VideoReport #387

Volume CCCLXXXVII- Glengarry Glen Mothra

For the Week of 1/15/13

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Seriously. We don’t joke about things like that.

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!

>>>Dennis presents some thoughts upon watching Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (in Horror.)

1. I’m trying to think of another movie that treated its ludicrous premise with such seriousness. I mean, I can love a silly premise (aka: Cheerleader With Silly Name: Vampire Slayer), but it’s probably a good idea to at least partially acknowledge your inherent silliness. That being said, it’s kind of endearing waiting for the movie to blink and it never doing so. That being said, the film becomes, improbably, boring in its leaden seriousness.

2. Lincoln’s played by strapping young Benjamin Walker who, while perhaps seven or eight notches below Daniel Day Lewis’ Lincoln in, well, Lincoln, has a bland earnestness that suits the role just fine. Plus, he looks like a cross between a young Sam Waterston (who’s played Lincoln) and Liam Neeson) who Walker played as a young man in Kinsey.

3. Why, oh why do filmmakers persist in thinking that “past”=”yellowy,” “hazy,” or “vaguely blue”? It is very, very boring to look at.

4. If Daniel Day Lewis had played this Lincoln instead of Lincoln’s Lincoln, I’m fairly sure that this would have been the greatest movie of all time. Heads would explode, seriously.

5. In big budget action movies, it’s always nice to play “spot your favorite character actors”. At least you’re getting work: Alan Tudyk (“Firefly”), Jimmi Simpson (“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”), and slumming Brits like Rufus Sewell and Dominic Cooper. It passes the time.

6. If you’re going to have an obtrusively CGI-lookin’ fight across the backs of a stampeding herd of wild horses, then, well, don’t do that.

7. The South was made up of slavery-loving a-holes only because it was governed by vampires? Yeah, that’s…problematic.

8. Um, if Lincoln knew that vampires were fighting for the Confederacy, and were only vulnerable to silver, and it took, like years for him to figure out that he needed to equip Union troops with silver bullets, then, he’s the most criminal dumbass in presidential history, right? Just askin’…

9. If you wanna watch a great action scene involving a Civil War train and a collapsing bridge, I’m gonna go ahead and suggest Buster Keaton’s The General.

10. Written by the guy who also wrote the fictional horror mashup Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the lovely Ms. Emily S. Customer was especially pissed that, in each case, the author overlooked multiple opportunities to mix in the original text/history’s fruitful details in favor of lazy cliches. Seriously, she’s really, really pissed right now…

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 has a confession to make, one that may ding my film-buff cred with some readers: I don’t get Steve McQueen. At all. And because I don’t get the appeal, I haven’t gone out of my way to see his best films, which no doubt contributes to me not getting him, which makes me reluctant to bother seeing the movies, which… you get it. So I’m looking for some help here. You tell me: what’s the appeal of Steve McQueen? It seems to me that his film persona is build largely around the handling of flashy cars and motorcycles, an avatar for the kind of slickster viewer who thinks the James Bond franchise would be totally badass if only 007 had a bunch more gadgets and contraptions. Phew, that interminable and showy motorcycle escapade — for which he is so famous — brought The Great Escape to a grinding halt for me. (But then, I was just waiting for more young James Garner, please! RRROWRRR.) Is there more to the Steve McQueen mystique than, y’know, driving stuff around? See Bullitt, Le Mans, The Getaway, Junior Bonner. If only Papillon featured McQueen riding a giant butterfly to freedom, my theory would be complete. By that measure, the vacuous The Thomas Crown Affair is the ultimate Steve McQueen machine; as the raffish zillionaire thief, he gets to oh-so-manfully operate a glider plane, a Rolls Royce, a dune buggy (twice! two times! in two different, utterly unimportant cut-in scenes!), a polo pony, and Fay Dunaway. (RIMSHOT!) But I’m going to give The Thomas Crown Affair [1968] half-props here, for offering us a female character who’s so clearly intelligent, independent, aggressive, self-assured, and driven — though a lot of that independence and drive vanishes toward the movie’s end.) Really, the closest I’ve come to getting McQueen was in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “The Man from the South,” in which McQueen plays a gambler down on his luck and desperate for a win. Even there, it’s all about his mastery of a gadget: a Zippo lighter that lights every time. It’s this lighter that leads to an intriguing proposition by another avid gambler played by Peter Lorre. (A word to the wise: when Peter Lorre offers you a most intriguing proposition, you walk away.) So I’m asking you for movie advice. I’m asking you: what is the allure of Steve McQueen? What cements his legendary status, his posthumous charisma? It’s the cars, right? Is it the cars? It’s the cars, isn’t it? Knew it.

