VideoReport #382

Volume CCCLXXXII- I Saw Mommy Doing Things With Santa Claus That I Am Now Describing to a Therapist

For the Week of 12/11/12

Videoport says Buy Local this holiday season. (Psst- we give you a free rental with every movie you buy from us.)

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 sort-of suggests Prometheus (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s not-a-prequel to the Alien stories (but, c’mon, it’s totally a prequel) left me cranky and exasperated. Writer Damon Lindelof sets up an artificial opposition, just as he did in “Lost,” of science vs. faith, but it seems clear that he doesn’t understand, y’know, how science actually works: by wedding strict protocols and routines (to foster reproducibility and objectivity while protecting both personnel and irreplaceable samples) to an unfettered creativity of intellect and appetite for knowledge. That’s hard to reconcile that with the scientists of Prometheus, who fluctuate wildly between dull-eyed incuriosity and appalling recklessness, and who seem to have little sense of the magnitude of the work they’re undertaking, and who are colleagues and equals only in the sense that they are all equally incompetent. As we watched, I came up with several geeky [non-spoiler-y] ways to rationalize the stupidity and endless bungling of Prometheus‘ entire scientific task force: 1. Realize that these people are scientists the way that Giorgio Tsoukalos (of “Ancient Aliens” fame) is a “scientist.” (“I’m not saying it was aliens, buuuuuut…. it was aliens!”) 2. Remember the B-Ark from Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the massive spaceship full of incompetent, inane, unnecessary, and otherwise ineffectual bumblers who were packed up together and shipped off to a distant wasteland, all the while believing themselves to be boldly striking out as the vanguard of a whole planet’s survival? Yeeeeeah, the “scientists” of the Prometheus might as well be so many telephone sanitizers. 3. Peter Weyland, the posthumous underwriter of this bajillion-dollar expedition, was the Howard Hughes of his generation: brilliant and driven, but also tragically unbalanced and fantastically wealthy enough to do anything he wishes. His obsessions were fed by the poorly researched, blinkered speculations of the archaeologists who shape the mission, and the entire scientific team is selected with the same slapdash passion-above-protocol agenda. Any scientist likely to interfere with the mission by insisting upon, I dunno, following established procedure or maintaining rigorous standards during this monumentally historic event is summarily rejected in favor of a bunch of bungling pushovers. 4. Maybe arising from those cryo-suspension pods is like rousing from an long midday nap: you wake up all muzzy-headed and disoriented, and as often as not, the rest of the day is shot to hell. (Though that doesn’t explain why the flight crew, who also underwent cryo-suspension, appear to be thinking clearly and sensibly.) 5. They have developed SPAAAAAAACE MADNESS. Or maybe just a really bad (and highly transmittable) case of space-dumb.

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!

>>> Dennis suggests Ordering Your Holiday Movies Now! Yup- time’s running short, so come on in (or call) and order the gifts your movie-lovin’ friends and relatives need. We can get anything that’s in print, we’ll issue you an attractive gift certificate for anything that doesn’t get here in time, and, of course, you get a free rental for yourself for every movie you buy from Videoport! Get crackin’, people…

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 Prometheus (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) SPOILERS AHOY! Not to join the lovely Ms. Elsa S. Customer in piling on, but I’m gonna go ahead and pile on this misbegotten prequel to Alien. Director Ridley Scott, who literally cannot stop mucking about with his own perfectly good early movies (just check out how many different versions of Blade Runner he’s cranked out over the years), decided that the essentially perfect Alien needed to have everything about it over-explained, vaguely contradicted, and basically demystified in every way. Look, this isn’t a bad movie. Not really. There are some nice visuals, it’s got the always-cool Idris Elba, and the always-interesting Michael Fassbender playing an alarmingly blonde robot. But there’s something so bloodlessly-prosaic about this movie that I turned to Ms. Elsa after the very first scene and said aloud, “I hate this.” Watching that scene unfold itself, I (correctly, as it turns out) started ticking off every beat of the story to come. It’s not that I’m particularly smart (Elsa is), it’s just that, from the beginning, Prometheus’ blueprint was so transparent. I know I said spoilers ahoy but I’ll let you make your own guesses and nurse your own disappointments. I will say that, like most sequels, and perhaps even more prequels, Prometheus effectively and regrettably undoes much of what was good and mysterious and evocative in the original. Roger Ebert, writing of the quite serviceable film 2010 (the sequel to 2001), quoted ee cummings, saying that Stanley Kubick’s original film put him in mind of the line, “I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.” 2010 taught ten thousand stars not to dance because someone had the idea that the deliberately-evocative, mysterious 2001’s secrets needed to be explained by Roy Scheider and John Lithgow. Now, I’m not necessarily 2001’s biggest fan, and Alien’s ambitions were not as lofty (or as pretentious), but Scott’s 1979 masterpiece was, in its pitch-perfect, grubby elegance, a thing unto itself. Prometheus, for all its technical proficiency and shiny (CGI) visuals, commits the cardinal sin of any prequel/sequel- it makes me wish I’d never watched it because now I can’t watch its superior ancestor without thinking about it. That’s the definition of a failure.

