these improbably quirky little storefronts and households. I don’t know Melissa McCarthy but I wish I did. Oh, “Gilmore Girls” people, you got me.

New Releases this week at Videoport: The Watch (sometimes-funny guys Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill team up with the always funny Richard Ayoade [from the BBC show ‘The IT Crowd’] in this comedy about a quartet of suburban husbands whose dedication to their neighborhood watch is tested by an alien invasion), Brave (the newest animated classic-to-be from PIXAR- a feisty Scottish girl must embark on an adventure and face a legendary Highlands beast), Savages (Oliver Stone directs this typically-bananas crime thriller about a pair of buddies whose laid-back pot business is threatened by some seriously insane, much less laid-back psychos; starring the likes of Benicio Del Toro, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, and John Travolta), ‘Doctor Who’- series 7, part 1 (For fans of Matt Smith’s Doctor, and especially his companions Amy Pond and Rory, just trust me- you’re gonna need to see these most recent episodes immediately- you know, before some inconsiderate loudmouth spoils some major doings. And have some hankies ready…), Company (the most recent revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical can boast a truly stunning cast- Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Martha Plimpton, Christina Hendricks, Patti LuPone- it’s almost enough to make someone who hates musicals rent it. Almost…), Nitro Circus: The Movie (more Jackassery [also jackassery] with foolhardy bros doing very foolish and suicidally dangerous things for [y]our entertainment), The Queen of Versailles (see Thursday’s review for a recycled review!), 2 Days in New York (writer/director/star Julie Delpy’s sequel to her 2 Days in Paris finds her having moved on from former paramour Adam Goldberg to new guy Chris Rock; like the previous film, Delpy’s relationship is thrown into seriocomic tumult when her unpleasantly rude family arrives from France for a visit), Gunless (attention fans of [the brilliant Canadian series] ‘Slings and Arrows’- Videoport brings you this Western comedy starring S&A’s equally brilliant lead Paul Gross as a legendary American gunslinger stranded in a tiny Canadian town whose complete lack of working forearms puts a crimp in his plans to have a high noon showdown with his rival), Slimido (fact-based, gritty Korean political thriller about a group of lowlifes recruited to form an assassination squad intended to take out the North Korean president), A Room With A View (Masterpiece Theater’s adaptation of the beloved E.M. Forster novel about a star-crossed romance ignited on a vacation to Italy; look for it right next to the version you already know and love in the Drama section), Higanjima: Escape From Vampire Island (Japanese horror goodness about…well, there’s this island, see?..), Sector 7 (Korean horror goodness about a team of workers on a deep sea platform battling a sea monster!!!), Gothic and Lolita Psycho (with a title like that, it could only come from Japan- it’s the old “young woman seeks revenge by turning herself into a schoolgirl-uniform clad vengeance demon”), The Sorcerer and the White Snake (Jet Li stars in this Chinese tale of a young man who falls in love, not realizing his lady’s actually a giant snake demon!), The Great Magician (sex, intrigue, and magic in this period piece about a mysterious court magician who works his way into the local warlord’s palace)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Adam’s Rib (finally released on DVD, it’s arguably the best of the Tracy-Hepburn screen outings, with married lawyers taking on each other in a murder case that tests their relationship, and their views on marriage itself), They Live (sure, we’ve had this completely-batsh*t [and totally enjoyable] sci fi action flick from director John Carpenter for ages, but check out this new deluxe edition with commentary from Carpenter and star Rowdy Roddy Piper!), Best of the Best (there’s a mighty unlikely cast in this martial arts flick about a team preparing for a vicious international competition; you know, unless your first choices for “martial arts stars” include people like Eric Roberts, Chris Penn, Sally Kirkland, and James Earl Jones…), My Summer Story (based on the same family tales by Jean Shepherd that spawned the beloved A Christmas Story, this one switches seasons and features Charles Grodin, Mary Steenburgen, and a couple of Culkins)

New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Brave, Savages, The Watch, Charlie’s Angels, They Live, Re-Animator, Fire With Fire, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, We Were Soldiers, Higanjima: Escape From Vampire Island

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