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!

>>>Regan suggests Think Like A Man (in Comedy.) My mother put down our cat Snorkel this week. He was butterscotch and smelled like sheets. She called to tell me this while I was watching Think Like A Man. Which, for a romantic comedy, is not that bad. There are some notable cameos like…Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child! NAS! Some basketball wife! And that dude that looks like a lady Wendy Williams! It also stars the smokin’ hot Meagan Good. Good Gawd! And Michael Eads who my roommate would like to have impregnate her. And I also enjoyed Kevin Hart and his favorite strip club…The Sweaty Crack!

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!

>>>A Videoport Customer left two post-it notes stuck to his/her returning copy of Iron Sky (in Sci Fi/Fantasy) saying, Post-it #1: “Should be the 2012 Razzie winner!” and, Post-it #2: “Not even good enough for MST3k.” So, I’m gonna go ahead and say he/she did not like Iron Sky. (If you want your reviews of your recent favorite/least favorite movies in the VideoReport, just send them to denmn@hotmail.com, our Facebook page Videoport Jones, or, you know, just stick them to the case with a post-it.

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

>>> Videoport customer “Mister Quinn” suggests that you avoid Disney’s animated Tarzan. “Phil Collins ruined this movie,” he said. “You can hear him trying to out-do Elton John’s music from The Lion King, and failing. The whole movie is graffiti’d with Phil Collins’ crap!” Videoport has many films in the Kids/Family section that do not feature the music of Phil Collins. Rent one for free today!

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

>>>For Saturday, Emily S. Customer suggests ‘Friday Night Lights’ (in Feature Drama.) How did Friday Night Lights, a show inspired by a book and movie about football and football players, become one of the best — maybe the best — television portrayals of contemporary marriage? Basically, you can thank Connie Britton (24, American Horror Story, Nashville). When asked by producer-director Peter Berg to reprise her FNL movie role in a weekly series, she demurred. According to Berg (as quoted in Grantland’s “An Oral History of Friday Night Lights”), “[Britton] said, ‘Are you [redacted]ing kidding me? You think I’m going to spend 10 years sitting on a hard-wood bleacher getting splinters in my [redacted] and cheering on Kyle Chandler? You’re out of your mind.” I said, ‘I promise. We’ll create a character. We’ll give you a job. We’ll give you dimension. We’ll give you a real voice.’” And Britton’s resistance to the role of Mrs. Coach Taylor Smiling Silently in the Bleachers didn’t end there. Also in the Grantland piece, Britton says “It really was a leap of faith, initially, because I only had three scenes in the pilot script. So I remember even going into the pilot and saying, ‘OK, Pete, just so we’re clear: What’s here on the page in the pilot, that’s not what we’re talking about, right?’” Thank you, Connie Britton, for standing your ground and demanding a better role for your character, who went on to become one of the strongest, most complex, and most beautifully realized roles in recent memory. On the strength of Tami Taylor I’ll follow you anywhere. (Except “Nashville,” it turns out. I’m so sorry, but I TRIED, I really did.)

>>>For Sunday, Emily S. Customer suggests ‘American Horror Story’ (in Horror.) In my review of “Friday Night Lights” (seriously, people, watch this show. It is not about football, except when it is. It’s about football the way that “Mad Men” is about advertising), I mentioned that, based on the luminous strength of her performances as Tami Taylor, I would follow Connie Britton anywhere. As it turns out, “anywhere” includes following her into the hot mess that was the first season of “American Horror Story.” Phew, that show is something: a big steamy cauldron of something, slopping over with melodrama and scenery chewing (thank you, Dermot McDermot McDylan McSomeone) and improbable twists and what turns out to be a ridiculously deep bench of ghosties and ghoulies. But this jumble of overwrought drama has its virtues. Chief among them, of course, is the acting. Boy howdy, any show that can serve up a generous slab of Connie Britton and Jessica Lange every week has got my attention, and those ladies do not disappoint. The whole show is grounded by their commanding presence, which provides a remarkably solid foundation for the whole sagging edifice of absurdity. But paradoxically, that chaotic absurdity itself turns out to be a real strength: in the world of TV drama, where character arcs and plotlines are all too often predictable, “AHS” manages to wed a coherent story with some hairpin turns that really do that rarest of all TV feats: keep the viewer asking questions. Well, really just the one question: “What THE HECK?” It’s weirdly gratifying to find a show so utterly topsy-turvy.