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 suggests a Christmas helping of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (in Horror!) Specifically the Christmas episode ‘Amends’ (season 3, episode 10. It may seem off to recommend an episode of a series chock full of demons, murder, and wanton violence as a chipper alternative to Rudolph this holiday season, but this episode of the Buff is a staple of the season at the Dennis/Elsa S. Customer household. As the episode begins, Angel, Buffy’ vampire boyfriend has started having visions of his past. Which is very, very not good, because before he had his soul restored to him, he was Angelus, probably the most creatively evil vampire the world has ever known. So while these visions of his past horrors are driving Angel insanely homo-/suicidal, Buffy and friends race around trying to find out why before it’s too late. Sounds all Christmassy, huh? Well, trust me, because for a show holding regular truck with all manner of demonic horrors, Buffy, like anything created by Joss Whedon, is at its core a deeply, richly emotional enterprise, and the way ‘Amends’ pays off is as improbably satisfying as even the soppiest Hallmark Channel seasonal nonsense. Plus, you get to see Alyson Hannigan be adorable in the way only she can. Happy holidays!-now go kill a vampire!

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

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests An American Tail. This time of year, the Dominant Culture Holiday Juggernaut is rolling its unstoppable way over the entire month of December. Christmas? Christmas! CHRISTMAS! But let’s stop and remember: this week we’re smack-dab in the middle of Chanukah, a celebration that goes woefully unmentioned in too many seasonal films. An American Tail opens during Chanukah in 1885, when the schetle of Shostka, Russia, is besieged by Cossack cats and the Mousekewitz family decides to seek peace and freedom in America, where, they have heard, “there are no cats, and the streets are paved with cheese!” Sadly, the truth is harder — isn’t it always? — and the voyage to their new home is full of challenges. Young Feivel Mousekewitz is separated from his family in a storm and must make his way to the new country alone, hoping to reunite with his folks, who believe him lost at sea. Feivel’s solo journey is intermixed with scenes of his family’s trials settling into a run-down neighborhood and striving to survive and thrive in an unfamiliar world. It’s a surprisingly affecting and beautifully animated film, and it really earns its beat; it’s no surprise that the sorta schmaltzy “Somewhere Out There” has become an enduring strain of star-crossed love.

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

>>>For Saturday, Former Videoporter Stockman says, “I am enjoying some delightful new Christmas gems this year. So far two enthusiastic thumbs up to Arthur Christmas, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, BlackAdder Christmas (I forgot how much I loved Miranda Richardson!), as well as the Merry Madagascar and Gift of the Night Fury Dreamworks shorts!”

Editor’s note: I stole this from her Facebook. Shhh.

>>>For Sunday, April suggests Doomsday Preppers (in Documentary.) Does anyone really think the world’s going to end on December 21st? (I keep saying the 23rd but I think it’s the 21st-they never get it right anyway.) The folks in Doomsday Preppers might, and boy are they ready! Water, food, guns- those seem to be the most important things for surviving the apocalypse, or at least that’s what I’ve learned from the show. This may be the most entertaining thing I’ve seen from National Geographic in a while.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Ted (if there was a hole in your life that you always suspected could only be filled by a movie where Mark Wahlberg smokes pot and talks about women’s butts with his foul-mouthed teddy bear imaginary friend written by the guy behind Family Guy, well, then this is your lucky week…), The Bourne Legacy (what do you do when the Oscar-winning lead actor of your action franchise 2012_the_bourne_legacy_moviewidebails out? Why, you replace him with Hawkeye and keep right on with the punchin’!), Ice Age: Continental Drift (these just keep on comin’; this time I predict the prehistoric animal stars will make a lot of jokes about the weather, and animal poo, voiced by the likes of Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, Aziz Ansari, and Peter Dinklage), ‘Girls’- season 1 (writer/director/star Lena Dunham [Tiny Furniture] created this very funny, sexy, and occasionally offputting series about a quartet of 20-something female friends trying to make it in NYC; it’s like a younger Sex and the City, except it won’t make you want to throw things at the screen), ‘Futurama’- volume 7 (Matt Groening’s other show about the wacky adventures of a 31st century delivery company keeps on chuggin’ along), Gayby (this comedy about a gay man and straight woman pair of friends who decide to conceive a baby together is described on the box as “hilariously awkward”; so there’s that…), Why Stop Now? (Jesse Eisenberg, Tracy Morgan and Melissa Leo make up the unlikely trio of pals in this comedy about a son trying to get his mom into rehab, and their adventures with her dealer), ‘The Unusuals’- the complete series (quickly-cancelled quirky cop series about the dysfunctional New York cops of a decrepit precinct features a really, surprisingly great cast including Jeremy Renner [the aforementioned Hawkeye], Adam Goldberg, Harold Perrineau, Amber Tamblyn, and Terry Kinney), The Advocate for Fagdom (filmmakers like John Waters, Harmony Korine, and Gus Van Sant count themselves as fans of Bruce LaBruce [Otto: or, Up With Dead People] whose continually daring meld of indie film and gay porn is the subject of this documentary which you’ll find in Videoport’s Incredibly Strange Section), Alps (from the director of the brilliantly-twisted Greek film Dogtooth comes this promisingly strange film about a company whose partners impersonate people’s recently deceased relatives in order to ease their grieving), ‘Underbelly: Tale of Two Cities’- season 1 (explicit, intense Australian series about the true tale of organized crime over three decades), Beloved (real life mother and daughter Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni star in this romantic comedy about a mother and daughter navigating their respective dating lives; costarring the always-excellent American character actor Paul Schneider [All the Real Girls]), Elles (ever-great Juliette Binoche stars in this erotic French drama about a reporter becoming invested in the live of three prostitutes she’s interviewing for a story), ‘Pixar Short Film Collection- volumes 1 & 2’ (from possibly the best animation studio in the history of the world comes this collection of their shorter works), Dark Horse (from perpetually upsetting director Todd Solondz [Happiness, Life During Wartime, Storytelling] comes this slightly lighter quirky romance about a pair of oddballs in love; starring Selma Blair, Mia Farrow, and that guy who never gets to do anything in the Hangover movies), Goliath (indie comedy/drama about a recently divorced guy whose search for his missing cat becomes the one, last important thing in his life)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Following (director Christopher Nolan [The Dark Knight, Inception]’s first film, a twisty, black and white thriller about a would-be writer who follows strangers to learn about their lives gets the big, bad Criterion treatment), The Qatsi Trilogy (Criterion also gives their thumbs-up to these three avant garde films featuring images of the natural and manmade worlds with Philip Glass music: Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi)

New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Following, Ted, The Bourne Legacy, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift

Videoport = Free Stuff!

1. Free rentals! You get one every day with our daily specials. Also, you get one any time you purchase a movie from Videoport (and not some hideous corporate website that charges you shipping- seriously, keep this in mind for the holiday gift-buying onslaught right around the corner).

2. Free money! Videoport payment deals give you free money just for spending money at Videoport. Look, you’re gonna rent movies here anyway, so why not do this: pre-pay for $20 in rentals, and Videoport gives you $25 worth of rental credit. Or pre-pay $30 and Videoport gives you $40 worth of rental credit. The money just sits on your account all safe and snuggly until you decide to use it. That’s five or ten free bucks just for doing what you were going to do in the first place. If there’s a flaw in this plan, I have yet to discover it.

3. Free parking! Just pull into any downtown parking garage (the courthouse garage is literally a two minute walk away) and ask for a Park&Shop sticker at Videoport. Viola-a free hour of parking! (And, of course, the lot behind the building is open after 5pm weekdays and all weekend!)

4. Littlelad’s Popcorn and Capt’n Eli’s Soda. Seriously-have you tried this stuff? Buy local!!

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