New Releases this week at Videoport: To Rome With Love (the new Woody Allen movie, this time set in the titular Italian city and starring [deep breath]: Alec Baldwin, Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Penelope Cruz, and on and on]), Taken 2 (The Tookening! Liam Neeson’s family continues to pay the price for being, um, Liam Neeson’s family in this sequel where swarthy bad guys continue to unwisely target the kin of a hulking, vengeance-prone Irishman), The Other Dream Team (documentary about the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic men’s basketball team, who had to overcome their Soviet oppressors, serious poverty, and, you know, having to play actual NBA-ers; somehow, the Grateful Dead are involved in there as well…), Anthony Jeselnik: Caligula (standup comedy special from Comedy Central’s celebrity roast assassin and all-around offender), Won’t Back Down (inspiring feelgoodery about two moms, Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhall, who decide to take the fate of their kids’ crumbling inner-city school into their own hands in the face of Paul Lepage-ian-budget cuts), Wake In Fright (long-lost 1971 Australian thriller about a schoolteacher stranded in the outback and tormented by the drunken locals stars Donald Pleasance and boasts a cover-blurb [“It left me speechless”] from none other than Martin Scorcese), ‘Merlin’- season 4 (the original Harry Potter series returns with l’il Merlin learning his spellcraft and navigating the treachery and danger of King Arthur’s England; costarring Buffy’s Anthony Stewart Head!), ‘’The Sarah Silverman Program’- season 3 (America’s favorite pottymouthed yet adorable comedian returns to tickle you with her bizarro sitcom), The Possession (Jeffrey Dean Morgan rues the day he brought a weird antique box home as a gift for his adorable daughter, since it’s all haunted with an ancient Hebrew demon and such; damn those antique boxes!), Farewell, My Queen (from the director of A Single Girl comes this sumptuous, decadent tale of Marie Antoinette and her favorite, perhaps not completely trustworthy handmaiden), Detropia (the horrifying, abandoned thunderdome that is modern-day Detroit is the subject of this sobering documentary), Counterpunch (a young boxer from the ghetto gets help from Danny Trejo, probably the guy you most want in your corner when it comes to beating people up), Obselidia (little-seen, acclaimed indie about a lonely librarian obsessed with endangered species and the trip to Death Valley he takes with an eccentric movie projectionist), Talhotblond (Courtney Cox directed this thriller about a family man [Raising Hope’s Garret Dillahunt] whose obsession with an online affair leads to…murder!!), 41 (documentary about the tenure of our second-worst president named “Bush”), Doomsday Book (fascinating-looking Korean sci-fi/horror/total weirdness film featuring: zombies, robots, meteors threatening Earth- pretty much the film geek’s trifecta), About Cherry (a young woman runs away to San Francisco and gets involved in that pernicious stripper/porn/coke scene you read about; good cast: Dev Patel, Lili Taylor, James Franco, Heather Graham), Branded (in this post-millennial They Live, a guy in a dystopian future discovers that soul-sucking aliens are feeding on us as we are numbed out by a massive corporate advertising conspiracy), ‘Life’s Too lifes-too-short-castShort’- season 1 (Ricky Gervais returns with another cringe-comedy BBC series, this one about little person Willow actor Warwick Davis’ attempts at a comeback), ‘The Simpsons’- season 15 (Otto’s on the cover this time!), ‘Underbelly: The Golden Mile’ (another season of the true-crime Australian series about the late-90s sleazy streets of Sydney), ‘Futurama’ – season 7 (Fry, Leela, Bender, Zoidberg and the rest of the denizens of Matt Groening’s continue to be hilarious…in the FUTURE!!), ‘Funny Or Die’- season 2 (the second season of this web-tastic sketch show based on Will Ferrell’s titular website), ‘The Legend of Neil’- the complete series (geek goddess Felicia Day [Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog] costars in this webseries about a slacker-type who gets sucked into the world of the Legend of Zelda video games), ‘Titanic: Blood and Steel’ (BBC miniseries about the construction of the infamous luxury liner; because that’s what people really care about…), Wild Horse Wild Ride (horsey documentary about participants in a 100 day quest to tame a wild mustang in order to save it from government captivity), The Whale (Ryan Reynolds narrates this heartwarming documentary about a killer whale mysteriously trying to befriend people in the waters off Vancouver)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: The Hi-Lo Country (Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Patricia Arquette starred in this underrated 1950s-set Western about some restless cow-folks and a love triangle or two),

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Taken 2, To Rome With Love, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Scrooged, Dredd, Atonement, The Devil’s Own, Unleashed, Drag Me To Hell, Blue Crush, The Jackal, About Cherry, Branded

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